Calculating Local Police Costs

Calculating Local Police Costs


A new report from the state’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee on municipal police service in Pennsylvania explores several interesting topics, including some which have been discussed in southwestern Pennsylvania and written about by the Allegheny Institute.

Under existing law, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Scranton (cities of the first class, second class, and second class A respectively) are required to provide police service while other municipal classes (third class cities, boroughs, townships) are authorized but not required to do so, according to the report.  There are opportunities for contracting out to neighboring communities, participating in a regional police department, or having the state provide coverage are all options.  With 2,500 municipalities in the state, the arrangements work out as follows:

  • State police provide all police service to 1,279 municipalities and part-time service to 420 municipalities
  • 986 municipalities have their own police force and 136 of these contract out their services to other municipalities
  • Twelve municipalities have a police force with over 100 full-time officers
  • There are 35 regional police departments in the state, with the oldest in Allegheny County (Northern Regional in the North Hills) and two are in Washington County

The report points out many of the hurdles to consolidation departments (cost, control, pensions, etc.) and offers several case studies of recent consolidations.