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In order to stay with York Area Regional Police, Jacobus threatens to leave

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Every couple of years, Jacobus borough officials send a letter to the York Area Regional Police Commission stating the borough intends to leave the department and terminate its service.

And every time they send the letter, the borough negotiates a new contract and stays with the department, said Mayor Gregory B. Gruendler. 

"We have no intention at the moment of leaving the regional police department," the mayor said.

The borough's bluff is in fact a negotiation tactic, one that local officials say helps keep costs down.

Gruendler said there's a provision in the borough's contract that requires it to give more than a year's notice to the police department if it plans to leave, and if the borough takes no action, the contract with the police department renews automatically.

"We cannot control what price we pay under that automatic renewal," Gruendler said. "But if we tell them we’re going to leave, we can negotiate, which we’ve successfully done for several contracts now."

The costs of policing have become an increasingly hot topic throughout York County and its regional departments. This past year, Southwestern Regional folded and its members were absorbed by other departments. Northeastern Regional is in the midst of a protracted battle among its member communities about cost and is fielding merger offers from other departments, including York Area. 

York Area Regional Police Chief Tim Damon said the letters to the police commission don't create any issues because the commission understands the motivation behind them.

York Area Regional Police in York Township, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Damon said it's not uncommon for contracting municipalities to submit notice of termination ahead of a contract negotiation, and that Dallastown has done the same thing in the past.

"It’s a quirky little provision that's in there," the chief said.

Spring Grove is in the first year of a five-year contract with York Area Regional, said borough manager Andrew N. Shaffer. The borough contracted with York Area Regional after its previous department, Southwestern Regional, disbanded at the end of 2019.

Shaffer said most regional police departments require at least a year's notice of intent to leave, but that Spring Grove has never given its notice as a leveraging tool.

"We’ve always used our appointed representatives to those boards to complete those negotiations on our behalf," he said.

Jacobus is in the middle of its new contract negotiation now, Gruendler said, and the only sticking point for the borough is the contract's length. The police department would prefer a longer contract, while the borough wants something shorter, he said.

But there aren't any complaints with the service York Area Regional provides to Jacobus, the mayor said.

"We’re quite pleased," he said, "and we’re looking forward to a successful contract renewal come December."

The York Area Regional Police Department provides police services to York Township, Windsor Township, and Dallastown, Yoe, Spring Grove and Jacobus boroughs.

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