Regional policing will stabilize coverage, costs, safety
04/26/2016 12:02PM ● Published by Richard Gaw
The graphic identity for the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department has already been designed. It contains an eagle with widespread wings. In its claws, the eagle holds a ribbon, on which is included “2016.”
The eagle lends a sense of nobility. The date, however, is still the subject of negotiations.
Using the six pillars of 21st Century policing as a guidepost, New Garden Township Police Chief Gerald Simpson gave a presentation on April 21 that gave advantages of forming the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department which if formed, would combine the police units of New Garden and West Grove Borough into one department.
A similar meting was held in the West Grove Borough on April 20. The April 21 meeting was attended by New Garden Township supervisors, members of the West Grove Borough government; West Grove Police Chief Michael King, and several police officers.
“Our relationship with West Grove Borough compliments each other, in that both communities are getting something positive for our communities,” Simpson said. “We are in every sense of the word, going to be a partnership, and when you become a regional police department, you have access to things that you don't have when you're a stand-alone department.
“It is truly a paradigm shift to the police culture by becoming a merged agency. We will be a mission-driven police organization, with added progressive training to enhance performance.”
“That's what we should take from this,” said King of the presentation. “We're asking to give us the tools we need to do it, the ability to create a department that will allow us to better serve our communities.”
The seeds of the concept to form a regional police unit in southern Chester County date back two years ago, when Simpson asked the township to consider merging or partnering with other police units as a way to stabilize the costs of providing police coverage. Initially, the concept of forming a regional police unit in southern Chester County garnered the attention of several townships and municipalities, including West Grove Borough, which joined the negotiation table last. As discussions went on, however, all but two had dropped out of the picture: New Garden and West Grove Borough.
Simpson said that New Garden and West Grove have been discussing the particulars of the merger since last September, which includes the formation of a budget, personnel issues, and terms of agreement, which are currently being reviewed by the solicitors of both communities.
A final decision on the formation of the unit is expected to be reached by late spring or early summer.
Using an organizational chart of departments and duties, Simpson said that if formed, the regional unit would provide 24-hour coverage, seven days a week, 365 days a year to both the borough and the township; employ 15 full-time officers, eight to ten part-time officers; one administrative assistant and one records clerk. The immediate arrangement would allow the unit to have two locations: New Garden's temporary barracks on Gap-Newport Pike, and West Grove Borough's police offices in the borough's administration building.
Over the course of the presentation, Simpson listed a series of advantages of combining the two units. At the top of the list, Simpson said, will be the stabilization of a force that will better meet the demands of the area they serve, within the framework of current funding. A regional unit can provide specialized services, beefed-up criminal investigations, targeted analytical policies; community and business partnering and outreach; enhanced traffic calming and enforcement; and the sharing of public information.
On Dec. 18, 2014, President Obama issued an executive order appointing an 11-member task force to develop a report on 21st century policing, in response to a number of serious incidents between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect. A large component of the report included Six Pillars of 21st Century Policing, which are building trust and legitimacy; policy and oversight; technology and social media; community policing and crime reduction; training and education; and officer wellness and safety.
If the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department gets the OK to form, Simpson said that the bedrock of its practices will be taken from the six pillars.
“We were already moving in this direction before this report came out,” Simpson said. “These demands are not going away. They're real, and they're real to the public safety industry. If we're going to be in this business, we'd better accept that this is the standard that is being pushed our way.”
Simpson said that a regional police department will save both the borough and the township money. If formed, the unit would be paid for out of an 80-20 split; New Garden's costs would be $1.688 million a year, while West Grove Borough would be responsible for $422,000 annually.
By partnering, the regional unit will also be able to look for more potential revenue streams, including the opportunity to apply grants from county, state and federal sources. One of those grants includes the Municipal Assistance Program, a matching grant that provides funding to offset the costs of new vehicles, body-worn cameras, protective vests, contract services and traffic enforcement grants, in order to enhance the operation.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.