Maryland’s budget crunch has forced state police to cancel an academy class for the first time in seven years, a police spokesman said.
“This was one way of trying to deal with the budget deficit,” Maryland State Police Lt. Bud Frank said Friday.
The cancellation of the six-month training class follows the elimination of 25 trooper positions last month. The police force also had 27 vacancies from retirements as of Jan. 14.
In recent years, the force has been taking 40 to 60 people in the training class to fill vacancies. Because of the 25 cuts, there are fewer vacancies to fill this year.
“We’re going to have a slight reduction in our total sworn strength, but 27 out of approximately 1,600 troopers is a very small portion of vacancies that we’re currently carrying,” Lt. Frank said.
Another budget-cutting proposal being considered in Annapolis includes closing two state police barracks, Lt. Frank said.
Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward Norris, who has been nominated by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to be the state police superintendent, has pledged to move police personnel from administrative jobs to crime-fighting positions.
Col. Norris, whose confirmation vote in the General Assembly was delayed Friday, could not immediately be reached for comment.
“Within the next couple weeks, the community, the citizens of Maryland will see an increase in the number of uniformed personnel on the street,” Lt. Frank said.
Col. Norris has said he wants to lead a cooperative effort between state and city police to fight crime.
Lt. Frank said it costs about $95,000 to put a trooper on the job, including costs for training, equipment, vehicles, salary and benefits.
The decision not to have the class at the academy was made before Col. Norris was chosen by Mr. Ehrlich to lead the state police, Lt. Frank said.
Canceling the training class won’t have an immediate effect on the state police force, because those recruits would need two months of field work after the six-month class. For the past seven years, the agency has held back-to-back classes, with one starting in January and another in July.
Lt. Frank would not comment on when the academy would resume classes.
“They’re still looking at the current budget in Annapolis, and we’re just going to have to see what happens,” he said.