The Howard County Police Department will be able to add 22 officers to the force next fiscal year, County Executive Ken Ulman announced this week.
Two civilian employees will also be hired to replace officers working in the public affairs, and research and planning offices, Ulman said. He made the announcement at the Howard County Police Awards Ceremony Tuesday night.
Despite what Ulman called a "lean budget," he said he will continue to work to fulfill his pledge to hire 100 police officers during his time as county executive.
"I really do believe our quality of life is centered around public safety and public education," Ulman said in an interview. "Although our [crime] statistics remain fairly low, we must redouble our efforts, especially around community policing."
The positions will cost about $14 million, according to the county budget office.
Of the new officers, 10 will work patrol, said Police Chief William J. McMahon. Five will go toward creating a repeat offender unit, McMahon said.
"That's something that's been important to me for a while," he said. "We know that at any given time, there's a handful of people in our community" who create most of the problems.
"It's important for us to have a really coordinated effort."
The child abuse unit and domestic violence unit, which was started last year, will receive additional officers, McMahon said. One position will be created to focus on gang awareness.
"We just think it's important to add another officer there," McMahon said, noting that there is currently one officer focused on that area. "We're not immune to the problems in the cities that surround us. We know there are people affiliated with gangs here in the county. We're trying to be proactive here."
The police department has 423 sworn officers, McMahon said. The department received 32 new positions this fiscal year.
To help recruit quality candidates, the department created a partnership with Howard Community College to allow recruits to earn their associate's degrees while in the police academy. Howard is one of two counties in the state that require police recruits to have at least an associate's degree.
The July recruit class will be the first in which the program is available.
"We do know our numbers of applicants have increased since we advertised this partnership," McMahon said. "We're very very encouraged by that."