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Washington Township gives preliminary OK to add police officers

November 15, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Washington Township, Pa., could have 17 police officers on its force by the end of 2008.

A divided board of township supervisors on Wednesday ultimately gave the preliminary OK to increase the complement from 15 officers to 17 in next year's operating budget.

It probably will take most of the year to send officers through the training academy and the probationary period, Police Chief Barry Keller said.

The starting salary for a patrol officer in 2007 is $40,290.

"Currently we're working about 14 percent of the time (with) only one officer on," Keller said.

He clarified that he meant one officer on patrol, while others are in court, teaching the DARE program or working on ongoing investigations.

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"An officer is by himself working calls. ... A single arrest takes an officer out for several hours," Keller said.

As of Sept. 30, the department had responded to 733 incidents this year compared to 435 in the same time period in 2006, Keller said.

"That's a very large workload increase for us," he said.

Keller said the department also has between 200 and 250 active, open cases.

"It's not like on television when everything's solved in a hour. ... We have a number of complex, interdepartmental investigations ongoing now," Keller said.

Supervisors Carroll Sturm and Paul Benchoff said they were in support of the increase to 17 officers.

Supervisors Christopher Firme and John Gorman said they would support one additional officer position and perhaps another in the 2009 budget.

"That's a lot of cash for one budget year," Gorman said.

Both Firme and Gorman said their concern came from an uncertainty about tax revenue for the coming year.

"You have to be conservative for the long term because you don't know what's going to happen in 2008," Firme said.

Supervisor C. Stewart McCleaf, a retired Smithsburg police chief, was absent from the meeting, leaving the board split 2-2.

"Knowing his background, I'd say it'd probably be safe to keep 17 on there," Gorman said.

Although the department is authorized for 15 officers, it currently has one vacancy.

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