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Police zero tolerance policy explained

June 01, 1999|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Under Hagerstown's zero tolerance policing policy officers will more aggressively enforce existing city laws, which will mean fewer police warnings and more arrests and criminal citations, City interim-Police Chief Robert Hart told the Mayor and City Council Tuesday.

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For example, police will issue criminal citations to people who violate misdemeanor criminal laws including possession of fireworks, harassment, disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, trespassing and minors in possession of alcohol, according to a memorandum from Hart outlining the zero tolerance policy.

Overall, the two-page outline of the zero tolerance policy calls for a continuation of city police department policies, including undercover operations aimed at prostitution and illegal drug markets.

"There is nothing here that we haven't had for years," Hart said. "It will be more intensive. ... The warnings will be diminished."

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Other laws listed specifically in the zero tolerance policy statement included laws against public urination, public drinking, juvenile curfew violations, bicycling and skate boarding on sidewalks, littering and traffic violations.

"The primary objective of our zero tolerance policy is to focus on enforcement, which will have some positive effect on reducing 'serious crime.' The crimes and behavior targeted will be those which affect the quality of life in our community," the memorandum from Hart stated.

Hart told the mayor and council that the policy will lead to more arrests, which eventually will require officers to spend more time in court, which in turn will increase overtime costs for the department.

Council members briefly debated whether it would be necessary for them to formally adopt the zero tolerance policy.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein said the written policy is something that the council members should vote on after the city attorneys review the document.

Other council members disagreed, arguing that because no new laws were being introduced there was no need for them to take official action.

"All these laws are already on the books," Councilman William M. Breichner said.

"This is nothing new," Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said he supported the policy, but thought it might lead to more citizen complaints about the conduct of police officers.

Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II in April publicly called for a zero tolerance policing policy.

When asked if he was satisfied with the policy Hart presented on Tuesday, Bruchey said, "I will have to wait and see."

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