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Police makeup debated

January 22, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Borough Council took steps Tuesday night toward ultimately adding a 31st officer to its police force and filling three potential vacancies.

"Essentially you're setting a ceiling of 31 officers. You could have less," Borough Manager Eric Oyer said.

The 2003 budget included the provision to hire an additional officer with the hope the officer could offset overtime costs and the position would essentially pay for itself.

It was the consensus of the council Tuesday that Police Chief Michael DeFrank and borough staff should move forward with the process, which will take several months of interviewing, testing and training before an officer is out on the street.

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The council also supported moving ahead with hiring a replacement for Sgt. Gary Baker, who recently retired, as well as for another corporal and patrol officer who have announced plans to retire next January.

As part of the recent contract the police officers union negotiated, officers who submit a notice of intent a year before retiring will receive a $2,500 bonus. The advance notice allows the borough to begin the lengthy hiring process earlier so it is more likely to have a replacement ready to go when the officer retires.

"This reduces the amount of time it takes to get a new person trained and put on the street," DeFrank said.

The borough's ordinance currently allows for a 30-member department including the chief, four sergeants, four corporals and 21 patrol officers.

In the coming months, the council will have to officially amend the ordinance to allow for 31 officers before a new officer can be hired.

DeFrank said the ability to address these issues now can help the department avoid a staffing shortage in the future. Illness, injury and the unexpected, like an officer in the Reserves being called up to active duty next month, also affect manpower, he said.

DeFrank said the borough is reimbursed 50 percent for an officer's salary while the officer is attending the training academy, so the borough won't see a huge jump in personnel costs this year.

He said the earliest the borough can get officers in the training academy is in July, so they will be on the borough payroll less than six months.

Mayor Tom Newcomer added that a committee of officers has begun meeting to address overtime and to look at ways to reduce the additional cost the borough assumes for overtime pay.

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