York City revisits police staffing proposal

Noel Miller
York Dispatch

York City Council is expected to revisit a proposal that would allow the city to hire more police officers, weeks after the police union criticized a broader ordinance that included other changes.

When the ordinance changes first appeared on the agenda for the Oct. 4 council meeting, it was met with fierce opposition from the Fraternal Order of the Police. Although it would allow the force to grow, the police union objected to a provision that would allow the police commissioner to name a commander for the city's detectives, a new position.

However, the hiring cap could still make it through the council, as the two items “do not need to go hand-in-hand,” police Capt. Dan Lentz said.

The council has not received updates from the police union or the city administration about the issue since the Oct. 4 council meeting, Council President Sandie Walker said Tuesday. However, a representative from the police union will likely be at a committee meeting Wednesday night to discuss the matter.

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The police union said the appointment of a detective commander by the commissioner “is a violation of the membership's right to promotions through testing," according to a grievance filed against the city.

The detective commander position should be filled like any other civil service position — and not appointed by the commissioner, said Benjamin Praster, the police union president.

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While no final decision will be made at the committee meeting, it may provide clarification on where the parties involved stand on the proposed changes.

The ordinance itself would remove language in city code capping police staffing at 100 officers, unless outside funding is obtained. Currently, the department has 101 full time officers who cover a city of nearly 45,000 residents.

Cities comparable in size to York, such as Lancaster and Harrisburg, employ well over 100 officers. Lancaster has 147 officers for its 57,000 residents while Harrisburg has 128 officers for its 50,000 residents, according to the respective departments.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the national average for departments is to have 3.4 officers per 1,000 residents. York City currently sits at 2.4 officers per 1,000 — a number that would increase to 2.7 if York City Police Commissioner Michael Muldrow's proposed hiring of 22 new officers becomes a reality.

The 6 p.m. meeting can be viewed on the White Rose Community TV YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/c/WhiteRoseCommunityTV.

— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.