April 30, 2010

Leggett's proposed police merger draws opposition

County Executive Ike Leggett is recommending merging the county's park police force, which has about 90 officers, its own dispatch unit, and is responsible for policing 10 percent of county land, into the larger county police department. Leggett said the move would save the county $2 million for the next fiscal year, which starts in July. But the move is facing stiff opposition from the Montgomery side of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which oversees the police force.

"This proposal is not about saving money," said Royce Hanson, county planning board chairman, in a letter to the County Council. "This is another attempt by [Leggett] to wrest power over the park system and park land."

Park officials stressed that the park police is a specialized unit best equipped to handle park-specific issues, like controlling the deer population, backwoods patrolling, and deterring gang activity in parks. Without those officers, park officials said, the county's well-used parks will suffer.

"Safety in parks will suffer, I can guarantee you that," said Montgomery Park Police Chief Darien Manley. He said a similar consolidation in Baltimore had led to a drop in safety in the city's parks. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

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