Less than a week after West York Police announced that 110 people were charged for their alleged involvement in a major theft ring, the borough council has opted to shop for new police services.
During its meeting Monday, the council voted 4-3 to send letters that request proposals for contracting services from five area departments, said Steve Herman, the council president.
Herman wouldn't say what sparked an interest in requesting the proposals.
"I think it's in the best interest ... to look at all options," he said Thursday. "We want to keep our options open."
Mario Eckert, representative for West York Police patrolmen's union and business agent for Teamsters Local 776, said he was puzzled by the letters.
"For some reason it seems the West York borough council has an ax to grind with the police department," he said. "I really don't know what it is all about."
The letters were to be mailed to West Manchester Township, Spring Garden Township, York City, York Area Regional and Northern York County Regional police departments.
Contract: Herman said those departments were chosen because of their proximity to the borough. Both West Manchester and York City border the borough, and the other departments are fairly close.
The letters are requesting proposals that include costs that would be valid through the end of this year.
The letter-sending spree comes as the borough police department's union is seeking to hold negotiations with the council for a new contract.
The current contract is slated to expire at the end of this year, Eckert said.
Legally, the council can disband the department once the contract expires. However, if it disbands it before then, there would likely be a court battle.
"If they propose doing this now, they'd be in breach of contract," Eckert said.
The borough department consists of nine full-time patrolmen, including its chief, and two part-time patrolmen who work 12-hour shifts. The full-service department provides 24-hour-a-day service.
Opposition: Councilwoman Dawn Shue said she was blindsided by the motion to send the letters.
Shue, along with council members Brian Wilson and Shelley Metzler, voted against sending the letters, while Herman, Nancy Laird, Shane Louthian and Annette "Chickie" Christine voted in favor.
"This is something some people on council have been trying to do for years," she said.
Citing the theft ring arrests, Shue said West York needs its own police department.
Last week police announced it had charged 110 people, including alleged ringleader James Lee Giuffrida, 30, in connection with a major retail theft ring that operated out of the borough. The ring netted an estimated $750,000 in stolen merchandise.
"We have police officers who are very dedicated to the borough," she said. "You won't get that with an outside (department.)"
Replies: Departments that are interested in potentially providing services to the borough have to reply by March 4, Herman said.
The letters will be opened during a police committee meeting shortly after and will then be presented to the council, he said.
In the meantime, Eckert is encouraging residents to voice their opinions during upcoming council meetings.
At half-a-square-mile, West York is one of the smallest municipalities in the county. It's also the most densely populated and has seen an influx in crime over the past number of years.
Police responded to 1,832 incidents in 2001, compared to 3,576 incidents in 2010, according to police data.
Eckert said the increase in call volume shows there is a need for a department in the borough.
"You would think residents would like to have these services in place that has the response times as they are now," he said. "Even the fact that there is a police department is a deterrent to crime."