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Police study voted down by Borough Council

March 02, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A proposal to study the Chambersburg Police Department was voted down Monday night by the Chambersburg Borough Council.

By a vote of 7-2, with one abstention, the council voted not to authorize the borough to prepare a request for proposals for a study costing an estimated $50,000 to study the department's operations and make recommendations about its future.

Council President William McLaughlin and Ken Gill voted in favor of the proposal with council members John Redding, Allen Coffman, Allen Frantz, Robert Wareham, Ruth Harbaugh, Glenn Manns and Sharon Bigler voting against a study. Councilwoman Elaine Swartz, whose husband is a borough police officer, abstained.

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The idea for a department review was discussed about a year ago, but the council agreed to postpone action until this year, according to Borough Manager Eric Oyer. Municipal Resources Inc., a New Hampshire consulting firm, drafted a sample scope of work detailing what the study would entail, he said.

The purpose of the study would have been to identify major issues and concerns of the community regarding the department; determine community perception of the department; and find out what police services the community wants in the future, according to the draft.

A study would have included a review of annual reports and budgets for the past five years, along with department rules, regulations, operating procedures and organization. Salary scales, patrol areas, details of grievances, lawsuits against the department and other data also would have been reviewed.

"If we're ever going to have the money to draft a blueprint for the future, 2005 may be the year," McLaughlin said. His support of the study was not related to any perceived problems within the department, but "you can't plan in a vacuum," he said.

Wareham said residents might not approve of spending money on the study with the borough having just instituted an emergency and municipal services tax of $52 a year.

Gill said the study could pay for itself if any recommendations resulted in cost savings over the next decade. The department has 31 full-time officers and a 2005 budget of $3.3 million, Oyer said.

"A study might tell us we don't need the manpower we have," said Mayor Thomas Newcomer, another proponent of the study. A study also might show the department's Crime Impact Team and three K-9 teams could be cut back, he said.

Newcomer, who announced earlier Monday he will not seek re-election, said overtime has been among his biggest concerns, blaming it on the department's "existing operating procedures."

The mayor said the department paid $114,000 in overtime last year and one officer received 56.5 hours of compensatory time for attending a three-day seminar. He said a study is needed before negotiations on a new police contract begin next year.

Redding, who has announced he is running for mayor in the May 17 Republican primary, said the borough could put together a team to do an "in-house" study without having to spend $50,000.

Bigler said a fire department study was done in the 1970s and the borough did not act on its recommendations.

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