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Sheridan, FOP take dispute to council


Baltimore County police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan and the police union are at odds over whether the County Council should cut money from next year's budget that would pay for a rearrangement of shifts at two precincts.

Sheridan, testifying yesterday at a council budget hearing, urged the council to keep money in the budget for the scheduling changes, though he agreed two weeks ago to suspend his proposal until a committee can study it.

"I would ask that you not cut these funds. Leave them in there and let the committee do its job," Sheridan said. "I think if the money is cut, I don't see a need for a committee."

Afterward, Cole Weston, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 4, criticized the chief's testimony and said he appeared to be reneging on the agreement that set up the committee.

Weston said he plans to ask the council to cut the money to assure the new schedules are not implemented.

This year, Sheridan proposed changing the policy of assigning one group of officers to the overnight shift - usually 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. - at the Towson and North Point precincts.

Instead, all officers and supervisors in those precincts would rotate among three shifts. The Essex and Wilkens precincts went to that shift schedule two years ago.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger is requesting $378,000 in the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1 to hire 11 supervisors to ensure proper oversight of the scheduling change.

Sheridan, faced with FOP opposition, agreed May 1 to suspend his proposal until a committee of officers and county officials could study it. The committee is scheduled to meet next month.

But yesterday Sheridan told council members he still hopes to implement the changes, which angered FOP leaders.

"It sounds like he is not being objective about waiting for the committee results," Weston said after the hearing.

Weston said he was "disappointed" by the chief's testimony and criticized him for not asking the council to transfer the money to another police program.

"There are a lot of different projects available that the chief could have put that money toward," Weston said.

Sheridan told council members the department is having trouble finding enough officers to fill the overnight shift - a claim Weston disputes - so it is forced to assign rookie officers to the job.

"I truly believe police officers need to be out working three shifts getting experience before we put them on permanent midnight," Sheridan said.

The chief also said the new shift configuration would allow supervisors to better monitor officers.

He supplied statistics showing that officers in the Essex and Wilkens precincts, which have ended permanent midnight duty, closed 12 percent more cases in 1999 than precincts with a permanent midnight shift.

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