In May, Delaware County doled out $100,000 from the district attorney’s drug forfeiture fund and an additional $50,000 from the county’s gaming revenue to pay the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) to aid the understaffed Chester Police Department in patrols; meanwhile is Colwyn Borough and others receiving similar patrols for little to no cost?
During the third-shift, from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., state police respond to calls in Colwyn while the borough’s police department reports for training, according to Colwyn Borough Council President Jacqueline Stevenson.
PSP spokesman Cpl. Adam Reed said, “The state police patrol municipalities on a part-time basis. It occurs when the local police department is not working for whatever reason…”
It is a part-time basis, according to Stevenson, who said, “It’s temporary and we’re not dependent upon (the state police) 24/7.” The Council president added that costs for state law enforcement assistance are “paid for by state tax dollars, it’s free.”
Stevenson did not disclose the type of training the Colwyn Police Department is undergoing, but sources familiar with the situation, who wish to remain unidentified, refuted Stevenson’s claims of training. Instead, the source said, Colwyn “doesn’t have any officers.”
Colwyn Mayor Michael Blue concurred, saying the department once had a functional number of eight part-time officers, but that number is currently halved to four, with three pending new hires.
“If a municipality doesn’t have a police department, like Middletown and Concord townships, or doesn’t have the manpower, then the state police department is mandated to come in upon request,” the source said. “The state taxes pay for that and it’s very different from Chester’s situation.”
Warnings of the depleting police force was brought to Colwyn Council’s attention numerous times, according to Blue but “Council didn’t want to do any hiring,” he said. Ideally, Blue said, when one officer leaves, another officer is immediately hired to fill the vacancy, but it’s a time consuming process because a vast majority of these new hires require law enforcement training.
Many of the patrolmen in Colwyn are usually recent graduates of the Delaware County Community College Municipal Police Academy or rookies.
However, after racking up a couple years of policing experience, many leave for other departments offering full-time employment and better compensation.
“They come out of academy and come on as part-time, but they don’t stay,” Blue said. “These cops aren’t making enough money to do anything. Who wants to be a cop making $8 an hour?”
With state police responding to calls, the anonymous source believes the response time could increase.
“What if a call comes in and the responding trooper is in Media, Chester or even on I-95? If the trooper is responding from I-95 near the airport, that trooper would have to drive through Southwest Philly to get to Colwyn,” the source said.
District Attorney Jack Whelan agreed with the source’s assertions saying, “I would have concerns to make sure that the streets of Colwyn are adequately patrolled. I commend the state police for patrolling, but citizen safety is our concern.”
Additional law enforcement insiders, who also wish to remain anonymous, said the state police are also struggling with dwindling manpower; “They have been spread thin,” the source said.
According to reports from earlier this year, state police reported low numbers in new hires, while many existing officers reached retirement age.
“The old timers are outpacing the new hires,” Reed told The Spirit. “We’re almost 1,200 troopers below level.”
Reed said being below level hasn’t, fortunately, had any adverse effects. “We make due with what we have,” he said. “We’ve seen (some) departments in the state disbanded.”
For municipalities with diminished police departments or without any at all, like Middletown, Reed said, “It’s been an issue for legislation.”
However, Reed said, since the early reports, there have been some improvements to their recruitment tactics and their recruitment numbers have improved.
“We’ve expanded our recruiters’ reach through job fairs and advertising. We’re looking for the best and brightest and have even expanded to other departments,” Reed said, adding that their recruitment efforts do not entail “cherry picking” officers from other departments.