Ocean City Police Force Will Grow By One Officer This Year

Ocean City Police Force Will Grow By One Officer This Year
Ocean City Police

OCEAN CITY — Resort officials last week approved the hiring of one additional Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) officer, but at least one council member pushed for adding more.

During a budget work session last week, OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro explained his department was seeking one additional police officer to meet the growing challenges created by the loss of seven officers over the last year. The chief said some officers cited quality of life issues in their exit interviews. Despite the roughly $45,000 needed to hire, train and outfit one additional officer, the chief said adjustments could be made in other sections of his budget to cover the cost.

“This would give us a great helping hand,” he said. “It’s just one officer, but it means 150 or more tours. Seven officers separated from service from the patrol division and each officer cited there were quality of life issues. Although this is just one officer, it would really help out with that.”

During a budget wrap-up session last Friday, the council voted unanimously to approve the one additional officer to bring the department’s complement of sworn officers up to the desired 105. However, Councilman Matt James asked the chief if adding a single officer this year was enough to meet the scheduling demands for the department and improve quality of life issues.

“With only one officer joining the force, wouldn’t that only help one shift?” he said. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to get officers for each shift? With the number of officers who have left and the number approaching retirement, I would like the council to consider funding three more officers.”

The OCPD maintains a full complement of 105 sworn officers, but that number has dipped over the last year. The officers that have left have cited the increased demands of a grueling summer season, lots of overtime and an inability to ask for and receive needed time off at other times of the year because of the precise number of available officers maintained by the department.

Public perception often points to the seasonal nature of the resort as a determining factor in the number of sworn police officers. However, James said the rigors of offseason training and the extended shoulder seasons loaded with special events warranted adding more officers to the department.

“I don’t think you have too many officers,” he said. “I used to think that, but after talking to a lot of different people, I think one officer for each shift would make this even better.”

Buzzuro said, while 105 is the benchmark, a variety of factors made the actual number of officers available for duty a moving target.

“We’re currently at 104,” he said. “We are at a point where we have a couple of pending retirements, so that number fluctuates. There have been only a few points when we’ve been at 105. Generally speaking, we’re typically at 100 to 105.”

Council President Lloyd Martin said the size of the force has steadily increased over the years but has remained stable at 105 in recent years.

“I think the chief needs the tools and the manpower,” he said. “I’d like to see it grow slowly. When I was first elected, I think we had 95. We voted over three years to get to 105. We’re hardly ever at 105 for a whole year. We always have a couple drop off for a variety of reasons.”

Mayor Rick Meehan supported adding one officer this year and suggested a steady increase in the number going forward.

“I think we should have a goal,” he said. “I think the right thing to do is to take a step forward and hire one officer this year and I’d like to see us continue that over the next couple of years to bring this up to a workable number. It’s not often we have a whole complement of officers and this will help us achieve the needs for your department.”

James, however, continued to assert it could be short-sighted to add just one this year given the circumstances surrounding the employee drain.

“I think we’re already playing catch-up,” he said. “I think we’ll lose more this year and I just don’t think one is enough.”

Councilman Tony DeLuca said he supported adding one officer this year and praised the chief for requesting the officer without expanding his budget.

“The chief has asked for one additional officer,” he said. “I really respect when you say if approved you can find this money in your budget. I think you’ll always be around 100 to 105, so I support this one officer for this year.”

Martin also commented on the public’s perception sometimes about what the police do during the slower winter months.

“It looks like a gravy job out there sometimes in the middle of January, but it really isn’t that,” he said. “I think we really need to add this officer as requested and take care of our employees.”

The council voted 5-1, with Councilman Wayne Hartman absent and James against, to approve the hire of one additional OCPD officer this year.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.