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Abolish police agency? Smart council wouldn't

September 27, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

After spending more than 20 years serving McConnellsburg, Pa., both members of the borough's two-man police department decided they needed more pay and better benefits.

Neither makes more than $27,000, which is just a little bit more than they'd get if they started today as deputies at the Washington County Detention Center.

They formed a bargaining unit to press their case and the borough council responded by introducing an ordinance to eliminate the 72-year-old department. We agree with the residents who gathered Wednesday to protest: It's one of the dumbest ideas we've heard this year.

Anyone who has had any management training knows that employers who don't communicate well with their employees and address their concerns create the conditions in which union activity flourishes.

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In this case, the borough council is being unrealistic about police salaries. The aforementioned detention center deputies start at $25,713 and work set shifts. The borough police cover the town from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. five days per week and are on call at other times for emergencies. The means the borough gets a lot of bang for not a lot of bucks.

Without its own department, the borough will have to depend on Pennsylvania State Police troopers for law enforcement. Those troopers won't patrol McConnellsburg exclusively, and when there's an emergency elsewhere, that's where they'll go, leaving the borough uncovered.

They certainly won't do parking meter enforcement, which means that retailers in town will lose spaces for customers, which is why one reason why 66 business owners have signed a petition opposing the move.

If the council disbands the department, the borough will not only lose two officers who are experienced in police work, but two men who know the citizens - who belongs, who doesn't, and who's likely to cause problems.

Providing for public safety is a basic function of government. We recommend that borough council members sharpen their pencils and find a way to give the town's officers a decent wage.

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