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The North Lebanon Township Board of Supervisors held a public meeting Sept. 28 to present details of possible police regionalization with North Cornwall Township to the public.
This meeting was purely informational and gave supervisors an opportunity to learn what the public thinks about the possibility.
If regionalization is entertained, a period of negotiation of a year or more will occur and a public hearing will precede the board’s vote.
North Lebanon Police Chief Tim Knight presented a slideshow with the detailed results of a study requested in April. The slideshow (PDF) was later posted to the township’s website.
Three possible plans were proposed: two options with 24 officers and an option with 22 officers. One 24-officer plan, Knight said, would increase the township’s police budget by $62,000.
Knight discussed the issues the department has had with understaffing, to the degree that the township is partially paying for cadets to go through the academy. Very frequently, he said, officers have to work alone.
“We have struggled to staff patrol,” he said, explaining that an understaffed police department can mean safety risks for both an officer and the community at large.
With the tentative 24-officer regionalization plan, at least three officers would likely be on shift at a time, according to the slideshow.
Officers from NLPD and NCPD spoke in favor of the project.
NLPD officer Nicholas Gallese said that, even immediately after his training, he was scheduled to work shifts alone.
He explained that he often became tied up on one call and could not respond to another call until a significant amount of time later.
While other police departments can be called to assist, those departments are often similarly understaffed, Knight said.
He also said that North Cornwall and North Lebanon are incredibly compatible for regionalization as they have similar size, similar populations, and are adjacent to one another.
Other benefits, he said, are that regionalized police departments are often shown preference for grant funding.
They also tend to have an easier time finding new recruits as there is more room for upward mobility, Knight said.
North Cornwall is in favor of regionalization, and has expressed willingness to take on additional costs to pursue it.
A regionalized police department would be run by a police commission.
One plan under consideration includes two North Lebanon supervisors, two North Cornwall supervisors, and a member of the community hand-picked by North Lebanon supervisors. The other includes three supervisors from North Lebanon and two from North Cornwall.
Board chairman Ed Brensinger, who was the only supervisor opposed to requesting the study in April, explained a few possible downsides to regionalization.
The NLPD building, which would serve as the headquarters for the regional police (with North Cornwall as a substation), is built for fewer officers and would need significant improvements. The proposed plan includes upsizing the building to 5,400 square feet.
He also said officers may need to traverse the city of Lebanon to get to some incidents, which may increase response times.
While more officers would be on shift, Brensinger said, the coverage area would also double.
“The pie gets bigger, but it’s cut into more pieces,” he said.
Leading up to this meeting, the supervisors and Knight visited Northern Lancaster Regional Police Department and Northern York Police Department to learn about their experiences with regionalization.
Supervisors Gary Heisey and Ardy Snook both expressed optimism about the possibility of regionalization, though both sought additional community feedback.
The meeting, which was held at Union Canal Elementary School, had relatively low attendance. Former township manager Cheri Grumbine spoke requesting the township hold another, more widely advertised, meeting to inform the public.
Next steps, if regionalization continues to be pursued, will be for the townships to organize a steering committee and negotiate the details of regionalization.
All plans presented in the slideshow are tentative and may be changed as the plan is revised.
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