The action was the most definitive thus far from any of the three Harford County municipalities concerning the joint special operations proposal. Aberdeen's Police Department initiated the proposal, but has yet to receive an official go-ahead from the mayor and city council. Bel Air's Board of Town Commissioners discussed the proposal last week but agreed it needs more study.
"This poses to be a win-win for all affected parties in providing sufficient law enforcement resources in emergency-type situations," said Councilman David Glenn, who introduced the resolution.
Councilman Joe Smith asked Capt. Wayne Young, the city's deputy police chief, to provide background about the issues that prompted the resolution.
Young said the department would use such an outside SWAT team to execute search and seizure warrants under "exigent" circumstances, mostly for cases involving narcotics and/or weapons.
"Those SWAT members are trained on dynamic entry, which is particularly what you would see with forcing doors, and they have additional equipment and tactics for doing those types of entries," Young said, adding that Havre de Grace, in his estimation, has been using Aberdeen's SWAT team "about 99 percent" of the time since it was formed eight or nine years ago.
"What we found is that by combining efforts with the municipalities, adding Bel Air and Havre de Grace, we would have more than an adequate number of qualified operators so that we could assist each other," Young explained.
"We feel that it's in the best interests of the citizens by combining efforts, if you will," he continued. "By putting these teams together we are actually getting more qualified operators to work for better services."
Smith asked if there would be any increase in staffing or other additions to Havre de Grace's police budget. Young replied there would be no increase in staff; however, but there would some personal equipment and ammunition additions for those who join the new team.
Other costs, such as entry equipment and specialized equipment that "may be too expensive for one agency to purchase on their own" would be divided between the three municipalities, Young said.
Mayor Wayne Dougherty welcomed the change. "Calling on all the resources from one agency is really overtaxing in the number of personnel that are needed," he said.
"It really saves money and provides a great service of safety to all our citizens," Dougherty said. The resolution passed unanimously.
Maritime Museum support
The city council also voted 4-0 to support the creation of an environmental center at the city's Maritime Museum.
The center would establish displays, exhibits, laboratory benches, and sampling and collection stations to educate as part of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs, Councilman Fred Cullum explained.
"I wish them great success with this program," Dougherty said. "It's certainly needed, and I know they have some sponsors and benefactors set up, so they are moving in a very positive direction and also I couldn't think of a better place for it than the maritime museum."
"Council member Cullum, council member [John] Correri will remember this. The director at the time was Brenda Guldenzopf, and this was one of her objectives that she had in her five- or 10-year plan for the museum," Dougherty added.
In addition to working for the museum, Mrs. Guldenzopf, who died in July 2010, was a member of the city council, elected on her first try for public office in May 2009. She was still serving on the council when she died.
"So, I know Brenda's looking down and smiling right now that this resolution's going to be adopted, and they'll continue their great work that they're doing at the maritime museum," Dougherty said.
The museum's board requested the city's expression of support, board president Bruce Russell explained Wednesday.