The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Opinion

March 30, 2014

Officials shouldn’t let politics put police study behind bars

- — MUNICIPAL studies can reveal quite at bit about pros and cons of operations as the recent study of the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Commission indicated. But to what end?

In the past, we have seen various studies in local communities discussed and then put in folders to gather dust in some back room of a municipal building. And there’s one key factor that stymies most – finances.

Implementing the items cataloged in studies costs money – money that isn’t readily available without a tax increase. And we all know how that comes across with taxpayers and voters.

As stories in The Herald last week of the police department study revealed, finding finances to put the recommendations into effect will be the problem.

Farrell Councilman Robert Burich aptly pointed out: “Some of this stuff has to be implemented. The four communities, unfortunately, don’t have the money. What do we do?”

West Middlesex Mayor David George was even more disheartening when he remarked, there was “no way” the recommendations could be put into effect.

The consolidation of local police departments was a great idea on the surface, putting Farrell, West Middlesex, Wheatland and Shenango Township forces together.

But it didn’t come easily and today some of the municipalities are wondering if the cost to the taxpayers in their communities is worth it.

Farrell City Manager Michael Ceci stirred the pot considerably when he publicly questioned if Shenango Township was paying its fair share. That, of course, didn’t sit well with the township leaders.

Then at a recent meeting of municipal leaders with study developer Dr. Paul E. O’Connell, Ceci didn’t come across well when he apparently interrupted Southwest Police Commission Chairman Tom Tulip while he was expressing his viewpoints. One thing that’s needed is views from many sides when it comes to making these kinds of changes, especially those from the person who heads the commission that makes many of the final decisions.

A point we question immediately would be the study recommendation that the department could get by with a minimum of three patrolmen per shift, rather than the four it currently employs. Some people would argue that there isn’t enough of a police presence as it is in some higher crime areas of Farrell.

Of course part of that could be the fault of the patrolmen or their assignments. We’ve heard residents complain about seeing police cars parked, or traveling around in places where they probably aren’t needed, thus leaving the higher crime areas devoid of police late  at night.

There are many suggestions in the study that probably would increase the productivity of the department, but they won’t come without a cost. And costs are already high, making some wonder whether the commission may have been too liberal with funding police requests in the past.

One thing is apparent. If bickering between communities continues, we might just be seeing the breakup of a police consolidation that had great promise, but apparently hasn’t really lived up to that promise.

For the department to continue, all community leaders need to put political maneuvering aside and do what’s best for all the residents of the various communities.

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