Question Remains as to When Tredyffrin Supervisors will Authorize the Hiring of 2 Budgeted Police Officers

The question for me at last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting was, “When will the township hire the budgeted police officers?”

The $49 K police operations study by ICMA (International City/County Management Association) police has fueled some ongoing debate.  Two of ICMA’s consultants, Leonard Matarese and Paul O’Connell, presented their final report to the supervisors and took their questions at last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting.  Their attendance at the meeting was the result of a less than satisfactory attempt at ‘skyping’ at the December supervisors meeting.

O’Connell detailed the consultant’s findings contained in the police department study, focusing on what ICMA determined was the required staffing requirements for Tredyffrin’s Police Department.  According to O’Connell, under existing Police Department shift arrangements, the following is ICMA’s recommendation for officers:

  • 34 patrol
  • 3 command
  • 1 community policing
  • 2 traffic
  • 3-6 detectives

The consulting report recommends 43-46 officers; a minimum of 43 officers required to maintain the existing level of safety of the community.  If you recall, Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo requested 47 officers at the December 3 BoS meeting and asked that the Board to consider reinstating 47 officers in the 2013 budget.  However, the supervisors approved the budget with 42 officers.

There are currently only 39 police officers (actually there are 40 officers listed on the roster but 1 officer is out on long-term disability) in Tredyffrin’s Police Department.  The supervisors approved the hiring of 2 officers in the 2013 budget so that would bring the officer count up to 42. Although 42 officers are still below the minimum required by ICMA’s study, and below Giaimo’s requested amount of 47 officers, it was my opinion that 42 officers would be a good start to re-staffing the Police Department.

The consultant’s took the opportunity last night to clarify their report, stating that Tredyffrin Township Police Department is “quite lean relative to other departments of this size”.  Supervisor DiBuonaventuro reminded the Board that three years ago, there were 51 officers in the Police Department and encouraged the reinstatement to 47 officers.   Taking the opposing view, Supervisor Heaberg’s approach was to recommend ‘less is more’, believing that a lower crime rate indicates a lesser police requirement.

There was discussion as to ways the Police Department could decrease costs beyond adjusting individual shift coverage, which is included in the collective bargaining agreement.  Supervisor Kichline mentioned that some municipalities are utilizing non-sworn employees for code enforcement, which would reduce costs. Enhanced penalties for chronic false alarm offenders was another way to reduce Police Department expense that was discussed.  The problem is that an officer cannot determine if it is a call is a false alarm until after investigating.

When the opportunity came for citizen questions, I asked the Board when they would authorize the hiring of the two officers included in the budget.  Remember, the addition of two officers still keeps the number in the Department below the minimum requirement contained in the ICMA report and below the number requested by Superintendent Giaimo.  Although the hiring of two officers is in the 2013 budget, there was not a definitive response as to when it might happen.

Kichline reiterated that the arbitration award had not favored the township and as a result, the Police Department expenses were greater.  Bill Martin, the township manager offered that the police health care plan is taking longer than expected to move to the new, less expensive plan. Citizens are asked to participate in a public meeting in March to further discussion the Police Department staffing.

Bottom line, there was no authorization from the supervisors to Superintendent Giaimo for the hiring of the two police officers.  And if last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting is any indication, I don’t expect that authorization to happen anytime soon.

21 Comments

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  1. I recall that it was Heaberg’s idea to hire ICMA . At the time the supervisors discussed hiring a consultant to do the police study, JD questioned whether or not the supervisors would accept whatever the results of the consulting company. The supervisors probably thought that the report would support less officers rather than more officers in the police dept. Now it looks like Heaberg has to change direction because, the consultant that he fought for, is now suggesting increasing versus decreasing Tredyffrin police force.

    If Heaberg wants us (taxpayers) to believe that the $50,000 was well-spent shouldn’t he support the findings of the study?

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  2. If Kichline et al dont hire the necessary number of cops, they should not be surprised by the uptick in overtime charges coming from the police dept.

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  3. Pattye:

    Great job in asking this question. Which was essentially met by crickets and it’s the health benefits everyone.
    That’s what is holding us up.

