UPDATE: Southwestern officers back York Area merger, department head says
Southwestern Regional Police's officers favor merging with York Area Regional while it competes with Northern Regional to provide coverage for Southwestern's remaining municipalities, said Southwestern's department head.
York Area Regional and Northern York County Regional Police have provided service proposals for Manheim Township, Heidelberg Township and Spring Grove.
The dueling proposals come months after North Codorus Township, Southwestern's biggest financial contributor, voted to joined Northern Regional Police starting in 2020.
Sgt. Jamie Stalcup, Southwestern's officer-in-charge, told a crowd of people at a Heidelberg Township meeting Wednesday, Oct. 2, that the officers supported joining York Area Regional Police.
Stalcup said York Area Chief Tim Damon had called him weeks ago and said York Area would like to hire as many Southwestern officers as possible. Damon, he said, called them assets to the community.
When asked why the department didn't support joining Northern Regional, Stalcup told The York Dispatch that there was uncertainty and "silence" from that department.
"There was no phone call," he said.
Both Northern Regional and York Area Regional department heads said they could hire six Southwestern officers should the departments take on the remaining municipalities.
Northern officials have said the officers would have to reapply, and Damon said he thought Southwestern's officers would meet his department's minimum requirements.
Under York Area Regional department's estimates for police coverage, Heidelberg Township would pay $371,804 for 80 hours per week.
By Northern Regional's estimates, the department could provide service to Heidelberg Township at 90 hours per week at $393,897, which would be more expensive than what it paid this year and include fewer hours.
Heidelberg Township received 96 hours for $382,652 this year.
At Wednesday's meeting, Northern Regional Chief Mark Bentzel, Deputy Chief David Lash and Damon all answered questions from residents.
Bentzel took issue with Damon's numbers that were provided to the municipalities. Damon has said there will be two officers in the Heidelberg Township area at all times.
Bentzel said there are 168 hours in a week, and with two officers being in the area 24/7, that would be 336 hours of service, but York Area only proposed service for 215 hours in that area.
“Mathematically, it is impossible to provide 336 hours as he said... to a community and sell 215 hours, it cannot be done,” he said.
"I'm telling you, you'll have people here," Damon told residents in response.
Bentzel said since the department has Paradise Township, Jackson Township and North Codorus Township, with the addition of the other three municipalities, Northern would have three officers in the area 24/7. The total hours in that general area would be 685, he said.
Asked for a response to Southwestern's support of York Area Regional, Deputy Chief Lash declined, saying the department did not want to get involved with politics.
He said the department's coverage in the general area puts it in the best position to provide service.
York Area Regional, which has 43 officers, serves roughly 54,000 people over about 58 square miles between York Township, Windsor Township, Dallastown, Jacobus, Yoe and Felton.
Northern Regional, which has 54 officers, covers about 150 square miles between Dover borough, Dover Township, Manchester Township, Paradise Township, Conewago Township, North York, Franklin Township and Jackson Township. It serves roughly 66,000 residents.
Matt Bollinger, a Heidelberg Township supervisor who serves on Southwestern's police board, told The York Dispatch that there's no timetable on when a decision will be made. He said he wants to hear from residents before making a vote.
“If you have something to say, we want you to tell us," Bollinger told residents.
Southwestern has been struggling since North Codorus Township officials announced about a year ago it was going to leave. The department's budget provides for a staff of 14 officers, but currently there are only eight, with one being part-time.
Southwestern's police board meetsat 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the police station, 6115 Thoman Drive.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.