The increasing reliance on the Pennsylvania State Police isn’t letting up any time soon, in spite of the governor’s plan to put another 380 troopers on patrol.
The head of the State Police is voicing concern about the growing number of municipalities depending on the agency for their police coverage. As communities look to cut costs by shrinking their police departments, the State Police are left to pick up the slack.
Commissioner Frank Noonan said his forces are already stretched thin. But he stops short of endorsing any proposals, like charging municipalities a fee for solely relying on State Police troopers.
“I am looking for a solution, and I guess I would love to be able to discourage municipalities from disbanding police departments. I think it puts a very real burden on us,” said Noonan. “If we don’t have more bodies we have to take them from other areas to increase our patrol.”
Noonan said 12 municipalities dissolved their police forces last year, and 10 others reduced their police coverage to cut costs.
He said many communities without police departments are rural, and their large geographic area makes them challenging to patrol.
“As municipalities see this as a way to cut costs, and everybody’s looking to cut costs, it’s like stretching a rubber band, and the State Police gets stretched.”
There are nearly 500 vacancies in the State Police, and more than 1,000 troopers are eligible for retirement in July.
The governor has proposed funding the training of 290 new cadets, and using civilians to free up another 90 troopers for patrolling.