WASHINGTON – For Aberdeen Police Detective Sgt. Stephen Smith, the war in Iraq has meant some juggling.
Smith said the Aberdeen Police Department has had to shift some schedules to compensate for the two patrol officers recently called to active duty, but no one has had to work overtime or handle different duties while officers have been deployed.
“Deployments have impacted us to a degree,” said Smith, the department’s spokesman. “But right now we are coping.”
Of the 39 sworn officers in Aberdeen, the two who are currently on active duty make up a little more than 5 percent of the force, Smith said. A third officer who was deployed after Sept. 11, has since returned.
“We haven’t been faced, as no one has, with this many deployments before Sept. 11,” said Aberdeen Police Chief Randy M. Rudy.
He added that the city has maintained the officers’ level of pay since their deployment.
“We feel very compelled to support them,” Rudy said.
The challenge faced by Aberdeen’s Police Department is typical of that faced by other police forces across Maryland, who have seen their ranks hit by deployments but are managing to get by, said Maj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill, adjutant general for the Maryland National Guard.
“Some first-responders have been deployed, but the numbers are not that dramatic,” Tuxill said. “Deployments have pretty much been across the board industry-wise. That’s why (first-responders) have not really been affected.”
A survey on recruiting and police personnel issues by the Police Executive Research Forum, showed that 43.8 percent of the 976 law enforcement agencies surveyed said they have had personnel take leave for military call-ups since Sept. 11, 2001. The survey was completed late last year.
Call-ups include some high-profile officers, including Montgomery County Police Chief Charles Moose and chiefs of police departments in Pittsburgh, Pasadena, Calif., and Eaton, Ill., according to the forum.
Moose was one of 10 Montgomery County officers called to active duty, officials there said. Fewer than two dozen of the 1,079 employees in the county police force are enlisted as reservists and guardsmen.
“It hasn’t hurt us,” said Officer Derek Baliles, a Montgomery Police spokesman. “We are taking it in stride and are doing so with pride.”
Montgomery County’s fire and rescue services have about 1,000 full-time personnel, but only 30 of them are reservists and only five of those reservists have been called up, said Pete Piringer, spokesman for the fire department. He could not say how many of the county’s roughly 1,000 volunteer firefighters have been called up.
“I don’t know what duties they are on,” Piringer said of the employed firefighters.
He said the deployments have been manageable because of the size of the force and because those that have been called up have all been firefighters, who are easy to shift around.
“We probably have one of largest departments in the state,” Piringer said.
In Anne Arundel County, two county firefighters have been deployed, along with 13 police officers and one deputy from the sheriff’s department.
Anne Arundel police have been able to cover deployments with overtime and shift changes on the force of more than 600 officers, said personnel officer Mark Atkisson.
“There has really been no significant operational impact,” Atkisson said. “It has not made a major impact for us to respond to calls.”
He said there would be trouble if all 40 officers who are also reservists got called up at the same time.
“We don’t know who will get called up, we may lose more people,” Atkisson said. “But usually when we lose some, we get more back.”
In Harford County, three sheriff’s department employees have been called up, but officials said the county is covering their positions fine.
“Since they have been deployed, the county has maintained the employees’ benefits package and compensated for any change in pay,” said Harford County spokeswoman Merrie Street.
She said that yellow ribbons are up and lapel pins that display U.S., British and Australian flags, with eagles and wording like “Iraqi Freedom” are also popping up around the county.
“We are very much focused on supporting our troops,” Street said. Her father and grandfather both served in the military, and her son is serving now, but has not been deployed.
“There are a lot of families like mine around here that have a life of military,” Street said. “It’s a very important part of our lives.”