The town of Bel Air resolved another close election on Monday, and interest in the town administration was piqued by divisive campaigning. The town forum, which The Dagger moderated, was less contentious than most of the campaign despite good questions from town citizens.
Among the questions posed by attendees were several that your moderators determined to be of too specific a nature for a fair and adequate response by the candidates in 90 seconds. With election day behind us, The Dagger has received the following answers from employees of the Town of Bel Air to some of your questions not asked of the candidates during the forum:
(1) Where is the Bel Air police department pay scale relative to the Sheriff’s Office?
In some positions, the starting salary for Bel Air is higher than the Sheriff’s Office, and in other positions, it is the reverse. For officers, corporals, and sergeants, Bel Air’s starting salary is higher, and for an OFC
, the Sheriff’s starting salary is higher.
To compare salaries between jurisdictions you must understand how the pay scales are administered.
Recruits (newly hired employees who must go through the Police Academy) are paid less in the Town of Bel Air than at the Harford County Sheriff’s.
Laterals (new hired certified police officers) in the Town are paid a flat salary where the lateral at the Sheriff’s is based on the number of years experience as a certified police officer prior to being hired. Bel Air’s salary is less than the Sheriff’s.
The Town’s and Sheriff’s starting salaries for Officer First Class (Deputy First Class) are paid basically equivalent. Corporals and Sergeants really don’t have a beginning salary because these positions are promotional type positions. This means the salaries are based at on the step the officer was in at the time of the promotion. At the end of the scale, The Town’s Officer First Class is paid 4.6%, and the Corporals and Sergeants are 10% less.
(2) How many town employees have cars furnished by the town, and how many with gas included?
The Town provides 33 take-home cars all with gas included.
(3) Who pays overtime for the Bel Air police department to patrol the bars?
The Town pays the Police Department overtime to patrol the bars.
(4) How much has the town budget increased this decade?
General Fund All Funds
2000 $6,301,546 $8,573,465
2001 $7,113,318 $9,466,028
2002 $7,642,153 $10,056,332
2003 $7,518,963 $10,033,493
2004 $7,964,634 $10,471,256
2005 $8,205,993 $10,894,967
2006 $9,059,705 $11,912,462
2007 $9,851,880 $12,468,785
2008 $12,439,568 $15,017,576
2009 $12,125,684 $14,801,131
2010 $12,268,257 $15,378,563
2010 revised $11,750,880 $14,861,186 (revised due to $517,377 in state cuts)
Research it says
2) How many town employees have cars furnished by the town, and how many with gas included?
The Town provides 33 take-home cars all with gas included.
This number is incorrect there are 34 sworn officers alone and this does not reflect the department heads or public works .
Your number is incorrect. There are 31 sworn officers, which INCLUDES the department head (Chief) and Deputy Chief, a school resource officer, a training officer, and an Administrative Sergeant.
The Town Administrator, and the Director of Public Works are also provided with vehicles, for a total of 33.
The PD has 12 or 13 non-sworn civilian positions. This includes 6 full time dispatchers (+2 part-time), 3 parking enforcement officers, and three administrative persons.
Becker makes a good point- exactly what crimes are there that require so many officers? What is it that generates enough work for 12 support staff and 6 full time dispatchers?
Frustrated- Again, the 12 staff you refer to is not 12 staff plus 6 dispatchers, it is 3 clerical, 3 Parking Enforcement, and 6 Communications. Six dispatchers to cover three shifts, seven and 365.
What crimes do you want? In 2009, there have been rapes, robberies, arson, sex offenses, drug distribution, burglaries, thefts, physical assaults, weapons violations, death investigations (short of homicide, hasn’t been one of them since 2006), identity thefts, frauds, counterfeiting ID cards, malicious destruction of property, missing persons, neighbor disputes, trespassing complaints, injury accidents, property damage accidents, hit-and-run accidents, drunk drivers…
Discounting the Chief and Deputy Chief, and the two officers assigned to purely administrative tasks (Training Officer and Admin Sgt) you’re left with 27 officers. The standard for measuring manpower requirements is X officers per 1000 of population. 27 officers to 10,500 residents gives you 2.57 per 1000. 31 officers in Havre de Grace, again shedding 4 from admin positions (guesswork) to 12,000 residents gives you 2.58 per 1000.
