For a long time, the issue of having our own police force in the city has been a source if emotional debate among city residents.
The residents who support a City-wide police think that having our own force will improve public safety. With a city-wide police force, our neighborhoods will be patrolled by a law enforcement entity who has its jurisdiction only within the city boundary. This is unlike the current situation, where the police that patrol our streets have a jurisdiction over a large area that stretches beyond College Park.
The opponents to the idea of having a City wide police force think that with a small city like ours having a fairly small tax base, it’s not quite practical to maintain our own police force, even if we manage to create one.
The debate thus boils down to one issue – its the spending factor. That factor is also debated on the ground of ever increasing budget that we spend on our contract police and the regular county police force (indirectly). That debate is fairly long and thus I’m not going to take that route in this post.
But something interesting is also happening, that might make the existence of our own police a reality.
And that has to do with an awesome initiative that the new University of Maryland President Dr. Loh has recently taken to make our city a great college town.
As I wrote earlier, Dr. Loh has made a few task forces to achieve just that. One of his task forces is assigned to improve city’s public safety to seek options, including the possibility of creating City’s own police force. Dr. Loh has tasked the safety group, chaired by the University Police Chief David Mitchell, with creating a plan to implement these goals. This Dimondback article says:
“One of the most important goals, Loh said, is increasing safety on the campus and in the surrounding city — including possibly creating a College Park police force, separate from both University Police and Prince George’s County Police. “
The task force has yet to make their final report available to the city wide residents, however what I find interesting is that instead of expanding UMd’s own police force, the task force has taken a path to create one independent force that goes beyond concurrent jurisdiction of the university and the city.
The task forces have members from all level of local and State governments. Thus, can we assume that our new Police force will be funded by these governments too? Well, we can only find that out when the report comes out.
Whether we’ll be having our police, for some, the Diamondback piece is just a rumor. I asked a few City officials, and nobody seems to know anything about this.
District 2 council member Bob Catlin said, “I don’t know anything about it – so it is likely the Diamondback doesn’t have the story right.”
Mayor Fellows, who heads another task force on environment, had a similar reaction.
“That’s a good question, though I’m not sure the Diamondback reporter was accurate. The report of the public safety has not come before the Mayor and City Council, and I’m sure we’d be asking the same question.” – told Mayor Fellows to me.