A long-awaited police study outlines a number of cost-saving recommendations, including consolidating police departments.
According to the study released by the York County Community Foundation on Monday, municipalities that participated could shave 9 percent off police budgets if each joined one large department.
If realized, the consolidated department would cover the nine municipalities that took part in the study. They are: York City; Springettsbury, Spring Garden, Dover, Manchester and East Manchester townships; and West York, Mount Wolf and Manchester boroughs.
That is just one recommendation out of six calling for municipalities to consolidate police departments.
However, "implementation of any of the scenarios would be a decision for the municipalities to evaluate," according to the study.
Apprehension: Getting local elected officials to opt for a joint department
might not be an easy task.
"I don't think every municipality would be on board," said Larry Young, vice chairman of the Manchester Township supervisors.
The study highlights what could keep residents and municipal officials from combining services with other municipalities. They include: a loss of "their" police department, reduced coverage in suburban municipalities because of the workload in York City, and a "perceived difference in policing styles" among departments.
But Young said the benefits of cost-savings could outweigh the perceived negatives of consolidating services.
Manchester Township, which is covered by Northern York County Regional Police, spends about 50 percent of its budget of emergency services and other services, Young said.
Participants: All told, 21 municipalities were asked to take part in the $78,000 study. Many did not.
The five police departments that participated are Northeastern Regional, York City, West York, Spring Garden Township and Springettsbury Township.
The Police Executive Research Forum, a national consultant on regional police studies, conducted the study. Half of its $78,000 cost came from a state grant, while the remaining half was raised through donations from local businesses and nonprofits.
The community foundation contributed $10,000 toward the study.
"This report is an important step toward expanded municipal cooperation through the delivery of police services," said Steve Hovis, chair of the YorkCounts public safety committee.
YorkCounts started the survey in June 2011 but subsequently merged with the community foundation.
A number of elected municipal officials contacted Monday night did not have comment because they had not yet read the study.
Scenarios: Not all the recommendations include all municipalities forming one large department.
A ring consolidation, which could include East Manchester, Dover, Manchester, Springettsbury and Spring Garden townships as well as Mount Wolf and Manchester boroughs, would save the municipalities nearly 11 percent.
A southeastern consolidation would save Springettsbury and Spring Garden townships 9.95 percent if the two townships combined services.
Mount Wolf and Manchester boroughs and East Manchester, Dover and Manchester townships would save 7.9 percent if they joined services under a northern consolidation.
An eastern consolidation comprising East Manchester, Spring Garden and Springettsbury townships as well as Mount Wolf and Manchester boroughs would net 9 percent in savings.
Any savings would not happen until the second year a new department is created. There would likely be an increase in costs the first year, the study states.
However, not all consolidations would save municipalities money. If York City and West York were to form a joint department, each would see a 0.6 percent increase in police costs.
Instead, the study states West York, which has its own police department, could contract services from York City at a negotiated cost as the best approach.
Shared services: And not all recommendations include fully consolidating police services.
A number of police departments that took part in the study already share services with other departments. But the shared services could go further.
Departments could hold combined training sessions at some cost reduction. But it is likely that integration of training management would increase effort, because of the need to spend more time coordinating between the departments, the study states.
Another way to save money would be for departments to enter into a joint fleet management program where one law enforcement fleet maintenance facility is created.
A fleet management program could reduce costs over time by managing vehicle purposes and distributing costs to the individual departments in an equitable and predictable way. Fuel use reduction programs applied to a large fleet could reduce fuel costs for the individual agencies, the study states.
With the study released, the public safety committee will meet in the fall to determine how to move forward with the information.
Young said he'd like to see the committee approach the participating municipalities to outline the study to see how officials would like to move forward.
The study, he said, shows promise that municipalities could look to combining police services to some extent.
"It might get some traction," he said.
-- Reach Greg Gross at email@example.com.
To read a summary of the YorkCounts 2012 Policing Report, go to yorkcounts.org and click on publications and then click on the link to the study. For a complete report, email Jane Conover at the York County Community Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.