I think Aberdeen has 40 officers. 40 officers, 14,000 residents gives you 2.85. Well within the mean.
The national average is about 2.5 per 1000. On the east coast, the number generally skews a bit higher, given population densities, to around 4 per 1000. In our region, Baltimore leads the way at 5.1. Washington DC comes in at just over 6.
I took my numbers from the 2010 budget book some time ago and as I remember, it showed 49 police (33 and 16 plus a part timer) I’m not into what we are supposed to have based on some non-applicable national average.
If you are right, the Aegis and Dagger are doing the public a huge disservice by not reporting all these crimes you reference. On the other hand, when 4 patrol cars show up for a single traffic stop, I’m starting to wonder exactly what else, if anything, is going on.
I think we probably respond to a fraction of the calls either Aber or HdG log. If I’m right our cost per call far exceeds either of their costs per call.
We all want public safety, but in the most cost effective manner.
John Becker says
So we have 33 or 34 sworn officers doing what exactly? There isn’t a great deal of criminal activity here and the bars can’t create that much work.
And the spending has doubled. At least we know the challengers in the recent election were telling the truth.
Follow this up with a comparison of the calls per municipality as was posted on the election article. Do we really have 2 officers per staff member?
The Pike says
Why don’t you sign up for a ride along with a BAPD officer and find out for yourself what they do? You might be surprised.
And while the town’s budget has doubled, the PD’s budget has not even come close to doubling. Makes you wonder where all that money is actually going, eh.
YES! It does make me wonder. And if more people asked that very question or even knew to ask the question, I think we would have had a MUCH better turnout and most likely a different outcome in the election.
Research it says
Seems that the local paper is more interested in the post election stories and did an extremely poor job reporting anything relevant about the election until it was over.
How is it that the past two years the Aegis has agreed with Hanley in reference to the reckless spending and huge salaries but changes there tune just before the election?
Magik Columbine says
Let’s get off the money spent by the police department for fighting actual crime. Some might seem like excess, but it’s, in fact, being proactive in keeping the crime away. I’m sure gangs and drug dealers (they’re already here, but I’m talking to a greater extent) would move in so fast your heads would spin.
However – the town pays the police overtime to patrol the bars. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!! The bars themselves should be billed directly.
Anyone got access to the 12 month crime stats for Bel Air? I just want to see the breakdown of crime being fought for $3 million a year.
I’m glad you brought it up. Here are the 12 month statistics for “Crimes Known to Police” as reported to the FBI through the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR)system, for CY 2008, the last year reported. I threw in Aberdeen and Havre de Grace for comparison.
Havre de Grace-64
MOTOR VEHICLE THEFT:
All of this info is readily available for download through the following link: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2008/data/table_08_md.html
Seems to support my argument, and I’m going to assume that all these crimes are equal. If my math is right, we spend $3 million for 1,222 crimes or $2,454.99 per crime.
If I use your number of 27 officers, working 2,000 hours per year equals 44.19 manhours per crime, and that doesn’t include staff time or our disagreement over police personnel #’s.
In all probablility, most of the property crimes and probably theft, 90% of all reported crimes, are just taking a police report for insurance purposes.
Does this seem like we are getting our money’s worth? Please don’t tell me you don’t see any need to look very seriously at this expense.
You can’t have it both ways.
Yesterday, your argument was:
“I’m not into what we are supposed to have based on some non-applicable national average.”
“I think we probably respond to a fraction of the calls either Aber or HdG log. If I’m right our cost per call far exceeds either of their costs per call.”
