Understaffed and facing hundreds of retirements, Pa. State Police seek more funding

    Pennsylvania State Police lined the route of the funeral procession for St. Clair Township

    Pennsylvania State Police lined the route of the funeral procession for St. Clair Township

    The Pennsylvania Legislature’s proposed budget plan isn’t finalized, but it is already drawing the ire of the union representing state troopers.

    The nearly $36 billion spending plan allocates funding for recruitment and training of three police cadet classes, which would likely yield 180 new troopers.

    But Joe Kovel, president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, said that’s not nearly enough.

    In “the next three years, we expect 2,000 members of our department to become retirement eligible,” Kovel said. “It’s simple mathematics. If you’re only looking to put in cadet classes totaling 180 in a fiscal year, we’re about 1,500 behind after three years.”

    According to Kovel, the agency is already 340 troopers short of its ideal number, and at least 500 additional personnel are needed over the next three years.

    He said areas of the state that don’t have full-time police forces will be hurt most a shortage of officers.

    “We cover almost 85 percent of Pennsylvania, so we just cannot automatically transfer people around the state. There’s nobody to move around,” he said.

    It costs about $10 million to train every 100 cadets. Kovel said finding that money should be a priority for the Legislature.

    “It’s not a question of if they can find the money, they have to find the money,” he said. “Because Pennsylvanians have to be protected.”

    In the past, the state police budget has been under contention for a different reason — a large part of the budget has long been drawn from PennDOT.

    Transportation advocates have argued this arrangement sucks up money that should be used for infrastructure projects.

    The final state budget is due Thursday.

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