Monday, April 10, 2006

Response to HoCoBlog

Many entities are involved in the planning for the HFStival, which is as it should be. The concert, scheduled for Memorial Day weekend at Merriweather Post Pavilion, is going to be one of the biggest shows ever, and developing a coordinated plan involving public safety officials, the Columbia Association, IMP Productions, General Growth, and other county agencies is the best way to everything goes smoothly, which it will.

A veteran of past HFStivals, HoCoBlog is happy to see it is coming to town, and highlights this excerpt from a Washington Post story:

“It will probably be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, events of the summer,” said Capt. Merritt Bender, commander of the special operations bureau for the Howard County Police Department. The bureau, working with Merriweather officials and county fire and rescue services, already is deep into the details of staffing, security and traffic management.
Nothing strange in there, or at least nothing that strikes me as strange. If anything, it sounds like the police are ahead of the curve. But something does not sit right with HoCoBlog.
It is my understanding that since the Howard County Police Department is not staffed to handle an event like this (nothing wrong with that) they are going to hire Baltimore County Police Officers for the additional resources they need.

SO WHAT? You may ask. This may seem like a non-issue to you, but let me ask this question anyway.

Why doesn't the Howard County Police Department utilize the resources of the Howard County Sheriff's Department? Why outsource security to Baltimore County? Doesn't our own Sheriff's Deputies have the necessary experience and training to provide this extra level of security? We trust them with security at the Courthouse, transporting prisoners, handling domestic violence, issuing warrants, backing up the Police Department Officers in the line of duty, etc.

Aside from that, if our Law Enforcement Officers need assistance with affordable housing couldn't they use the overtime pay too? Why would the HCPD spend our money on extra security on an outside party instead of caring for our own?
Leaving aside the question of how he knows this fact when the article made no mention of it, I think he’s needlessly questioning a common practice to score a few easy political points. Every time there is a massive rally in DC, I hear stories about cops from Prince Georges and Montgomery County coming in to help with security. It’s the way things are done.

But why not use the Sheriffs? I suppose they could, but don’t Sheriffs have other things they should be doing? And isn’t their department significantly smaller than the police department? And, have you ever seen a Sheriff at Merriweather? Maybe they are not properly trained for this type of work – it is, after all, overseen by the “special operations bureau” and, one would hope, requires additional training.

How about paying overtime to police officers who would otherwise have the weekend off? I’m sure there is some of that, but you also have to remember that this is Memorial Day weekend – so many officers will, like us, take the opportunity to get a way. Moreover, regardless of the size of your force and how much overtime you pay, there are only so many extra man-hours you can get out of your people. Obviously, we’ll need officers on duty before and after the show, and we certainly can’t expect them to pull 24-hour shifts.

This is simply a matter of not having the human resources. Although in theory, we probably have enough cops in our department to patrol Merriweather during the concert, they’re human and can’t be redistributed as easily as money. Thus, we pay Baltimore County for the temporary use of their manpower.

The final paragraph in HoCoBlog’s post is what makes me think this is more about politics, as he lambastes Ken Ulman’s bill to make housing more affordable to local officers in an earlier post.


hocoblog said...

It isn't political just because I mention Ken Ulman's legislation. To quote Mr. Ulman from the forum. This time of year we are all paranoid and tend to look at things through a political prism.

The Sheriff's department is qualified for the work. The deputies need the money.

If one agrees that our Law Enforcement needs that help with their rent then lets give them the overtime instead of to the Baltimore County Police Department. Ulman has little if any influence with the police department and he has nothing to do with this issue.

The reason I wrote the article is that the Sheriff's department is treated very poorly in Howard County compared to the Police Department. Yet they are the highest law enforcement agency in the County, come to the assistance of the Police department at a moments notice, place their lives on the line daily, etc. They are looked down upon...

Finally, I know they asked the Police Department for the work on behalf of their deputies and were told - no thanks we prefer the Baltimore County Police Department.

This is just another example of the disparity between the two departments.

Stay tuned. I will be writing extensively about the Sheriff's department in the near future and touching on topics such as....

1. Working Conditions
2. Pay differences
3. Benefits
4. Pensions
5. Equipment
6. Office Space
7. The right to collective bargaining (guess who has it and who doesn't)

I invite you to visit the 1851 jail that houses the department and its 59 employees and compare that to the police department.

Anonymous said...

They are leaving the Sheriffs department out for the fact that Sheriff officers will be used for filer on routine partols that night.

hocoblog said...

Not what my source tells me.

Hayduke said...

Hocoblog: I'm looking forward to read what you have to say about the Sherriffs department. I have no idea of the interplay between the two agencies, so I'll be interested to see what you have to say.

As for overtime, aren't there already going to be some HoCo police officers getting overtime for the HFStival? I can't imagine none will be making overtime for that night, it's just a matter of how many and whether they have enought actual men and women to cover the other shifts during that day.

hocoblog said...

HoCo Police is running traffic and security with support from the Baltimore County Police. I don't know how much overtime will be paid, but I am sure their will be overtime pay. HoCo Police doesn't have enough resources to tend to their regular duties AND run traffic and security for HFStival so they are hiring BC Police. HoCo Police will focus on their primary mission first and HFStival as a secondary priority.