So, I provide numbers that state the serious calls are within a few of each other across the board, now you want the metric to be cost per enumerated crime?
This totally discounts traffic enforcement, foot patrols, neighbor disputes, missing persons, vehicle lock-outs, drug arrests, sex offenses, home checks, disturbance calls, noise complaints and any of a myriad of other calls for service the police answer when the phone rings.
Using your math, how much are the other munis paying per enumerated crime? It’s either the same or slightly higher, based on the fact that they have more officers and similar numbers…
Man in Blue says
Dell- It is called total events. This would be whether we get called or stumble upon something on our own plus traffic stops, foot patrols, etc that you mention. Havre de Grace and Aberdeen are about 50,000 events per year for 14,000 residents, Bel Air at about 20,000 events per year for 10,000 residents. The math doesn’t add up.
Bel Air pays about $150/event, Aberdeen and Havre de Grace about $90/event. We can be more efficient but it means reductions in force.
You are splitting hairs here Dell. You can argue the math but the reality remains that the workforce needs to EQUAL the workload. Even if the calls were twice or three times what is reported, the hours/call is still excessive. All I’m suggesting is that the Town look at this in terms of what it needs, and not base the decision on what everyone else has, socio-economic factors impact your comparison greatly.
And I’d bet the Town could get a better deal from the County than the “rack” OT rate. They discounted sewer fees for us, why not police?
John Becker says
I don’t agree with your logic that throwing money at a non-existent problem is “proactive”. I want my tax dollars worth, no more, no less.
I don’t see the gangs/drug dealer issue as being one the Town has to deal with to any great extent. There may be some in Town but the majority of the problem is in the County. The economics and demographics just don’t seem to support your argument.
The bars are paying the same taxes everyone else is paying, how would you bill them and not the guy who has his house broken into? or the car accident? or any of the other calls? If wee need more officers to handle specific issues or calls, why not get an hourly agreement w/ Harford County and get the additional manpower only when needed?
Staff for what you need, not for what you want. Justifying a number based on national averages and not local needs is not the best solution.
just dropped in says
You may pay the same taxes, but do you have police officers on overtime at your residence protecting you and your property? Or do you have to call and wait for them to arrive if there is a problem?
Time to issue citation and fines. You need to shift that responsibility to the bar owner. Doesn’t make sense for BAPD to sit there, on OT and wait for something to happen.
As far as my personal residence, I don’t draw visitors who may be a problem so I don’t think you make a fair comparison.
just dropped in says
I think the comparison was very fair. The statement was “The bar pays the same taxes everyone else does” so my point is they should not get officers on overtime without paying more.
And I generally agree w/ you, I just don’t see how it can happen. Are we at the point where we pass a regulation/law that requires bars to have off-duty police on-site? Where do you draw the distinction between bars, restaurants, etc.
I’m just sick of the waste like most other taxpayers.
Bringing in the SO from the outside would result in a net loss from a budgetary standpoint. Contractual agreements for Deputies on overtime are arranged at an “overtime +” rate, which includes paying for their vehicles, insurance etc. Knowing what the BAPD contractual rate is, and knowing the salaries at the SO are higher, I’d guess the contractual OT rate for the Sheriff’s Office comes in around $65.00 per hour.
Contrast that with the Town paying it’s own officers about $35.00 per hour (average) for the same overtime.
Looking at my budget files, if we are only charging $35/hour average, we’re LOSING money. It costs us more than that per hour to provide the service.
I don’t think a long term SO agreement would be at the OT rate. The Town Commissioers should be better negotiators than to just pay the “rack” rate.
Every other business subcontracts for manpower when they need it so they don’t have all the additional costs that go along w/ a full time employee. So why not the BAPD?
The rate I was using is an estimate of the HCSO contractual rate vs. the actual rate for a current officer with the Town.
By contract, the rate from the HCSO would HAVE to be at an overtime rate, as the deputies working these hours would be working outside of their regular duties, beyond their 40-hour weeks, hence compensated at time-and-a-half.
