Aberdeen, MD – On Tuesday night (May 26, 2009), members of the Harford County Municipal Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 128, attended the City of Aberdeen Council meeting. The purpose of this was to show support for two members of their lodge who would address the City’s Mayor and Council in reference to proposed budget cuts to the Aberdeen Police Department and public safety.
Billy Thompson, State Trustee for the lodge and a city resident addressed the Mayor and Council just after the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009-2010 budget was passed. In his statement, Thompson advised “city employees prepared themselves for budget cuts and hard times, however looking over the drafted budget, that wasn’t the case for everybody.” Thompson cited “a grand total of $1,576 decrease from the entire budget for all of the Department of Public Works.”
Thompson said “their overall budget added together was increased by $170,760.” Thompson pointed out a line item in the budget that was increased 600%, and that was tree trimming. Thompson went on to say that “the Department of Public Works did not spend all of their available funds in last year. I’m sure the everyday citizen could look at this budget and see that the police department’s bottom line was only decreased by .82% however that number is terribly miscued,” said Thompson. “With an overall budget of $3.9 million, the police department decreases are going to yield a lower overall percentage.”
“Looking over this budget, it seems like the police department or one of its members has done something wrong to cross the author of this budget. If that is true, we would like to remind them that the decisions made don’t just affect one person, it affects 45 members of the agency, and their effectiveness to protect the citizens of Aberdeen,” Thompson said in closing.
Dan Gosnell, a member of lodge 128 then address the Mayor and Council and thanked them for approving an amendment to the FY09-10 budget dealing with overtime for the police department. Gosnell said, “Crime is down in the city because arrests and traffic citations are up. The officers are initiating calls for service and are being proactive to crime trends rather than reactive. The officer must appear in court for those arrests and traffic tickets, and court cases are not always scheduled when the officer is working. Testifying in court is a primary job function of a police officer. Who will tell the State’s Attorney that officers will no longer be appearing in court,” asked Gosnell.
“Other incidents require officers who are specially trained, like SWAT, Crisis Negotiation, Crime Scene Processing, and Accident Reconstructions to mention a few, and without an appropriate allotted overtime budget, these services will be affected. It does not only lower the quality of police services, but possibly place citizens and officers in harm’s way,” said Gosnell. Gosnell continued by saying that “in FY08, actucal overtime paid by the police department was $151,053, $130,000 was appropriate for the current year, and it was originally proposed to cut overtime to $123,000 for FY10.”
“Chief Rudy advised you at last Monday’s Work Session that the men and woman are beyond frustrated. They have delivered the lowest crime rate in 10 years but yet are forced to beg for simple necessities. Crime has done nothing but risen in the county the past year however the County Executive was able to increase the Sheriff’s Office budget by $1.1 million. If allowing crime to rise is a key to a better budget, by all means please let these officer’s know” Gosnell said. Gosnell cited their “counterparts in neighboring municipalities are going to see a step increase in their salaries or a Cost of Living Adjustment, and in the case of Havre de Grace some will receive both.”
“County and municipal governments have found a way to balance their budgets and help out their officers.” Gosnell then thanked the Mayor and Council for passing the amendment that increased the police overtime budget $6,000.”
Jason Neidig, Vice President for the lodge said he is thankful that the Mayor and Council approved the overtime increase, even if its $1,000 shy of what was appropriated for the current budget year. Neidig said, “It just doesn’t make sense to me, $151,053 was spent in overtime in FY08, $130,000 appropriated for this current cycle, and I am sure the police department is either close or over that by now.
The original proposed decrease of $7,000 is a slap in the face for all the proactive measures and hard work these officers are doing to keep the citizens of this City safe. As State Trustee Thompson said, it appears someone in the police department has crossed the author of this budget. If that is the case, it is a shame that the author would put the safety of citizens and officers in jeopardy. “We (FOP) should not even have had to be involved in the budget issues. We should be staying focused on issues strictly dealing with salaries, benefits, safety and working conditions, retirement, and healthcare for the police officers.
Ben Lay Jr, President of lodge 128 says he too is happy that the Mayor and Council put $6,000 of the $7,000 back in the overtime budget. Budget line item issues is really something we should not be involved in however I believe the police administration failed to fight hard enough and come out publically in addressing the cuts. In the day and age, police must stay proactive in fighting crime, especially dealing with gangs and drugs. With the state of the economy, violence and thefts tend to rise. Police services are not an area that can afford to be cut at all as it would affect the citizens.