Report: Dauphin County police could consolidate, save millions

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Oct 13, 2015 9:11 PM

Photo by Ben Allen/witf

Dr. Craig Fraser, left, and Tom Watson, co-authors of the Dauphin County police consolidation report, detail it at Tuesday night's meeting. Both are from the Police Executive Research Forum.

(Harrisburg) -- The number of police departments in Dauphin County may potentially shrink from 17 to as few as 5.

A new report outlining possible paths forward for consolidating police departments.

By lowering the number of police departments in the county, municipalities could save more than $18 million.

That would be the result of the most dramatic option - combining Harrisburg's police department with a dozen others in the central core of the county.

Other options include creating a southern Dauphin, Derry regional, northern regional, or county-wide force.

Craig Fraser is with a police research group that put together the report.

He says there's a key ingredient to getting consolidation done.

"Political will. The idea that the residents see the advantages, the elected leadership feels that it's advantageous to save the costs in the long-run."

The report from the group says consolidation could occur without any layoffs.
Fraser says even with consolidation, local knowledge can be maintained.

"Good enlightened leadership can create that, even in a larger agency. If you look at a number of large police agencies in the U.S., you'll find a lot of that when that's part of the way it's designed, when that's part of the values of that agency to make sure you have that local knowledge."

Consolidating departments carry "substantial" costs, says Craig Fraser with the Police Executive Research Forum.

For example, he estimated creating a Dauphin metro department (12 municipalities in the middle of the county without Harrisburg) would carry startup costs of $3.5 million. The option is estimated to result in an annual savings of $15.3 million once fully implemented.

Fraser also says building facilities to house a newly-consolidated department could reach tens of millions of dollars, depending on the option.

State grants may be available to help pay for any consolidation.

One municipality would face higher costs under any scenario: Royalton Borough, but Craig Fraser says the change is because it's currently a part-time department.

Fraser says it could take up to five years if one of the more complicated consolidations is pursued.

In the midstate, 16 police departments cover more than one municipality, including five in York County.

Any community covered by a regional department would have to approve going to the option instead of maintaining its own force.

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