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Commissioner Pries says it’s up to municipalities to handle police department consolidation

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 7/24/19

Police regionalization was on the front burner in late 2015, after a report done by consultants funded by Dauphin County extolled the benefits of the concept.

At that time, the only consolidation …

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Commissioner Pries says it’s up to municipalities to handle police department consolidation

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Police regionalization was on the front burner in late 2015, after a report done by consultants funded by Dauphin County extolled the benefits of the concept.

At that time, the only consolidation of police services between municipalities in Dauphin County was between Paxtang and Swatara Township.

Four years later, that’s still the only one, said Dauphin County Commissioner Mike Pries, adding that the Paxtang-Swatara arrangement continues to be a success.

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READ MORE: Middletown Police Department disbanding? Mayor calls union statement 'ill-timed and misinformed'

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Pries co-chaired a county committee on police regionalization that had been set up to fund and carry out the 2015 study.

The committee has not met since former District Attorney Ed Marsico, the co-chair, became a county judge in 2018, Pries said.

“Change is a four-letter word,” Pries said, referring to the apparent lack of progress — publicly at least — toward the consolidating of police services in the county. “People say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Pries told the Press & Journal in a July 17 email that he has not been part of any discussions between Middletown and Steelton regarding police services, and was not aware of any discussions “recently taking place” between the two municipalities.

As in 2015, Pries said that the county is not “pushing” police consolidation, and that these decisions are up to municipalities.

“The last thing we wanted to do was politicize this topic,” Pries said. “This has to be from the ground up.”

Pries also acknowledged that, shy of outright merger and consolidation, the potential exists for municipalities in Dauphin County to save money when it comes to providing police services, just by working closer together.

Ideas about consolidating certain kinds of purchasing, or sharing information technology and other kinds of services, come up frequently during meetings that are held on a regular basis between the Dauphin County Chiefs of Police Association and the county DA, Pries said.

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READ MORE: Steelton mayor not aware of any talks with Middletown about police regionalization

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Dauphin County Chief Clerk Chad Saylor said that the county has not received “any official request for support” from any municipality in the county, including Middletown and Steelton, regarding assistance in negotiations concerning contracting out or regionalizing police services.

“Are there discussions in general” among municipalities in the county regarding the issue? “Yes,” Saylor said. However he declined to comment on discussions at the municipal level, including any that may be taking place between Middletown and Steelton.

“The municipalities need to be the ones to comment on any discussions they are having,” Saylor said.

Commissioners continue to support the concept of regionalization and encourage municipalities to have discussions with each other to look at the options.

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READ MORE: Middletown police calls up 12 percent, department under budget for 2019

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“They owe it to their taxpayers,” Saylor said. “The issue is still out there, it’s just a difficult and challenging one. These municipalities are faced with tough budget choices. Balancing budgets without raising taxes is not easy. They have to look for options, or they are going to have to keep raising taxes.”

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READ MORE: In 2017, residents spoke out vs. Middletown police deal with Lower Swatara

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