Monday, April 04, 2016

Declining state-police presence in Pa. hurts rural areas that lack their own local police forces

Around 80,000 residents in 17 rural communities in Pennsylvania do not have local law enforcement and rely on State Police officers to respond to calls, Christopher Pratt reports for LancasterOnline. "By 2025, planners project that some 90,000 people will be living in municipalities that depend on state police. Those residents may be in for even slower response times, as state police deal with an emerging staff shortage triggered by retirements and fewer cadets in training." Statewide, 340 positions—7.2 percent of all positions—are vacant.

Local residents seem unwilling to pay higher municipal taxes to finance their own police forces and "about a quarter of the more than 4,500 enlisted state police are now eligible for their pensions," Pratt writes. "Currently, the number of cadets graduating from the State Police Academy isn’t enough to make up for retirements, even though last year 406 cadets were graduated—the highest number in a decade. This year, a cadet cheating scandal is expected to pull down the number of academy graduates. In March, 48 cadets graduated after 36 were dismissed following an investigation into alleged cheating. Overall, officials expect about 373 cadets to graduate in 2016, subject to normal attrition rates."

State Police spokeswoman Maria Finn said "if the state budget would allocate more money, class size could be increased, more classes could be added, and more cadets could be graduated," Pratt writes. Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's 2015-16 fiscal year budget included adding more than 350 state troopers, but a clash with Republican lawmakers killed that proposal. (Read more)

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