June 16, 2010

Park Police President lists issues about proposed merger

Rather than firing 12 park police officers and rather than merging the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Park Police into the Montgomery County Police Department, maybe the County Council and County Executive Isiah Leggett could save money by trimming the fat off the county police first. For example, Chief Thomas Manger has a staff of 14, one of which is an officer who makes in salary and benefits a total of $205,615. The total cost of the office of the chief is $2.37 million for fiscal 2010. This one office is the equivalent of 20 percent of the total park police budget for Montgomery County for one fiscal year. None of these officers are on the "street" in an enforcement capacity.

Second, is it necessary to pay an assistant chief of police $336,542 in salary and benefits? This is more than Manger makes.

Third, Leggett could easily reduce his security staff or at best limit their salaries. As it stands, the price of his staff, which is $360,000, would have funded approximately eight officers of the Maryland-National Capital Park Police for one fiscal year. It is reminded that these four "officers" do nothing more than serve the executive. They enforce no laws.

Fourth, Leggett should take a serious look at the need of a police helicopter program. The county's need of such an expensive luxury should be seriously reconsidered in this time of fiscal crisis. The helicopter program has not yet gotten off the ground; no county police helicopter has flown any mission to date, but the pilots have gotten raises ["Extra pay for helicopter officers in new police contract," April 21].

The question is how will this proposed merger provide any savings? It won't, but it will have a cost. The fact is that the county police is a top-notch agency, but it responds to calls for service only. As Joe Beach, the director of the Office of Budget and Management, said to the council's Public Safety Committee on April 28, "There would be a significant decrease in service to the parks" if a merger was to occur. In this same hearing, Manger said that the parks would be "patrolled less often" in other words; the parks would not be a priority for the county police.

County police will not proactively patrol park lands unless they are called for a crime. The cost will be a severe drop in proactive police patrols of the park system; the loss of the horse mounted patrols; an increase in environmental and natural resources crimes; an increase in gang crime and an overall decline in a five-time nationally recognized park system. The merger is in fact a colossal mistake that will have unseen and unintended consequences. One simply needs to look to the city of Austin, Texas, which took upon this same merger idea in 2008, and they severely regret it. If saving money is what the executive wants, then he need not look any farther than his own police agency, but I have the feeling that saving money is not the motivation; it seems to be a greedy power grab and the citizens who use the parks will be the victims ... literally.

Sgt. Michael Young, Rockville
The writer is president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 30.
SOURCE: Gazette

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