Arundel council calls for hiring more police officers

The Anne Arundel County Council voted Tuesday to recommend that the county executive hire more police officers over the next two years.

By a 5-2 vote, councilmen made a public declaration of their desire for more officers to County Executive Laura Neuman.

The resolution calls for a five percent increase in officers each of the next two years. The estimated cost for next year's increase would be $4.675 million, according to the county auditor's office.

The county has 679 police officers, so the new hires would amount to 34 more officers per year.

The resolution was sponsored by three Republicans who Democratic Councilman Jamie Benoit needled over supporting what he called an expansion of government.

Republican Councilman Derek Fink of Pasadena, the lead sponsor, countered that hiring more police officers is not the same as "hiring a bureaucrat to sit at DPW."

Benoit also questioned what would happen if the resolution passes and Neuman does not put more officers in her budget: Would the council come up with cuts elsewhere to pay for more officers? He specifically mentioned money to replace Severna Park High School and to build a boat ramp in Pasadena.

Fink said he thinks that it's possible to find a few million dollars to pay for more officers within the county's total budget, which was $1.2 billion last year.

Councilman Richard Ladd, a Republican cosponsor from Broadneck, ultimately voted against the bill "for Severna Park High School's sake." Benoit also voted no.

Officer O'Brien Atkinson, president of FOP Lodge 70, implored the council not to put the chance of hiring more police officers at risk through "political gamesmanship."

Neuman's lobbyist, Don Murphy, said the resolution put the administration in an awkward position, because the county executive has not yet drafted her budget.

Neuman will introduce her proposed budget May 1.

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