Penn Township considers scaled back, part-time police force

DUNCANNON, Pa. (WHTM) — Eight months since suspending its local police department operations, Penn Township officials are considering a reinstatement.

“We do have some funds available in the 2018 budget, and there is a possibility,” said Joseph Landis, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “We’re looking into the possibility of bringing back the police department on a part-time basis.”

Landis says while discussion of the police department hasn’t yet made it onto a meeting agenda, work is being done behind the scenes to investigate the feasibility of relaunching local patrols.

Landis says he is reaching out to other municipalities with part-time police departments for guidance, hoping to learn if a similar setup would be a good fit for Penn Township.

“We don’t have monies available for a full-time department,” Landis added, “but if we can work it out and we can put it together in the proper way, there is that possibility. If that fits for us, then we can bring it to the community. If they’re willing to do so and they wish for it and care, we could put it back together, but that’s still a long way away at this point.”

Some residents say since the local force went off-duty in December of last year due to financial issues in Duncannon and the township, the level of police service has suffered in both communities. While Pennsylvania State Police now provide coverage, a PSP spokesman says non-emergency calls have sometimes been moved to the back burner while emergencies are prioritized.

Trooper Brent Miller says the Newport Barracks, like others across the state, is understaffed. He says overall, troopers have been able to keep up with higher demand of calls in the Duncannon and Penn Township areas, but slower response times can be expected in non-emergency situations.

“If we had a problem, we probably would be more hesitant to call as opposed to when we had the local Penn Township police,” said Scott Cromleigh, a Duncannon resident who works at Hirt Powersports, LLC in Penn Township. “It was easier to just call them and have it taken care of right away.”

Others say the local community involvement of a hometown police force is missing.

“The Penn Township Police would participate in community events, ride their bikes,” said Cally Peters, who owns a business in Penn Township. “We noticed their presence.”

Landis says another factor to consider is proposed legislation which would require municipalities that rely solely on state police coverage to pay additional fees. While there has been little movement on that bill since its introduction in the state House of Representatives, Landis says supervisors would consider it as they make a decision on reinstating police.

“It’s something we have to look into. We’ll keep it in mind,” he said. “Whether it would be a deciding factor or not, I would doubt it.”

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