Study looks at funding for Southern Regional Police

Christopher Dornblaser
  • The Southern Regional Police Department's police commission heard recommendations Tuesday.

The Southern Regional Police Department's police commission heard recommendations for the future of the department Tuesday night during a continuation of its Feb. 1 meeting.

The commission retained Ron Smeal, a police consultant based in State College and a former Northern York County Regional Police chief, to study the operations of the department after some of its member municipalities expressed an interest in changing the formula for funding.

The commission asked Smeal to come up with a  revised draft with recommendations for the next meeting on Wednesday, March 1.

The Southern Regional Police Department covers several boroughs in the southern part of the county: New Freedom, Shrewsbury, Glen Rock and Stewartstown are the four full-member municipalities, and the department also contracts part-time services to Winterstown and Railroad. The commission is made up of members of the borough councils of the full-member municipalities.

New Freedom and Glen Rock have  submitted letters of intent to leave the department at the end of the year because of the formula.

On Tuesday night, Smeal presented some recommendations for the department in a 30-page draft to the commission during a nearly 2½-hour meeting attended by about 30 people.

Smeal presented many ideas, but the one discussed most was his suggestion for changing the department's funding formula.

New formula: He proposed a new formula that would allow the municipalities to purchase service hours, known as "Police Protection Units," or PPUs, based on the police chief's recommendation.

Chief Jim Boddington said the municipalities would purchases those hours, and he would allocate them appropriately. If a municipality needed more hours, he would recommend that municipality purchase more hours. If there were leftover hours, those would carry over to the next year.

Currently, the funding is done by a formula that factors in municipalities' populations, the amount of time police have to spend there and how many miles of road the municipalities have. That formula has been in place since 2001, Boddington said.

"You have to change with the times," the chief said after the meeting.

If the department finds itself in one municipality more than usual one week, they can adjust, Smeal told the commission.

Some New Freedom council members have argued the current funding formula isn't fair because population and police service hours are weighted the same, while mileage is less of a factor.

New Freedom, the largest and most populous borough contracting with Southern Regional, would like funding to be based solely on police service hours — how much time the officers spend there.

In September, the borough sent the department a letter of intent to leave by the end of 2017. Glen Rock has also stated it intends to leave at the end of the year.

Chief: Smeal  emphasized that Boddington should take the lead for the department, and that the commission should follow his lead.

"I would sit with the chief and give him time to analyze," Smeal said.

Boddington was optimistic about the idea of changing the formula.

"You guys have to embrace it and say 'Let's do it,'" Boddington said to the commission.

The chief said after the meeting it was good to see that the municipalities were happy with the service the department provides to them.

Going forward: The commission voted to continue to retain Smeal so he can help make revisions to the draft report. Some of the numbers, including total incidents the department responds to, were entered incorrectly and need to be altered.

Ron Smeal, a police consultant based in State College, goes over his draft of recommendations for the Southern Regional Police Department. Photo by Christopher Dornblaser

Boddington said turnover with some clerical staff and training led to the discrepancy. He said the officers entered the data correctly.

Jeff Halapin, mayor of New Freedom and a commission member, said after the meeting that he was hopeful, but he did not have confidence changes would take place.

"I don't have a lot of faith that the commission will do anything else," he said.

New Freedom has until July 1 to decide if it wants to stay with the department, Halapin said.

Buck Buchanan, president of the Shrewsbury Borough Council and treasurer of the commission, has been a vocal opponent of PPUs. He said he believes the way it is currently done is the most fair.

"I personally believe that's better than PPUs," Buchanan said after the meeting. However, he said he did think that doing PPUs would be the "lesser of two evils."

"It's better than losing the department," he said.

The new draft is expected to be ready for commissioners  at  Wednesday's meeting at 7 p.m. at  the New Freedom Borough Office, 47 E. High St.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.