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Hagerstown police maintaining downtown presence

Shuffling personnel is enabling the department to deal with departure of more than a dozen officers

July 28, 2013|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Police Chief Mark Holtzman, left, and Sgt. Eric Knode, keep an eye on downtown Hagerstown Tuesday morning.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Despite a recent loss of officers, the Hagerstown Police Department is maintaining a high presence in the downtown area, the city’s top law enforcement official said.

Police Chief Mark Holtzman said the department had to redeploy three of the four officers from the Downtown Squad because more than a dozen officers have left the force over the last year.

He said the city has filled the void downtown by adding auxiliary police and overtime officers.

“We’re maintaining our standard patrols ... Everybody is pitching in to help maintain the coverage that we need downtown,” Holtzman said.

The Hagerstown Police Department is funded to staff 105 officers, but only 90 are on the force, Holtzman said. The city also has eight cadets attending the police academy. He said those cadets won’t graduate until September and after that, they’ll have to complete an additional four months of street training.

Holtzman attributed the attrition to a 50 percent split between officers who retire and those who leave for more lucrative jobs.

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He said the City of Hagerstown pays officers $37,800 per year to start.

By comparison, the starting salary is $43,187 for officers in Frederick, Md., and $43,860 in Annapolis, according to the human resources offices in those cities.

Salaries are supposed to increase annually, he said, but officers in Hagerstown haven’t received a raise in the last four years.

“Officers who were hired five years ago have not seen a raise,” Holtzman said.

Sgt. Eric Knode started leading the Downtown Squad about a year ago.

He said police coverage hasn’t suffered a whole lot in the urban core because of overtime officers and auxiliary police, whose shifts will be increased from four to six hours per day.

Knode said deploying officers at the right times and places also has helped.

“It’s actually going pretty well,” he said.

Holtzman said the police department is using the following schedule to maintain police coverage downtown:

• Officer Tim Rossiter, who normally operates the city’s speed-camera program, has been deployed full time to the area of Public Square from 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“He’ll be doing that and some traffic assignments,” Holtzman said. “The public can expect to see a (police) car in the square.”

• Two officers from the evening shift will be assigned downtown Monday through Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. One of those officers will work the Franklin Street area and the Market Lot. The other will be responsible for patrolling downtown. Both officers will conduct foot, bike and cruiser patrols.

• Beginning at 9:30 p.m. every day, two patrol officers from the night shift will be assigned to the downtown area until at least 11 p.m. One of those officers will be assigned to the University of Maryland campus and North Potomac Street parking deck. The second will work in the areas of Public Square, the Arts and Entertainment District, Washington County Free Library, and the adjacent parking garage and parking lots.

• Overtime officers have been added to the morning and afternoon hours and will work on a daily basis as staffing permits.

Holtzman said that as staffing levels improve, the department will return the Downtown Squad to its normal strength.

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