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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Municipal Police Study Urges Regional Approach

Yesterday, I told you about a recent state report concerning our municipal police departments, urging a regional approach. Here are some observations from the study.

- Municipalities (not counting Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) report spending $1.3 billion on police services in FY 2012, funded primarily through local taxes.

- Over half (1,279) of Pennsylvania’s 2,500 municipalities have no police department. Of those that do have a police department, most (72 percent) have ten or fewer full-time officers, the minimum number generally considered necessary for a stand-alone police department.

- PSP (Pa. State Police)  reports spending $540 million in 2012 to provide both full- and parttime police services to municipalities without their own full-time police departments.

- Municipalities without police departments report cost as the most significant reason they have not formed a police department.

- Municipalities with their own police departments having ten or fewer officers report loss of control as the top reason they had not pursued a regional department; concerns about cost, cost allocation, and pension issues were also cited as difficult to address.

- RPDs cite loss of control as a difficult or very difficult issue to address when forming an RPD, with distribution of costs also being difficult to address.

- Regional police departments offer many benefits, but may increase costs for participating municipalities in the initial years.

- Municipalities should consider size, demographics, and approach to policing when considering forming a regional police department.

 - A statute defining an RPD and establishing certain requirements may encourage municipalities to consider consolidation.

One observation that is not highlighted is that no municiapl police department can be considered effective without a complement of ten full-time officers. Very few boroughs can make that claim.


gruntled said...

I wonder about the population distibution. PSP spends < half the amount on coverage than those that have a police department.

Do those that have a department account for half the population?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Bernie O'Hare said...

That is correct. But they spend time attending to their own duties as well. From the report:

"The PSP provides full-time police services to 1,279 municipalities and parttime services to 420 municipalities. The total population served is 3.3 million, covering 82 percent of the Commonwealth’s land area. Since local part-time police service can fluctuate on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, the PSP service also fluctuates, making it difficult for the PSP to accurately calculate the time spent on providing
part-time police services to municipalities. Because the PSP’s estimated costs of $540 million cannot be accurately distributed between full- and part-time police coverage, we were not able to calculate a per capita cost. In addition to providing all law enforcement coverage to municipalities without their own police departments, the PSP assists municipalities with their own police
departments with traffic supervision, violent crime suppression, some case investigations, and other services as requested. The municipalities do not provide any direct reimbursement to the Commonwealth for full-time, part-time, or occasional PSP services."

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should go back to County Police forces like every other state in the union

Anonymous said...


gcordner said...

"One observation that is not highlighted is that no municiapl police department can be considered effective without a complement of ten full-time officers" -- completely disagree with this statement. If effective means providing good service, preventing crime, solving those crimes that do occur etc then there are lots of 5-9 officer departments that are far more effective than most larger ones. Not to mention far more efficient too (nobody riding a desk).

However this is possible only because there's a state police or some other entity available to provide highly specialized capabilities when needed (K-9, bomb squad, homicide unit etc). Most small municipalities don't need these capabilities very often, but when they're needed, they're very important.

gcordner said...

Re county police mentioned by anonymous -- most states don't have them. But you probably mean sheriffs -- that is a layer of policing available in many states, but not all. Most states rely mainly on either state police or sheriffs to "fill in the gaps" for small municipalities and unincorporated areas. PA leans pretty far toward the state police end (DE leans the farthest), a lot of southern and western states lean pretty far toward the sheriff end. Pros and cons. Either way, somebody has to pay for them.

Anonymous said...

what happen at Nazareth's emergency meeting tonight, what is going on in the borough