Police Department on 'Verge of Crisis,' Unions Say
The unions including sergeants and lieutenants in the Anne Arundel County Police Department gave a vote of no-confidence to the county administration, citing staffing and equipment problems.
Unions of police supervisors in Anne Arundel County said the department is “on the verge of crisis,” citing rising violent crime rates, a lack of staffing and difficulties with a new communications system.
The International Brotherhood of Police Officers, which includes groups of sergeants and lieutenants in the county, issued a statement this week criticizing County Executive John R. Leopold and Police Chief James Teare Sr. for decisions that have led to “the deterioration of public safety” in the county.
The unions said a lack of staffing and problems with a new communications system have been particularly hard on officers as the population of the county has grown.
“If county and department leaders don’t change course immediately, these officers fear a dramatic rise in crime and the waste of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to fix problems that could have been avoided with more prudent management,” according to a press release from the International Brotherhood of Police Officers.
The Annapolis Capital reported last week that the unions overwhelmingly passed votes of no-confidence in Leopold and Teare. The vote was 2-to-1 against among lieutenants and 9.5-to-1 against among sergeants, the Capital said.
The unions outlined five problems that they say have “plagued” the Anne Arundel County Police Department.
- A low ratio of officers to population. The officers said the county now has 690 officers, with a county population of 537,656. In 2000, there were 659 officers but only 489,644 people living in the county. The unions also cite a ratio of 1.18 officers for every 1,000 residents. According to the unions, that is a little more than half the ratio of other municipalities nationwide.
- Rising violent crime. The unions point out increases in homicides and assaults with guns between 2009 and 2010. While overall crime declined 7 percent in 2010, officers said crimes are becoming more violent, with a wider range of victim. “Violent crime is unacceptable no matter the identity of the victim,” the unions wrote. “But the fact that violence is spreading to atypical victims is a disturbing indicator of escalating crime.”
- Less service overall. The unions said cuts to staff have meant a reduction in staff to investigate missing persons, identity theft and financial crimes. Officers also complained that they don’t have the staff to work proactively and often can’t do proper follow-up work.
- Crime stats not reported accurately. While the county has said calls for service are down, the unions said that figure does not include calls made initially by officers out on patrol. The unions said there are 100,000 officer calls that are not included in the official figures.
- Challenges with communications and reporting system. The county installed a $6.6 million dispatch system last year, but it has been plagued with problems. Officers said the system makes it harder to locate and respond to crimes, and that reporting takes far longer.
Leopold spokesman David Abrams told the Baltimore Sun that the downturn in the economy forced the county to make cuts, and that some funds could be restored if finances improve.
“The county executive has made it very clear that when our fiscal picture improves, public safety will be a priority," Abrams told the newspaper.