- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 9, 2005

A day after Bowie residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of starting a police force, Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said the city’s first police officer should be on patrol by this time next year.

“It’s clearly going to be a phased-in project,” he said. “But if we get some officers on the street within 12 to 24 months, I’ll consider that a success.”

Mr. Robinson said he was pleased that the initiative passed resoundingly Tuesday. A month ago, he predicted that the proposal would receive about 60 percent support.

“I knew it was going to be a high number,” he said yesterday. “I would not have projected it was going to be as high as 76 percent.”

The vote was technically nonbinding because the city charter requires City Council to approve such a change, but Mr. Robinson said members of the nonpartisan council have assured him that they will vote the will of the people.

Mr. Robinson plans to submit a measure to the council at its first official work session on Nov. 21 that would authorize the city manager to begin spending money on projects associated with the police department. He said the council could get the full plan by the end of the year, before the hard work begins.

“I think the first thing is to hire someone to help us build and run a police department,” Mr. Robinson said. “We’re going soup to nuts from the very beginning.”

City Manager David Deutsch said the first officer could hit the streets in as little as six months, but that recruiting officers would be a slow and deliberate process.

“We’re not going to be racing the clock to meet some arbitrary deadline,” he said.

Mr. Deutsch presented a detailed implementation plan at voter-education forums citywide. He does not expect the plan submitted to the council to be altered significantly.

The police force is not expected to be fully implemented for at least four years. The city plans to employ 57 sworn officers.

Prince George’s County police will continue to patrol Bowie until the city force reaches full strength. After that, the county will continue to dispatch calls, investigate major crimes such as rape and murder, and provide DNA and fingerprint analysis and hostage and barricade teams.

The county has 20 officers who patrol a police district that includes Bowie.

The city has paid the county since 1994 for the services of an additional six officers to work within city limits, but city officials say they still do not have enough police presence.

Chief Melvin C. High of the Prince George’s County Police Department responded to the concerns by vowing in 2004 to increase the number of officers to 40 by July 31.

However, Bowie officials said the county added only three officers.

Officials estimate that starting a police force will cost $7 million and that annual expenses will be slightly less than $7 million. The department is expected to cost homeowners $46 per $100,000 of their home’s assessed value.

The 16-square-mile city of 55,000 residents had a median household income in 2004 of $85,240, compared with $59,964 for the county and $57,218 for the state. About 63 percent of the city is white and 31 percent is black. Countywide statistics show 27 percent of residents are white and 63 percent are black.

Only one of the county’s 148 homicides last year occurred in Bowie.

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