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 April 21, 2014 - Commissioners announce study to explore benefits of a regional county police force

HARRISBURG, PA (April 21, 2014) – Whether combining Dauphin County’s police departments into a single force would improve public safety while saving taxpayer dollars is the focus of a study announced by Commissioner Mike Pries during Tuesday night’s State of the County address.

A 14-member committee led by District Attorney Ed Marsico that includes local law enforcement and elected officials will look at the benefits of combining some or all of the county’s 17 police departments. The committee will be assisted by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

“We believe a regional force would enhance safety, but we won’t start asking townships to join until we have the data to show the benefits of regionalization and a plan for how it can be accomplished,’’ Pries said. “I pledge that I will only recommend going forward with a regional force if we are able to ensure that public safety is not compromised.’’

Supporting a police department is the largest expense faced by municipalities, costing a third or more of their annual budget, Pries said. The expectation is that a regional force would save money by reducing duplication in equipment as well as by consolidating administrative functions.

Marsico said police departments already work jointly with the county in special units including the Crisis Response Team, Drug Task Force, Accident Reconstruction Team and the Forensic Team. His office recently implemented a records management system allowing departments to share information more easily.

 “Since we’re having success working together in the investigation of big cases, we should look at whether regionalization makes sense for patrol and other police duties,’’ Marsico said.

In addition to Pries and Marsico, committee members include: Jason Umberger, Swatara Twp. police chief; Tom Carter, Harrisburg police chief; Patrick O’Rourke, Derry Twp. police chief; Rob Martin, Susquehanna Twp. public safety director; Charles Dowell, Hummelstown police chief; Bill Hawk, Lower Paxton Twp. supervisors’ chairman; Nick DiFrancesco, Lower Swatara Twp. commissioner and former county commissioner; Jeff Enders, Halifax mayor; Gary Myers, Susquehanna’s manager; Jason Brinker, president of FOP Capital City Lodge 12; Mario Eckert, business agent for Teamsters Local 776; and Steve Libhart, director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency.

Umberger, who is also president of the Dauphin County Chiefs of Police Association, said regionalization has long been favored by law enforcement in the county.

“I believe there is much inefficiency and duplication of service that exist because of the numerous municipal police departments in Dauphin County,’’ Umberger said. “Multiple agencies may be investigating similar crimes and that can be done more efficiently if the agencies were housed under the same organizational umbrella.’’

Umberger said he believes the study will show that regionalization would save money.

“From a taxpayer perspective, with a consolidation of services we can save money because we will be able to standardize our equipment, as well as our training and procedures,’’ he said. “With a larger agency you are able to professionalize and train the officers at a higher level more cost effectively.’’

Commission Chairman Jeff Haste said he believes the study will show residents will benefit from a regional force.

“Criminals don’t pay attention to municipal borders,’’ Haste said. “A regional force might allow us to better respond to the needs of all our communities.’’

Derry Twp. Police Chief Patrick O’Rourke said he welcomes the study and believes regionalization should have occurred years ago.

“When you talk about pooling resources and reducing the cost to taxpayers, I think it’s a home run for everyone,’’ O’Rourke said. “It certainly won’t change the level of protection and I think the level of protection would increase.’’ 

Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III said that as mayor of Steelton, he learned first-hand the challenges faced by small departments.

I think we need to look at whether bringing our departments together would make a stronger law enforcement agency that will benefit all our communities,’’ Hartwick said. “We want to see if this study shows a regional force would allow us to better coordinate our efforts against crime.’’

Category: Dauphin County
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