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.