Pattye Benson

Community Matters

When will Tredyffrin Township hire budgeted police officers?

When will Tredyffrin Township hire budgeted police officers?

Looking for answers, today I met with Tredyffrin Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo. I wanted to understand the search for and selection of police officers. As I explained to Giaimo, applicants for police department positions have contacted me over the last 6-8 months, anxious for a hiring update. I learned much about the police department hiring process and thought it worthwhile to share.

Early in 2012, the Tredyffrin Township Police Department advertised the April 14, 2012 physical assessment and written test date for vacancies in the department. According to Giaimo, 130+ individuals applied to take the physical and written exam. In addition to the application form, a physician statement and informed consent form were required.

The physical assessment is judged pass/fail; the written test included multiple-choice questions plus a written narrative. If a candidate passed the physical exam and received an 80% or higher score on the written exam, they moved to the next step. All candidates were notified of the test results 2-4 weeks following the April 14th exam.

Of the 130+ applicants, close to 100 individuals passed the physical test and scored 80% or higher on the written part. The next step for the successful applicants was an oral interview by an Oral Interview Board, composed of three police personnel selected by Giaimo. At the time of the interview, applicants were required to provide education transcripts, military discharge papers when applicable, and three reference letters (other than relative and employers). Failure to provide documents at the interview, disqualified applicants from the selection process. The interviews were conducted between June and August 2012.

Each member of the Oral Interview Board independently scores the oral interviews and those scores are then added to the written exam score. For those applicants that advance to the next step, they receive a polygraph examination. According to Giaimo, the polygraph test is to indicate deception on a pre-determined set of questions. After the polygraph phase, the top list of 15 candidates is prepared. The ranking is based on all phases of the test process to this point. For those 15 candidates, the next step is a background investigation by the Tredyffrin Township Police Department including previous employment, education record, military record, criminal history, credit rating, etc.

The next step is a conditional offer of employment. Hiring is contingent upon successful completion of psychological and physical examinations and selection by the Police Superintendent. (I believe this part of the examination process takes approximately 4 months.) Once this conditional phase is completed, the cadet serves a two-year probationary period.

At the start, prospective applicants are told that the process takes approximately 6-8 months from the time the exam is taken – in this case, the exam was given on April 14 so if they successfully completed each step, vacancies were to be filled somewhere between October – December, 2012.

I received a call from a father of one of the cadets that is on Tredyffrin Police Department’s ‘short list’ in early January, looking for an update. I assured him that the township would be hiring 2 police officers shortly. I was confident giving this response for the following reasons, (1) the police contract was settled; (2) the ICMA consultant’s study (pg. 11) suggested a minimum of 2 additional officers were required to maintain township safety levels and (3) supervisors approved the 2013 budget that included 2 additional police officers (with the possibility of a third officer added sometime during the year).

The focus of my meeting with Superintendent Giaimo was to find out the hiring date of the two police officers. Remember the cadets were told last April the application process would take approximately 6-8 months; it’s now 10 months!

I could not believe Giaimo’s response today re the hiring of police officers; telling me that he had not been authorized to hire. What? That’s right folks. The police contract was signed in December and the 2013 township budget approved (which included the hiring of the two officers) but the Board of Supervisors have not given Giaimo permission to hire the two officers. Gosh, even pg. 11 of the ICMA police department study indicated the township needed to hire two officers to maintain satisfactory safety levels.

Giaimo assured me that he has the ranked list of candidates ready to go — all he needs is the OK from the BOS to make the offers. If you think that adequate staffing of our Police Department is an important issue, you may want to attend the next BOS meeting on February 11 and offer your opinion.

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  1. I’ll leave it to the Tredyffrin residents as to how important these two hires are – you know your community and there seems to be agreement on this blog that there should be two more cops.

    My question is – does TT have a volunteer civil service board/commission of appointed citizens?

    I did not see that mentioned in hiring process Pattye so succinctly described above.

    LM has a civil service commission that oversees the hiring of police officers. They also have the power to investigate and subpoena on police matters.

    Now, In LM the civil service commission is a joke and rubber stamps anything the LMPD wants, but in practice it is a good idea to have citizens involved in the police hiring, disciplinary and firing process.

    The worst people to police the police are the police themselves.

    1. Great idea, but Tredyffrin Township does not come under Civil Service. They do not want to give up that kind of control to an independent group.

  2. Clearly, the Heaberg/Kichline letter is a set-up in advance of the supervisors meeting. My guess is that the Kichline-led group has decided that there will be no hiring of additional police. Had the arbitration gone in the township’s favor, yes, they probably would have agreed to the 2 hires. But the township lost the round and the arbitrator sided with the cops. Now the supervisors don’t want to pay up in terms of hiring additional cops. As Patty says, those 2 open reqs are in the budget they just approved so what are they waiting for? Hire them already.

    BTW Politeia, to my knowledge TT does not have any kind of volunteer civil group/commission per se — although there is a Townwatch program working in some of the areas, including Chesterbrook. But that is a neighborhood organization of volunteers that just walk around, keeping watch. I really dont know how effective the group is??

