Could Munis Create a Second Regional Police Force in the County?
A meeting that was to take place last night between four municipalities in the Allegheny Valley (not a public meeting, but a closed discussion) could possibly open discussions to have another multi-municipal police force in the County (the Northern Regional force is a four municipality police department in the North Hills). As this blog from June noted, the vast majority of municipalities in the County provide police service “in house” with their own police employees.
So Sharpsburg, Aspinwall, O’Hara and Blawnox will have at least sat down and discussed the possibility. Who knows how far things will progress: usually turf battles, seniority, community pride, and finances come into play and mergers and consolidations bog down and don’t go much past the talking part. In all there are about 30 police employees in the four municipalities.
There are possible benefits to joining together: more community oriented policing and investigations handled by the multi-municipal force instead of Allegheny County could be two such benefits. Whether they outweigh the costs is what has to be considered.
Based on a 2014 LBFC study there were 35 regional (multi-municipal) police departments in the state, and in the fiscal years 2010-11 through 2012-13 there were seven grants awarded to regional police forces through the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Municipal Assistance Program. The LBFC study found that “loss of control” was the most often cited obstacle for municipalities expressing a desire to move forward with a regional consolidation.
As we have written in the past, if it makes sense for municipalities to combine services and save taxpayers money, by all means they should go for it. If the latest four communities end up making a go, there might be a possibility that other municipalities will be encouraged to explore combining services, whether they be public safety or some other municipal service.