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Police department is 'transition period," council member says

March 03, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The Greencastle Police Department is on course to lose its only remaining full-time officer other than the chief, but the borough council has made no move to fill vacant full-time positions, officials said Thursday.

Instead, the council has advertised solely for part-time officers, Mayor Robert Eberly said.

Three full-time officers have left the department since this time last year, and Waynesboro (Pa.) Borough Council has approved the tentative hiring of Greencastle's last full-time officer, Robert Petrunak, for the Waynesboro force effective April 1.

Eberly, who supervises the police department, said he had not received a resignation from Petrunak by Thursday evening.

The department has six part-time officers and Chief Peter Mozurkevich has been authorized to hire more as needed, said Eberly, who noted one additional part-timer might begin next week.

The part-time officers were recently awarded a pay raise, bringing them to $13.51 an hour, and are eligible for overtime.

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They do not have benefits, according to Eberly.

"I won't be surprised if they (council) make raises again," Eberly said.

Councilman Harry Foley said the council might hold off on hiring full-time officers until two things happen.

First, he said the council needs to finish reviewing the proposal of a joint police force with neighboring Antrim Township. Second, Foley said full-time hirings might wait until this period of transition has ended, referring to the resignations and the October 2005 hiring of Mozurkevich.

Paul Schemel, councilman and chairman of the public safety committee, said late Thursday that he was not aware of Waynesboro's offer and had not received Petrunak's resignation.

If the resignation does become effective, the council will have to focus on creating a good mix of full-time and part-time staffers, said Schemel.

"I don't believe we have an objective to have a part-time police force," he said. "Our department is certainly in a transition period."

The council is able to hire part-time officers quicker than full-time ones because they do not have to be reviewed by the civil service commission, Foley said.

The push to hire part-time officers began before the series of resignations, said Schemel.

Foley said the council will take its time to ensure it hires the best people possible.

"We are moving forward with a different philosophy as far as our expectations. We want professional police officers," he said.

The council's goal is that an officer is on duty at all times, Eberly said.

Petrunak's resignation would leave "a large chunk of hours that have to be filled," Schemel said.

Also, Mozurkevich has been patrolling, which was a stipulation of his hire.

A help wanted ad requesting part-time officers had appeared in Harrisburg and local newspapers in the past few months.

"I don't think there's an ad running right now," Eberly said.

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