  3. Folks, we need to fully understand the costs of the police in TT, decide what value we want them to provide, and find the most efficient/effective means of providing that value. Here’s some general cost data. On average, if each police officer costs $180K in salary and benefits– that’s equal to a 2.25% increase to your TT tax bill. (Add in 2 officers and our taxes increase 4.5%)

    Note: The 2013 budget did include some increase for staggered hiring of new officers but did not include the full cost of fulltime officers nor the full impact of the arbitration decision which increased the actual salary, pension, other benefits and healthcare costs for 2012 and 2013.

    Pension and Retirement Health Benefits are significant. Previously, officers needed to work only 15yrs before eligible for retirement. Thus an officer who started at age 25 could retire at 40 and have 40+ more years of pension and healthcare benefits for their entire family! For the past few year the requirement has been 20 years of service – but that still means we may be liable for pensions and healthcare for 40+ more years.

    In addition, there are training and supplies costs associated with each additional officer. With more police, do we also need more vehicles, fuel, etc?

    Don’t forget that with the arbitration results, salaries and most benefits will be increasing 3.5% in 2013, 3.75% in 2014 and 4% in 2015 on top of the unexpected 3.5% increase in 2012. That translates into just slightly under a 3.5%, 3.75%, and 4% increase in our taxes in each of the next few years. (Calculations assume a police budget of nearly $8M which is just slightly less than the total revenue TT generates from our real estate taxes.)

    ALSO there is that pesky $40M in unfunded retiree medical obligations. That is 5 times what we currently pay in TT RE taxes – so each property owner will ultimately pay 5 times his current taxes – on top of his current taxes and their increases. (e.g. if your current TT tax is $1000, your property is liable for an additional $5,000 on top of your current annual taxes.)

    Perhaps this is why the BOS is dragging its feet at hiring new officers. Perhaps there are more economical and effective ways of supporting or utilizing our police department. No one wants our safety compromised but the right answer may not be just adding bodies.

    At these prices, I don’t want to hire additional police to provide the previously expected services of “getting kittens out of trees” – but I would add officers as necessary to provide for the safety of our residents. But what is the right size for our police force? What is the right amount of safety? We are down 20+% in police FTE’s since 2009 – but has crime risen? Are we exposed to any more danger? Are the police better utilized? Can they be better utilized? Are less kittens getting saved?

    Let’s hope we get some useful info at Monday’s BOS meeting.

    1. TT Taxpayer, thank you for your thoughtful economic analysis.

      To be clear, I completely support fiscal responsibility, but the police department needs to be adequately staff. The 2013 township budget cuts police staffing from 47 uniformed police officers to 42 officers. We currently have 40 police officers but 1 of the officers is out on long term disability. You ask how many officers we should have to avoid compromising safety — my suggestion would be that the township paid $49K for the police department study and I thought that was supposed to be the guide. On pg. 11 of the report, the consultants suggest that the township needs 42 officers to maintain the standard of safety. Couple that with the approval in the 2013 budget for 42 officers and I say that’s the number of officers Tredyffrin Township should have. And to think it wasn’t that long ago that Tredyffrin Township had 50+ uniformed officers.

  4. Pattye,
    I appreciate all your efforts to get to the facts and share them.

    I am not yet convinced as to what the adequate number of officers is. Nor do I have any confidence that our Supervisors have the answer. I’d like to hear a healthy discussion about police staffing on the 11th. Superintendent Giaimo requested returning to the 2012 budgeted number of 47. The study (which many people have questioned the value of and called boilerplate) suggests adding 2 officers. How did the consultants arrive at this conclusion? Was it because TT was in the process of hiring 2 officers at that time or that 2 officers equates to the overtime incurred in 2012? Or did the consultants base it on realistic projections of TT’s needs and most efficient means to meet them?

  5. Pattye,

    I wanted to add one point about the hiring process that wasn’t mentioned. I believe the Township charged each applicant $35. 130 applicants equals $4,550 collected. The applicants were already mislead with the “6-8 months that it would take before hiring.”

    If the supervisors decide not to hire after Monday’s meeting, will they return that money to the applicants for falsely advertising a police position?

    In addition, how much money do you think it costs the PD to test 130 applicants (physical agility test, written test , use of the High School for testing and manpower). Then the cost to conduct approximately 100 interviews. Then the cost to conduct 15 polygraph test. Then the cost and manpower to conduct 15 thorough background checks. That sounds like a lot of time and money to spend during Arbitration and with the possibility that nobody would be hired.

  6. Great work Pattye on the behalf of all tax paying citizens.

    Yet we’ll have more experts in person on Monday to tell us what folks? That our $50,000 (That could have likely hired at lease one of the two officers) that the board really cares about our safety.

    1. I would say that is the million dollar question, or rather the fifty thousand dollar question. In other words, no news on the police hiring topic and I just reviewed Monday’s BOS agenda and there is no mention of the subject.

  7. John,

    Your points are warrented and right on target.

    However, I believe people care They care deeply, they are simply unaware. Citizens do not have a deep understanding of how things work. They are afraid of open discussion and they fear debate. Citizens with kids in the schools want Johnny to be the quarter back and Susie to get the lead in the play so they keep quiet in fear of retaliation.

    They elect board members in the hopes that the board members know “how things work” and the board members simply turn to the administrators who in turn educate the board members on their view of how things work and that is the current state of affairs.

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