Force of the future Regional police on track for Jan. 1

By on September 28, 2011

By: STEPHEN SEEBER Record Express Staff, Staff Writer

After this year, the Warwick Township Police Department will be no more.

On Sept. 21, township supervisors entered into a regional police agreement with Penn and Clay townships. As a result, major changes in local law enforcement are mere months away.

The Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Force is set to make its debut on Jan. 1, 2012.

While the Record Express has been covering this historical development for some time, C. David Kramer, Warwick Township supervisor and chairman of the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Task Force, and Chief David Steffen, current Warwick Township police chief and NLCRPF chief in waiting, took the time to participate in a short Q&A on the subject:

Record Express: At what point did this all become a done deal?

Kramer: Each of the three charter municipalities — Clay, Penn and Warwick townships — have now executed ordinances authorizing them to enter into an intermunicipal charter agreement to form the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department, and a commission to oversee the operation. Clay approved on Aug. 31, Penn on Sept. 12 and Warwick on Sept. 21.

The intent was always to try to have the regional department operative by Jan. 1, 2012 and we are on schedule.

The regional force will not become officially active until Jan. 1.

Record Express: Will there be any job loss due to this agreement?

Kramer: While our projected uniformed officer manpower needed for the regional force calls for an overall reduction compared to pre-regionalization, because of recent retirements and resignations our current force allows us to stay consistent with the coverage requirements specified by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. We are not planning to reduce the numerical force any further, but reserve the right to do so.

Record Express: How many officers will be covering Warwick Township at a given time, compared to now?

Chief Steffen: This number will vary. For purposes of comparison, it is anticipated there will be a greater number of officers available under the regional service plan than currently exists. The number of officers covering a given municipality is dependent upon a variety of factors.

Some of these factors are controlled by scheduling, training, sick leave, vacation usage and the same scheduling impacts faced by private industry and other public sector jobs which are beyond control of the agency and predicated upon call demand. An example of this is calls from severe thunderstorms or snow storms and call response driven by 911 demands.

Another factor to be considered is the time obligated to prisoner processing and transport. These are often both unpredictable events which are open-ended time obligations. In order to maximize the availability of officers, the regionalized service delivery plan has flexibility designed into the system.

This means scheduled shifts will include staffing overlap for high call volume periods.

The advantage of the regional police effort is the ability to shift resources within the jurisdiction and maintain call response coverage while meeting service demands.

Record Express: Are there any concerns with the expanse of the region? For example, if the on-duty officers are at the furthest possible distance away from a location in Warwick Township, how will response time be affected for local emergencies?

Chief Steffen: In a regional police jurisdiction there is a dispersal of police resources based upon patrol district assignment and coverage. Patrols are assigned based upon the equal distribution of workload, and other considerations. These include the size and nature of the patrol district and the projected call activity and volume. It is important to understand that police units are not all "bunched" at one location, but are scattered within the jurisdiction to be available for calls. Distance is overcome by appropriate distribution and management of resources.

What is critical to the understanding of the citizen is that police officers must base an appropriate response to calls upon the nature of the call. Simply stated, not every call for police services is a dire emergency requiring an emergency response. By effectively being able to prioritize police responses, the agency realizes a decrease in liability and an increase in effectiveness.

An essential part of the service delivery is the tracking of information, including response time, obligated time and unobligated time. A careful and ongoing analysis of this data will insure the most appropriate police response available and provide the flexibility of the agency to adjust and allocate resources as are needed to insure a proper police response to service requests.

Record Express: Has there been any opposition to this plan, from residents or police officers?

Kramer: Quite the opposite. Virtually every resident we’ve encountered has had essentially the same reaction: "Sounds great. What took you so long?"

In the beginning, the officers had concerns regarding their careers. That’s natural and to be expected. I think most now see regionalization as an opportunity to personally excel in a larger, more professional agency and regard it as a career enhancement.

Record Express: Are the municipal leaders satisfied that the public was adequately informed about everything, prior to approval?

Kramer: Yes. All three municipalities have had public discussions about regionalization during regular supervisor meetings for more than a year. We had a public hearing at Clay Township this summer, and there have been countless newspaper articles, in your paper and the Lancaster press, about regionalization. However, if any questions remain, we’ll be more than happy to answer them.

Record Express: What will be the physical change on Jan. 1?

Chief Steffen: There are many changes, some of which are already underway.

There is a distinctive uniform, cruiser marking design, and logo development. There is also the standardization of policy, training and uniformity in procedural matters being developed for implementation.

What is essential to the reader is the understanding that there is no room for error in this foundation being laid for the organization. There are a hundred large tasks, and a thousand small tasks, all of which require completion. What is a credit to the plan are the cooperative efforts of the officers to make this transition happen. The officers have embraced tasks assigned to them and are completing their assignments promptly and professionally.

The entire reasoning behind this joint venture is to work together to take the delivery of police services to the next level. We are working together to improve cost containment while providing a broader-based and specialized service plan to our community members. Given the current and projected fiscal landscape facing our country and our community, we think this cooperation only makes sense, and we look forward to continuing these efforts on our citizen’s behalf. More REGIONAL POLICE, page A5