Small steps towards a study of combining police forces in Dauphin County

    Dauphin County’s examination of a regional police department is entering the formal stage. Commissioner Mike Pries first broached the idea, along with Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico, in April.

    At the first public meeting for the committee studying the issue Tuesday, Mark Benztel, Chief of the Northern York County Regional Police, laid out the challenges, including fears of a loss of local control and operational issues regarding how many officers cover each area.

     

    This story was first published by partner station WITF in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

    Dauphin County’s examination of a regional police department is entering the formal stage. Commissioner Mike Pries first broached the idea, along with Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico, in April.

    At the first public meeting for the committee studying the issue Tuesday, Mark Benztel, Chief of the Northern York County Regional Police, laid out the challenges, including fears of a loss of local control and operational issues regarding how many officers cover each area.

    “Politics becomes a big piece of this, and the reason I say that is, because at the end of the day, the politicians really are the only people that have the power and the authority to make this occur, they have to vote on it. And they do what they feel is best for their communities.”

    Bentzel says some municipalities have tried to join Northern York County Police, only to be unprepared for backlash from the public.

    He says for those that have successfully committed to the force, the long-term benefits have paid off despite the short-term politics.

    The regionalization committee includes a group of police chiefs, plus elected officials in townships in Dauphin County.

    The committee now expects to talk to consultants about a formal study; an estimated price isn’t available at this point. The next meeting hasn’t been formally scheduled, but is expected to occur sometime after Labor Day.

    “I think they have the right players at the table to overcome a lot of these obstacles. And I believe as long as they remain open minded and keep focusing on the end result, I think there’s potential for progress here,” says Bentzel.

    Dauphin County police by the numbers, as released by the Committee:

    40 municipalities

    17 police departments (Pennsylvania State Police cover areas without police departments)

    12 full time police departments (Harrisburg, Derry Township, Highspire Borough, Hummelstown Borough, Lower Paxton Township, Lower Swatara Township, Middletown Borough, Paxtang Borough, Penbrook Borough, Steelton Borough, Susquehanna Township, Swatara Township)

    40 percent: the average percentage of a municipality’s general budget devoted to police costs for full time departments

    5 part time police departments (Halifax Borough, Lykens Borough, Millersburg Borough, Royalton Borough, Wiconisco Township)

    12 percent: the average percentage of a municipality’s general budget devoted to police costs for part time departments

    $42.81: cost per person for police protection in Wiconisco Township (lowest in Dauphin County)*

    $377.76: cost per person for police protection in Paxtang Borough (highest in Dauphin County)*

    $233.50: average cost of providing police protection for one person in one of the 17 municipalities in Dauphin County with police departments*

    *These numbers come from the most recent fiscal year, and because some municipalities calculate police costs differently (some factor in pensions and other costs, others don’t), they should be taken with some grains of salt

    More costs per person:

    Harrisburg: $335.02

    Derry Township: $292.64

    Halifax Borough: $59.60

    Highspire Borough: $339.40

    Hummelstown Borough: $194.87

    Lower Paxton Township: $195.44

    Lower Swatara Township: $239.35

    Lykens Borough: $81.25

    Middletown Borough: $289.69

    Millersburg Borough: $82.43

    Penbrook Borough: $230.14

    Royalton Borough: $64.15

    Steelton Borough: $346.75

    Susquehanna Township: $326.95

    Swatara Township: $301.52

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