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July 5, 2011

City Police Situation

Roy Meachum

Retired Frederick police official and current Alderman Kelly Russell argued in favor of her former colleagues in the ongoing contract negotiations, of course.


According to Sunday’s Frederick News-Post, Ms. Russell opines the Fraternal Order of Police has done all the giving. She said step increases in their annual salaries are counted on by the department’s employees as “they plan their careers.”


In opposition, Board of Aldermen’s president pro tem Karen Young points out: “Starting from a $9.9 (general fund) deficit, it’s amazing that we did not have to eliminate any positions.”


Reporter Patti Borda writes that Ms. Young “said it would not be fair for the union to trade benefits for salary, considering the average police salary is $65,000 and the average city employee salary is $45,000.” Fellow board member Republican Shelley Aloi shares her opinion.


My columns fought for the FOP when Mayor Paul Gordon tried to “bust” it. Now retired Lt. Pat O’Brien publicly gave me credit for the union’s survival. Mr. Gordon went on to award the chief’s post to “Ray” Raffensberger over police and aldermanic objections; the FOP did not fancy what they heard from Baltimore. Still, it was an executive decision made by the ex-mayor alone. I remember one afternoon stroll with Pushkin took us into City Hall and into the ex-deputy mayor Rick Weldon’s office.


The then-current mayor Jim Grimes busted through the door and punched the wall; he complained Mr. Raffensberger was seated by the mayor’s desk and Mr. Grimes had lost his patience. But the Baltimore man was replaced by Kim Dine, an assistant chief on the D.C. Metropolitan Police Force; hiring Mr. Dine I count Jennifer Daugherty’s sole good deed her four years in City Hall.


And under the “new” chief, Frederick’s force began to shape up. His smartest move was to put off top promotions until Lt. Barbara Domer followed husband Lt. Harold Domer into retirement; in new careers they receive fat pay as Circuit Court administrator and county dog catcher. With her chief patrons gone, Lt. Russell retired. Then Kim Dine was free to take on law enforcement veterans that were more than politicians. But, in the continuing contract dispute, I’m confident the chief is fighting very hard for his troops, as he should.


With nearly 30 years observing, I am convinced the Fraternal Order of Police is on a losing course, at least unrealistic. As Ms. Young and Ms. Aloi observed, the cops are very lucky their ranks haven’t been trimmed. Regard what the new Board of County Commissioners proposes. These are very hard times and the economic forecast is worse. While everyone in the department is much too young, even the chief, to remember the Depression, I grew up in that era.


By no means, as readers know very well, I am not a harbinger of doom, but there’s nothing cheery about the future. Even if the federal government turns the economy around, most financial experts anticipate several years before the nation recovers. Citizens must pay the toll for wild spending on wars and tax cuts that benefited only wealthy individuals and huge corporations.


My love for labor’s side was so intense I wanted to go to law school, specializing in laws that I understood left many Americans downtrodden, living from one paycheck to another; as a son to a railroad engineer and a waitress I experienced the not-happy circumstance.


At $65,000 annual average no city law enforcement officer can cry “poor mouth” to use an expression from my southern youth.


As readers remember, I’ve never been a Kelly Russell fan; her reputation among City Hall employees confirms my low opinion. I’m left to wonder how much the Fraternal Order of Police’s intransigency might derive from the alderman’s bad advice.


Local cops are making a big mistake.


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