Funding woes and waves of retirements have thinned the ranks of Pennsylvania’s State Police force. Lawmakers are hoping to spur new hires by setting up a sort of “rent-a-trooper” program with municipalities.
The state Senate proposal in question would let municipalities contract directly with the state police if they have no police force of their own.
Backers say it would allow local governments to rest easy, knowing they’re getting the protection they need.
Doug Weimer, one of the supervisors of Hempfield Township in Westmoreland County, says the idea of contracting with the state police is better than past proposals designed to reimburse the agency.
“I mean, you could pay for an officer and they will dedicate the majority of their time in your community whereas bills that have floated in the past were basically a head tax, just taking money, and there was no guarantee of having any, I guess, ensured service,” he said Thursday.
Sen. Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, says her proposal would allow municipalities to ensure they get enough police protection.
She says she’s concerned the state police are being spread too thin.
“While municipalities that don’t have police now are getting state police coverage, there’s also a big, big problem out there and that is, as of right now there are over 600 – 600 – openings, empty spots in the state police complement,” Ward said.
Under Ward’s plan, if a township’s contract for an officer were large enough, the state police would have to hire a full-time trooper.
After passing unanimously in committee, the bill heads to the full Senate for consideration.