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Rethinking City’s Contract Police Program

Off duty police officers of Prince George's Police department serve in College Park contract police program

The Council will discuss renewing an agreement with the Prince George’s Police on City’s contract police program on next Wednesday’s Council worksession.

Before I talk about the future direction of the contract police program, here is a brief background of the program that staff has prepared for us.

The City began its current contract police program in 2004, with the assistance of Chief Magaw when he was District One Commander. He helped us get County approval of an MOU to hire PGPD officers, authorizing them to work part time secondary employment with the City as contract police officers. He recommended and recruited Lt. Keleti to work as our scheduling and supervising officer for our part time contract officers. Lt. Keleti still fills that role for the City, and, in addition, now schedules part-time officers employed by the City to review our speed camera citations. A pool of thirty (30) officers is currently available to fill part time shifts. They are scheduled to provide the approximate equivalent of 7.5 full time officers.

We expanded our contract police program in 2008, when Assistant Chief Davis was District One Commander. He assisted in getting the Police Services Agreement between the City and County approved for us to reimburse the County for the assignment of three (3) full-time officers to our contract program. District One command staff supervises our three full time contract officers. The same chain of command also supervises COPS officers working in College Park.

Under the contract, officers who work part-time are paid for hours worked only. The City pays all salary and overhead costs for the three officers who the County assigns to work full time as part of our service agreement. These costs include annual leave, holidays, training days, etc. The full time officers, although not as cost effective as the part time officers, were added to the program as a means to make staffing the program more consistent and maintain patrols schedules more predictably and reliably. As part time City contract officers are full time PGPD officers, there are times when the County may require them to work mandatory overtime. During those times, officers are may be held over for emergencies or for special assignment work; at those times it may not be possible to reschedule another officer to cover that shift. Having the three full time officers assigned to the City helps cover times when part time officers may not be available to work for the City.

The City funds the contract police program at $1,185,861 for FY13. The County bills the City semi-annually for the services provided by the Police Services Agreement. (Some lag time in the County billing results in payment for services not exactly coinciding with the City’s fiscal year budget process.) With the combined full and part time contract officers we add the equivalent of approximately 10.5 officers to supplement the PGPD beat, special squad (SAT, RST, etc.), aviation, and COPS officers assigned to College Park. In addition, UMPD/DPS, MSP, MNCPPC, and Metro Transit police patrol in areas of concurrent jurisdiction in the City. Although the MOU and Services Agreement with the County anticipate these City contract officers will be supplemental officers, they often respond to backup the beat officers dispatched to 9-1-1 service calls, and are often first on the scene. They have significantly increased the number of traffic stops and field observations in College Park, often resulting in arrests for warrants, DUI, etc.

Staff is recommending the continuance of the use the contract police program to enhance police visibility and services citywide. They believe our contract police program is a very good component of total police services provided in College Park, and look forward to continued improvement of the program.

That said, I personally think it’s time to rethink the future of the entire contract police program. The cost of the contract police program has more than doubled since it started in 2004. We are spending about 10% of our budget on the program, yet residents know very little about the program, per this survey. Given the increasing cost of the program, I think we ought to think other cost effective alternatives of the program, such as expanding concurrent jurisdiction of University of Maryland Police, introducing ambassador police program or even having City’s own police department. I hope to write more about these alternatives in separate posts in future.

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1 Comment to “Rethinking City’s Contract Police Program”

  1. By Anonymous, December 31, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

    Thank you for posting this information. Public safety is the No. 1 issue for me and every neighbor I talk to in this city. And, other than revitalizing Baltimore Avenue and working with the University to make this a top notch town, public safety is the single biggest issue for me as a voter.

    I posted this in NCPinformant a few weeks back, but I feel it’s just as pertinent in this discussion:

    Honestly, why don’t we stop with these silly patchwork public safety tactics and just institute a city police department? Public safety in this city is clearly enough of a quality of life issue that it needs to be addressed. The county clearly has bigger fish to fry and the University, though it gamely tries to cover and police a lot of ground, doesn’t have the resources, manpower or obligation to police all of College Park. I find it embarrassing that Hyattsville, University Park, Riverdale Park and even Berwyn Heights have municipal police departments, but College Park doesn’t. I would happily pay more in taxes if it meant having a police force devoted solely to College Park. If the commercial development along Route 1 booms as expected, we will need to increase police presence and the tax base will ultimately be there to support that. Enough of trying to cover our bases with cameras and lightpoles, and part-time contract police and other piecemeal solutions working with an overmatched county police department and the university police, it clearly doesn’t work. It’s time for a College Park City Police force.