    How dare an acting supervisor tell us she has no idea how this whole thing works (hiring more police) or what is best for our township in regards to the police #’s.
    They hired a $50,000 ‘expert’ to show up in person and tell them & us the #’s and agree with the acting police supervisor.
    Yet her and Mr. Heaberg aren’t sure what’s best for our township.

    Well I’ll tell you something if they want to run again and win they better snap to it. All the spending of our tax paying citizen’s isn’t helping them hear what they want.

    It’s proving what has been told by the very own supervisor of police. THEY are stretched thin. Ah, let’s just keep paying over time and hope a home invasion or larger crime won’t happen.
    We can let average citizens handle the small stuff. Barking dogs, stolen bikes.
    If the experts said IMMEDIATELY I guess they don’t know the definition?

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    Berwyn Resident Reply:

    “if they want to run again and win”, I don’t think Heaberg is up for re-election but Ms Kichline is, correct?

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    Cowardly Anonymous Reply:

    Ask this question while you read this: what would possibly make anyone want to run for this job? If you are decisive, you are arrogant and not listening to your constituents. ,If you are cautious or hesitate, you better “snap to it.”.

    These are people with real lives and families and whatever experience they bring to the table. The arbitration result clearly was not what they believed would happen, so they are hesitant to hire someone that will cost the township,for,40+ years with no apparent power to control our financial,exposure. Overtime doesn’t increase the “unfunded liability” …

    We can debate and disagree all we want, but that doesn’t mean the answer is obvious. If they are looking for a model,where they don’t have to have someone with this lifetime cost, and can still cover some of the duties, arent they being prudent?

    I don’t know the answers, and I dont have all the information either….but I dont think these people are willfully obstructing any process. They aren’t sure…isn’t that just being honest? Public sector jobs are bankrupting municipalities all over the country. So again….”if they want to run again” is a pretty big IF…and I cannot fathom why they would….these are not jobs.These are volunteer services.

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    We the People Reply:

    A decisive leader is humble, honest self aware, assertive, focused, empowering and confident.

    An arrogant leader doesn’t admit mistakes, makes everyone else wrong, is always right,believes they are superior, makes people believe their input doesn’t matter, stifles innovation.

    Guy Reply:

    How honest that an acting supervisor admit that she “as no idea” how a process works yet is willing to keep an open mind, look to internal and external sources, and subject herself public criticism not only about her job performance, but about her personally.

    Some people cripple when they feel personally attacked.

    I applaud the board for recognizing the importance of their actions and not crumbling to pressure. A mature, professional approach to important matters benefits us all in the long run.

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  4. I don’t find any of this ‘mature’ when you spend $50,000 and a consulting ‘expert’ says an immediate hire of at least two officers.

    That’s a pretty big expense and to sit on the answer and look us in the eye and say one doesn’t know what is best while another seasoned board member and first responder made mince meat out of you with true cold hard facts……..

    Oh I’m sorry I shouldn’t question when someone wants an ‘expert’ result and has a BS answer after they spend our tax money which could have gone to hiring an officer already.

    If someone doesn’t get their way after spending an additional hundreds of thousands of our $ to support the men and women in uniform one should get over it and get busy. While I am not sure what is best for our officers long term (benefit packages) what is best for our safety matters greatly.
    When a school district is making false promises of ‘police’ around and that’s not always possible.
    Mega over time on this force will get old and costly.

    If you can’t handle the heat or the negative comments don’t run for office for future political aspirations.
    Care about the job, and people, and town you have been elected to. Don’t spend our money and do nothing with good advice.

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    Guy Reply:

    Whew! Tough to get through those run-on sentences!

    Important issues not only effect the short term, but set prescience for the future. I don’t expect a rush to decision would benefit the township.

    To be clear, it was not a BOS member who complained about the pressure of public light!

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  5. There were many head-scratching moments in Monday’s meeting. Obfuscation from ICMA regarding their recommendations and from the BOS regarding the real reasons for the lack of authorization for additional officers.