The Town is not under a contractual agreement with ITSELF to provide the service, nor does it collect from the Tavern owners to provide the extra patrol presence (if you want to argue the merits of THAT, I’m right there with you).
If the Town entered into a contractual agreement with the Tavern owners, the contractual rate would be more along the lines of $50-$55 per hour per officer.
That is where the “net loss” figure comes from.
Magik Columbine says
John Becker – first of all, if I could get a police car sitting outside of my house every night for free, I’ll take it!! Why the bars and not me????
Second – there are issues that you don’t see us having to deal with because we are dealing with them appropriately. Think of it like termites – you don’t have a problem till you do. Then you have a big one.
John Becker says
That is why you call an exterminator before you have a problem. They apply just the right amount of pesticide to resolve the problem, BEFORE it happens.
I want to right size the all Town departments and eliminate the waste and inefficiency. My comments relate to the fact that NO ONE seems to know what is “right” for the BAPD or the other Departments. I don’t trust the BAPD or the other Departments spend only what they need vs what they want and I don’t think the Town Commissioners have the courage to make them prove they need it.
We keep falling back to the “we need it just in case” scenarios. Certainly the problems should be recognized long before they happen, but at this point everyone should be looking at doing more with less.
How high do your taxes need to be before you just say stop? I’ve passed that point.
Bel Air resident says
Why would you want a police car parked outside your house every night? Just because you think you are entitled to it or because someone else gets it and you don’t? Seems petty and selfish. Gimme, gimme, gimme. I want it because another Town has it, because the national average says I should have it, etc, etc. That is great logic.
Magik Columbine says
I don’t want a police car parked outside my house. It’s called making a point you dope.
Bel Air resident says
You need to recognize sarcasm. You’ve made it clear you want the bars to pay for your wasted tax dollars. Any other programs you’d like to add to the Town government?
Everyone here is missing the point. Using the Dagger numbers, we spend about $6 million more than we did in FY 2000. I have not seen any increase in services for my money and I know my salary hasn’t doubled.
We need to look at comparisons between 2000 and now to see what we’re paying for now that we didn’t pay for then. I wasn’t happy the Town raised my taxes by 12% last year and I’m not going to be happy when they try to do it agian this year.
Everything should be on the table for cuts. I’d start at 15% across the board and let the department heads figure out how to be more efficient. Make them earn the $100k per year.
The $517,000 in cuts this years was for stuff that should never have been spent anyway. The staff acts like it is Christmas everytime the budget cycle starts. The Commissioners need to step up and stop it.
Magik Columbine says
Everybody’s kind of missing the point. The fact that we feel like crime is low enough in Bel Air to warrant an examination of the dollars spent is in DIRECT CORRELATION to the fact that we do spend money on police. Don’t take it away just because we feel like we need to spend less money. It may be that as a direct result, we have more crime and then have to spend way more money in the long run. Do, however, look at money spent that shouldn’t be – for example the bar patrols.
Why are you so stuck on the bar patrol issue? In a $15 million dollar budget, you must really think it is that big an issue that you overlook all the other wasteful spending. It is not. Let it go until it becomes a higher priority. Fix the big stuff first, like payroll and $100k salaries.
Magik Columbine says
I don’t think you let anything go. Especially a no-brainer like that!!
The Aegis says
I believe the aegis endorsed Carey and Preston but this is in today’s paper now I, am confused
Another fine example of money being wasted is brought to
us by the Town of Bel Air, which is talking about a Streetscape
project for Thomas Street. Though the town presumably
wouldn’t be going into debt to fund this, it remains an example
of a government needlessly spending money. And the town has
enough debt that any money spent on a Thomas Street project
would be better allocated for paying down debt. Upgrading
Thomas Street isn’t needed, nor will it be any time soon.
