Tuesday, 15 May 2012 08:49

Harrisburg WITF

State Police say low numbers demand changing trooper stations, patrols

Plans to close a state trooper barrack and shift personnel from another facility could become a common theme if the agency’s numbers keeping dropping, the top official of the Pennsylvania State Police said at a joint legislative hearing on Monday.  Cameras rolled as state lawmakers asked hard-hitting questions about a plan to close an Ephrata, Lancaster County state police barrack and rejigger the personnel of another station in the city of Lancaster.

State Police are framing the proposed changes as an overall gain for the commonwealth.  “Our patrol areas will stay the same.  The amount of cars in those zone areas will stay the same.  What would happen is we would be moving some of our administrative personnel,” said Commissioner Frank Noonan, characterizing the change as a reassignment of priorities, so no region has too many or too few troopers.

But Noonan added that if the ranks of troopers drop too much, the force will have to make “serious” adjustments.  If every position in the state police were filled, the ranks would stand at nearly 4700.  Noonan said Monday the agency’s own vacancies could rise to 600 by the end of the year.

“You know, we have to make decisions so that these things don’t hit us all at once,” said Noonan during his testimony.  “That’s basically what we’re discussing these plans.  And these plans will be – I mean, we would, this would be something we would start, maybe we would do it here first but it will go throughout the state.

The proposal to close the Ephrata barrack is due to a reduction in reported incidents.  “[T]he area’s growing, and they’ve formed a number of regional police departments, so they’re taking over much of the area that we actually patrol,” said Noonan, adding that the state police could manage the area around Ephrata with about 10 troopers, instead of the 25 stationed there now.  He expects he’ll decide whether or not to close the Ephrata station within the next month.

The personnel change for the Lancaster station could hinge on how much the state police get in state funding next year for additional cadet classes: new troopers.  Noonan said specialized services won’t be affected by the shifting of troopers that could happen in Lancaster.  Only administrative personnel would be moved.

“We would have a lieutenant in charge instead of a captain” at the Lancaster station, said Noonan.  “We wouldn’t have as many clerks, things such as that.  So it would be more administrative.  But the actual fire marshals, vice units, the accident reconstruction personnel, they’ll all stay.”

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