Citing an increasing workload and the need to investigate violent crime quickly, the Anne Arundel County Police Department wants County Council members to approve a full-time firearms examiner position for the department.
The request comes several months into a new arrangement that sends firearms involved in Annapolis Police Department investigations to a part-time, contractual county firearms examiner for analysis.
At a recent work session, Capt. Herbert Hasenpusch, commander of the county department's Criminal Investigations Unit, told council members that the examiner's 1,500 contracted hours would be used up by the end of the month. Fiscal 2017 ends next June.
Having a full-time employee would help "to investigate violent crime cases in a timely manner," he wrote in an email this week.
The new position would cost the county between $9,880 and $20,329, according to a fiscal note accompanying Bill 89-16, which the council will consider at its meeting Tuesday.
The rest of the funding for the examiner position would come from cutting a vacant information system support specialist job.
County Police Chief Tim Altomare said the police department had requested that specialist in anticipation of increasing data management and public information requests as police car and body cameras become prevalent — but the need for a firearms examiner is more pressing, he said.
Hasenpusch said the county benefits from doing its own firearms analysis. Cases that can't be processed by a county expert are sent to the state lab instead.
"By having our own firearms examination capability in-house, we can prioritize cases being examined," he wrote. "When using an outside lab, we are in competition with everyone else's priorities."
Anne Arundel began to send firearms to Prince George's County's forensics lab for analysis during the tenure of former Police Chief Kevin Davis, Altomare's predecessor. When the case load became too heavy, Anne Arundel hired the existing part-time employee to help.
With the addition of Annapolis' cases, "workload goes up again," Altomare told council members. "Fifteen-hundred hours isn't quite enough to get the work done."
Annapolis saw a spike in handgun seizures in 2016, according to police department data. The city is also dealing with a record 10 homicides this year.
Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop said earlier this month that more handguns in the city can lead to more violent activity.
"We are seeing more handguns than we have seen in the past," he said. "These are handguns involved in these crimes."
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City police are not paying the county for use of its firearms examiner under their new partnership. Hasenpusch said the arrangement benefits county police because they often deal with city offenders.
"Their violence is our violence; their bad guys are our bad guys," Altomare said. He said about 15 to 20 percent of the examiner's time is spent on Annapolis work.
Pristoop released a statement saying the examiner "enables speedy firearms examinations for the Annapolis Police Department" that has helped detectives link cases.
If approved, a full-time firearms examiner would work out of the Prince George's lab, just at the contract employee does. Hasenpusch said the county is looking into developing its own lab sometime "over the next few years."
Because firearms examination is a peer-reviewed discipline, Anne Arundel's examiner would also assist on Prince George's County cases and vice versa, Altomare said.
In a statement, county State's Attorney Wes Adams said he was supportive of the police department's "continued efforts to gather evidence in the pursuit of successful prosecutions."
The bill also creates new titles in the county code for employees in the Office of Personnel, Office on Aging and Disabilities and the police department. Raises associated with those positions could increase annual costs for salaries and benefits by about $74,500, according to a letter from the county auditor.