These are tough times and many taxpayers and voters
understand that. It would be better to see governments retrench
and spend only what they have to — which doesn’t mean more
$100,000-plus salaries. That’s a concept many of us know, or
have learned in the past couple of years. Too bad our elected
spenders don’t get it.
The Aegis is late to the party again. Pathetic!!! They endorsed Preston and Carey and that spending plan. How is it that 2 weeks later they have a different view of things? Anyone who pays Town taxes knew it was a problem and that it will be a bigger problem next year because of the payroll growth. Carey and Preston won’t cut payroll, they think that BAVFC and Parks and Rec cuts will make it all better.
The Aegis says
We always look
for grant funding
first because we
are not looking
for any projects
that will put
any kind of
burden on the
—Trish Heidenreich, director
of the Bel Air Department of
How is replacing/expanding a sidewalk “economic development”? Does anyone know what specific goals have been established to measure the success of this department or are we just pissing away more money?
Ma & Pa says
Great planning, Main Street to Harford Mall connection trail where do the Commissioners think the funding will come from and how would this benefit the residents?
Government needs a crash course in common sense 101, Hopeless
Dell- you haven’t responded to “Man in Blue” and I’m assuming it is because those numbers are right? Once the correct numbers are out there, it will be very hard to argue that efficiency already exists. Anyone know if those are right?
Sorry, but I was searching for the right way to respond, without looking like a douchebag.
The “numbers” Man in Blue are referring to are just about right, but, must be put in context, and I’m trying to think of the easiest way to explain this.
Up to and until the beginning of CY 2009, the Bel Air Police operated its own, in-house UNIX based call capture system. In this system, by chance or by choice, a call would not be generated for every “event.” Things like traffic stops, foot patrols, home checks, business checks and the like were never captured, therefore never quantified. Even without this “total event” number, the captured “events” in CY 2008 totalled 16609.
As of January 1 of this year, the department captures calls for service by piggy-backing on the HCSO Computer aided dispatch system, which requires generating numbers for more “events” than the old UNIX system. By piggy-backing on this system, the Town saved tens of thousands of dollars by not purchasing the software outright.
As a consequence, more, but still not all “events” are captured in the CAD. As of this date the department has logged nearly 19,000 CAD calls. Not inclusive in this number are any calls asociated with assisting HCSO or MSP.
This, you will agree, is a double edged sword.
You can argue the department is not busy enough to support the compliment of officers employed, but, by the end of this calendar year, the “Calls for service” number will have jumped about 25%.
Add this to the fact that calls have risen or stayed static every year in the last decade, but have never declined, even under the old UNIX system. And the size of the agency has remained unchanged for the last decade as well, discounting the addition of the part-time officer this year. BAPD remains the lowest paid agency in the county
I have enjoyed this debate. The discourse has been civil, and you seem to be looking at my arguments with a reasoned eye, as I have been with yours. However, I can no longer continue, as we have reached a philosophical impasse.
No argument I can make will lead you to believe the BAPD is providing you a high quality service at a reasonable rate of return. As with law enforcement in any venue (save highway patrol functions), the Police Department is not a money maker for the local government.
I can tell you this, from my 13 years of service to your community. The men and women I line up alongside every day here are among the best trained, best supported, and most dedicated officers in this area. I would put six of mine up against six of Sheriff Bane’s any day.
Since I started here in 1997, there has been a 100% + turn over in the department. There are 31 sworn, there have been 33 officers hired in that time frame. Officers have moved on for various reasons. A few have been fortunate enough to retire (after 30 plus years in most cases), some left for greener ($$) pastures at HCSO, APD and HdGPD, some found their calling in other professions.
Several “fixes” have been instituted to stop the bleeding. Most have involved band-aids on the pay scale to keep officers from 1-5 years in the fold. Meanwhile, veteran officers with 20 plus years here find themselves 15-20% behind their counterparts in surrounding agencies, with no relief in sight.