    However, we do know the following:
    – That the Superintendent believes that he can operate with current staffing levels (however unsatisfactory they may be long term) to keep the community “safe”.
    – That the township now has a framework for assessing service levels and the staffing to provide that service
    – That the department has a new system to collect data that will address the necessary number of detectives
    – That there are specific ideas for limiting the escalation in costs (although those ideas have yet to be quantified).

    I’m hopeful that the BOS is able to engage the community on these issues. It would be wonderful if the police union would also come to the table to consider both the interests of those they serve along with their own.

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  6. I haven’t posted on this not being a TT resident. Not my place to say whether you need more cops or not.

    Let me just add my 2 cents on this situation in general – not specific to TT.

    Hiring two more cops will not make anyone safer and will not prevent/reduce crime (this will be one more cop on the streets due to shifts).

    As I’ve posted before, criminals makes sure they commit their crimes when the cops are not around. One more cop on the street will not make a difference on whether you are a victim of crime or not. 20 new cops on the streets at once would make a difference, but one new cop does not.

    If hiring these two cops were to reduce the chances of you being a crime victim, it will be in the tenths of a 1% reduction.

    The positive is you will have one more cop on duty to chase down the criminals once a crime is reported. If a crime is reported quickly – say a purse snatching – and a bystander calls 911 with a description of thief and the car he got into, having one more cop on duty (the other will be off duty for the other shift) will help to some extent in tracking down the thief before he can get out of the township.

    Cops know the routes thieves generally take to leave a crime scene and get out of the township and this is one more cop to keep an eye out on a road that would generally used by a criminal to exit the township.

    This will also provide one more cop on patrol where the response time might be slightly reduced for a school shooting – which some might find important. However, only the TTPD can tell you how much one more cop would reduce that response time. It may only be 20 seconds (just throwing out a number) and you have to weigh the cost/benefit/odds of a school shooting.

    However, don’t expect this to have any impact on actual crime and to make you truly safer.

    These are some things to consider as you weigh this – present costs and retirement costs of a two full time cops compared to overtime costs for existing cops.

    I am offering no opinion one way or the other on what to do. Just some food for thought.

    One question that should be asked along with response time/improved odds of capturing a fleeing criminal is how onerous overtime is on the present police force? If it is causing cops to be tired and not as focused, than that would weigh into the thought process. I have no idea if that is the case or not. Again, a question for the TTPD.

    These are some of the questions the supervisors should be asking the police chief. Why they are not doing so is beyond me, unless it is included in the consulting report – in which case those points should be brought into the discussion.

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    CP Reply:

    Tredffrin’s Police Department is much more than patroling our community. Many, if not most, of our officers are trained experts in varying fields of law enforcement. These officers are committed to excelling in these areas of expertise and often attend advanced training courses by using their personal vacation time. We also have officers who are certified instructors and lead training sessions throughout the country. These personal choices bring back a host of law enforcement expertise to our community that is not necessarily found in other police departments. This comment is not meant to contradict anyone’s opinion. It is meant to, perhaps, broaden someone’s view on the function of our police department in our community. TTPD has expertise in crime scene investigation, domestic violence, traffic saftey, including inspection of trucks traveling our highways, DUI investigations, drug trafficing, and a SWAT team, to name a few. If anyone would like to gain an understanding of the day-to-day workings of the police department or insight into the advanced law enforcement expertise within the department, I suggest you check out the Citizen’s Police Academy, which is an annual community learning series hosted by TTPD. Adding 2 additional police officers is much more to Tredyffrin Twp than having 1 more cop patroling.

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    politeia Reply:

    I am aware of all this.

    For the most part, your average cop patrols the community keeping an eye out for criminal activity/traffic violations while responding to reports of crime.

    That they have expertise in the areas you mentioned is expected, but what you mentioned still falls under average patrolling/being called to a crime scene.

    A cop patrolling may see a car swerving and pick up on a DUI, he may respond to a 911 call that requires him to call in the SWAT team, he may notice an 18 wheeler without proper safety features/inspection stickers and pull it over, or receive a 911 call to respond to a domestic violence situation.

