State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

State Police commissioner says towns stretching trooper force too thin

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 20, 2013 8:10 PM
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The pinch on the Pennsylvania State Police isn’t letting up any time soon, in spite of the governor’s plan to put another 380 troopers on patrol.

State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan voiced concern Wednesday about the growing reliance of municipalities on the agency for their police coverage.

“As municipalities see this as a way to cut costs, and everybody’s looking to cut costs, it’s like stretching a rubber band – and the State Police gets stretched,” said Noonan before the state House Appropriations Committee.

12 municipalities dissolved their police forces last year, the commissioner added, and 10 others reduced their police coverage to cut costs. He said many communities without police departments are rural, and their large geographic area makes them challenging to patrol.

Rep. Joe Markosek, the ranking Democrat on the House panel, noted that legislation has been proposed in recent years to charge municipalities a fee when they opt to rely solely on state police troopers.

Noonan stopped short of endorsing any such proposal.

“I am looking for a solution, and I guess I would love to be able to discourage municipalities from disbanding police departments,” he said. “I think it puts a very real burden on us… if we don’t have more bodies we have to take them from other areas to increase our patrol.”

The State Police is authorized to have 4,689 troopers. Its vacancies amount to 498 positions.

Gov. Corbett’s budget proposal includes funding for the training of 290 new cadets. His spending plan would free up another 90 troopers by hiring civilian staff to cover non-patrol duties. But the State Police face the prospect of more than 1,000 troopers being eligible to retire this summer – introducing another element of uncertainty into how the agency deploys its force.

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