Walk the halls of the police department. You will not find a group of disgruntled malcontents. You will, by and large, find a group of dedicated professionals who enjoy what they do and where they do it. And they do great work.
Did you know, for example, the department clears by arrest about 25% of all burglaries reported? The national average for like-sized agencies is 16%.
There were 7 bank robberies in Town in 2007, and arrests and convictions were secured in all seven. There were NO bank robberies in 2008, and only 1 to date in 2009. Cause and effect?
We have never met. I don’t know what you do. I hope what you do doesn’t involve having to knock on a door at 2PM on a sunny Friday afternoon to tell a mother her son is dead in a senseless road rage incident. Or telling a family their beloved 6 year old daughter has been victimized by a sexual predator. Or any number of other things that I have seen and done here in little old Bel Air.
But I do these things for this Town, for this agency. As do my 30 brothers and sisters. Every day, come rain or come shine.
We love this Town, and we love its people.
Again, thanks for the debate, but I have some bad guys to catch, so I’ll be signing off.
We have met and I think the BAPD does an outstanding job. I have always understood your dedication to the Town and never questioned that. You must also understand that staffing now for a projected, potential rise in “events”, at some future date, does not make economic sense. Why can’t our cost per event be in the same range as HdG or Aberdeen? They aren’t even close and my question continues to be why? It has nothing to do with the dedication each officer has to the job, and it is unfair for you to make that a reason not to look into this.
My question is and has always been (for all Town Departments) is it being done in the best possible way? Are we allocating the taxpayer resources in the most efficient way? Every Department is going to have to find a way to do more with less, not just BAPD.
Dell, I thought you’d win this debate but you just confirmed everything frustrated has said. You are either an officer or work for the BAPD because your views are biased towards BAPD. This is not a philosophical discussion, it is economic. The taxpayers are tired of rising taxes, I’m tired of higher taxes and I think all Departments need to look at their organizational structure and costs, including BAPD.
You seem to confirm that BAPD responds to 50% or less of the events with the same size force as Hdg. making our per event cost much higher. You also say that the national average is 2.6/1000 which means that right now, we have 5 more officers than the average. (the 2.6 number doesn’t distinguish between those in the office vs those on the street as you do) You must recognize that “serve and protect” also includes protecting the taxpayer from governmental waste.
I think frustrated generally makes a good point, if we can do it for less or do it better, why aren’t we? Leo is going to have to answer this when the budget cycle starts again in the spring.
PS- I thought the FBI/Secret Service did all bank robberies not the local jurisdictions? I also think that in a Town this size, the chief should be delivering all the bad news. The rank and file should not have this responsibility, he makes the big bucks.
We’re sorry. The number you have reached is no longer in service…
As I wrote previously, “frustrated” and I are at a philosophical IMPASSE.
The argument is not philosophical, the impasse is.
The Feds do not handle bank robberies here in Dodge City. We bag em, we tag em, we drag em down to the game station…
And to answer your last, it ain’t always practical or possible for the head man to do notifications, so, you get me instead.
Phil Dirt says
I think Dell is quitting while he is ahead, and I don’t blame him. This is one place where I don’t want to slash the budget to the bone, see if it has a bad effect, and then try to remedy the situation. Without an informed, detailed plan to cut costs, it would be like a surgeon cutting a sick guy open without knowing what’s wrong and just hoping the operation doesn’t kill him. It’s a hell of a lot cheaper to keep crime out than it is to let it in and then try to get rid of it.
No one advocates cutting to the “bone” but the reality is that there is room to cut. Making the argument that the public will “suffer” somehow is pandering to the worst possible outcome, which no one wants. The argument is economic, Dell doesn’t want to see his fellow BAPD staffers furloughed, laid-off or terminated, but that is COMPLETELY separate from a public safety issue. This is an argument more along the lines of “we already have it, don’t take it away”.
Not one of you has said any Department is being run as efficiently as it could be. Isn’t that the ultimate goal? You sound like it is not, so what do you see as the goal here?