- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2002

Police union officials have angered some of their rank-and-file members by pushing organizations to endorse Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend over Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the race for governor.
Two statewide police groups, the State Law Enforcement Officers Labor Alliance and the state Fraternal Order of Police, have backed Mrs. Townsend based on votes by directors of their boards.
Critics say those votes were cast by people with close ties to Mrs. Townsend and her boss, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, and do not reflect the views of members, who were not polled as they customarily are.
When the Labor Alliance board voted in April, dissenters were told it would cost $1,000 to mail and process ballots if they sent them to members, according to Maryland State Police Detective Sgt. William O. Jones.
"It seemed like a small amount to spend for something so important," said Sgt. Jones, president of Maryland Troopers Association Lodge 15 for Cecil and Harford counties. He said labor endorsements should reflect the consensus of the rank and file, "not a group of people who get together once a month."
So the Maryland Troopers Association whose members account for about 1,400 of the roughly 1,800 police represented by the Labor Alliance decided to issue a separate endorsement. They held a candidates' forum and mailed ballots to members last month, and expect to make an announcement in about two weeks.
Richard D. Poist, who was president of the Labor Alliance when the vote was taken, defended the decision of the union, which bargains on behalf of police in various state agencies, including General Services, Department of Natural Resources and the fire marshal's office.
"We looked at it as a position of loyalty this administration has made lots of improvements for troopers," Mr. Poist said.
The state Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Mrs. Townsend over Mr. Ehrlich 27-16 at a meeting on June 29, with nine abstentions among lodge representatives and state board members.
Although more lodges voted for Mrs. Townsend than Mr. Ehrlich, the lodges that voted for Mr. Ehrlich represent 56 percent of the state FOP's membership and 67 percent of membership among lodges that attended the meeting, said Ehrlich spokesman Shareese DeLeaver.
And the state's largest FOP lodge, Baltimore, endorsed Mr. Ehrlich, marking the first time it has backed a Republican in the lodge's 36-year history, according to President Gary McLhinney.
Townsend spokesman Mike Morrill said lodges that supported Mr. Ehrlich "are out of step," noting that they also supported Democratic candidates who failed in the primaries for governor in 1998 and for Baltimore mayor in 1999.
"We got unexpectedly strong support in some rural lodges and among the rank and file," Mr. Morrill said, noting that one lodge swung the FOP endorsement in 1998.
Sources said that during the closed session that preceded the vote, state FOP President John A. "Rodney" Bartlett, who can only vote to break a tie, spoke in favor of Mrs. Townsend.
Mr. Bartlett is Calvert County's sheriff, a post Mr. Glendening appointed him to in May 2001 after the elected sheriff resigned under a cloud.
David Hammel, president of the Maryland Troopers Association, said he does not believe Mrs. Townsend lacks support among the rank and file.
"A lot of it is a turf battle" between leaders in the troopers association who are upset that the Labor Alliance is the exclusive bargaining group in labor matters and between Mr. Ehrlich's and Mrs. Townsend's supporters, said Mr. Hammel, who was a sergeant in drug enforcement before he retired from the state police this week.
But Mr. McLhinney said Baltimore police have genuine concerns about Mrs. Townsend's positions.
He said city police officers generally dislike her support for a moratorium on the death penalty and believe the state would be safer if officials in Annapolis focused more on putting criminals in jail instead of preventing crime.
"The membership realizes that there are a lot of issues the Democratic Party is not in touch with," Mr. McLhinney said.


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