    It’s still about patrolling, observing and responding to reported crimes.

    Like I posted, I have no opinion one way or the other as to whether TT should hire more cops as I am not a resident. This has all been good discussion for citizens to help them form their own views and have their voices heard in the appropriate township/police meetings.

    Me personally, I’d get hard figures on the crime stats from going from 53 to 39 cops as there seems to be some disagreement on those numbers from posts here.

    Depending on how that comes out, you weigh the cost/benefit.

    I’m not big on you need X number of cops for a community X size. Different communities have different crime rates, and I’d staff to keep crime at a rate that is acceptable to a community factoring in the cost. 53-39 may make a big difference or it may not at all – or it may make a moderate difference. Either TTPD was previously over-staffed and the number is fine now, or you need some more cops.

    No community will be crime free. It’s at what cost do you feel needs to be paid to be at a comfort level, in my view.

    Some people will say much higher taxes are worth it. We need 60 cops because I want to be as safe as possible. Others will say I feel safe at 39 and don’t want my taxes raised. Have your voices heard and let community consensus (democracy) prevail.

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    politeia Reply:

    Sorry, 51-39, not 53-39.

  7. Also, since there were 51 cops three years ago, what has happened to the crime rate with he reduced force the past three years? Has that been brought up?

    That would be interesting to know if it has not been brought up, but going form 39-41 cops would not make much of a difference compared to having 51 cops.

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  8. Politea makes interesting observations about whether more or fewer police officers has a discernible effect on the incidence of crime in a community.

    I dont know how many police officers TT needs. But I do know that I dont feel unsafe living in Tredyffrin. So I decided to look around for information on whether Tredyffin is in fact an unsafe place to live, or perhaps at least to inform myself on the incidence of crime here.

    Turns out that while there is crime in TT, it is less than average in the state, and less than average in the nation. Given that its a relatively affluent burb, this is not surprising.

    Data on cityrating.com report that in Tredyffrin Township, both property crime rate (incidents per 100,000 residents) and violent crime rate (calculated same way) declined each year from 2007 to 2010. CityRating only has data through 2010.

    http://www.cityrating.com/crime-statistics/pennsylvania/tredyffrin-township.html

    The report prepared by ICMA includes data on crimes reported in 2011 (table 3, Part II, page 32) which shows a continuing decline in total crimes reported in 2011 vs 2010 (though not broken down in violent vs property categories), and showing in 2011 increases in narcotics and liquor law violation crimes reported.

    A quick scan of the web did not reveal any published data on township reported criminal statistics for 2012, but then its only mid February and that’s not surprising at this point.

    So while I think its important to get the department size “right” I dont get the impression there is an emergency inthe delay of hiring additional officers, if they are needed. If there were an emergency, I would expect the chief of police to be hammering the table at BOS meetings.

    The PD is smaller than it was, yet the reported crime stats appear to be falling.

    M.A.

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  9. everyone is getting uptight about one or two police additions. And lord knows we better not have a home invasion when we are “understaffed” . What a crock. I say hire 20 more.. this whole discussion is a metaphor for micromanagment by citizens who have maybe nothing more to worry about? Too bad for the 50k spent apparently a waste. Seems like it has become irrelevant as it is either not specific enough or its recommendations aren’t being followed.

    lets have a referendum on the number of police needed.. Sups number vs boards… democracy in action.

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  10. Something that needs to be looked at is why police respond to EMS calls at assisted living facilities and vehicle lockouts. These services just unnecessarily take officers off of patrol.

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    CP Reply:

    Perhaps you can ask your questions directly to the police on March 19th at Tredyffrin Township Police Community Night (7-9 pm @ Keene Hall in the Municipal Building). Here is the link to the flyer http://www.tredyffrin.org/modules/showdocument.aspx?documentid=2258

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  11. Looking at the police report available (2011), crimes were down overall, but burglaries were up significantly, which matches my perceptions from media reports and is a source of public unease, regardless of whether it is related to staffing. Either way, I am floored to hear that the police force has been reduced by 25% in 3 years – I look forward to discussion of how the department is operating in the public meeting on March 19th.

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