EDITORIAL: It's right to question police spending

The York Dispatch Editorial Board
Community members gather to meet candidates in New Freedom, Saturday, April 13, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Eighty-four percent: It's a number that should haunt North Codorus officials and any right-thinking taxpayer.

That's how much of the York County township's total property tax revenue was spent this year on its membership in Southwestern Regional Police Department. At more than $1 million, it's the kind of cash that could be filling potholes or funding libraries.

Any local official would be derelict in his or her duties if they simply rubber-stamped that relatively massive expense year after year without considering alternatives.

But township Supervisor Randy Shearer finds himself swarmed by a sloganeering political bloc that considers even the most legitimate fiscal concerns anti-cop.

Shearer isn't alone, either. A slew of candidates are crusading to oust the entire New Freedom Borough Council, which, this past year, merely questioned if its membership in Southern Regional Police Department was worth the hefty cost.

More:Police debate fuels political challenge in North Codorus

More:Police debate fuels political challenge in North Codorus

New Freedom officials ultimately backed down and remained in Southern Regional. But even so, they apparently violated an unwritten rule of political correctness: Any cost-benefit analysis is taboo if cops are involved. 

Shearer, who also sits on Southwestern Regional's police board, might still back down. Or his colleagues in North Codorus could out-vote him. With budgetary deadlines looming, North Codorus' push for a better deal with another department could find itself poisoned by a $1 million contractual penalty, which Southwestern Regional officials claim the township would owe if it bolts.

But this past week, North Codorus, received two bids from other departments that could provide police service with an annual savings of more than $100,000. That would be a significant boon for local taxpayers, assuming township officials can broker a less onerous exit fee with Southwestern. 

At the very least, North Codorus officials have found that better deals are out there. 

Political challenge are part of any healthy democratic process. Too often, small towns struggle to field viable candidates, a reality that usually breeds good ol' boy cronyism.

But challengers need a viable, informed platform. That's lacking in both North Codorus and New Freedom. 

Shearer's opponent, Denny Ilyes, offered only a terse response when asked about his bid. 

"It's all about the police," he said.

No mentions of controlling costs. No consideration of other issues facing the township of about 9,000 residents. Ilyes' entire platform is rooted in credulous devotion to the status quo and an unfounded accusation that Shearer has a personal vendetta against Southwestern Regional.

In New Freedom, too, those seeking to oust borough council members and Mayor Eric Paules lack any semblance of a plan. At a recent campaign event organized by the challengers, they hammered sitting elected officials for questioning the cost of police. They assailed council members who ultimately voted to remain in Southern Regional for, somehow, not showing enough support for law enforcement. 

And, well ... that was about it — aside from several cryptic catchphrases about "giving the citizens a voice." 

The political upheaval in North Codorus and New Freedom are just examples of a troubling culture that's increasingly hostile to scrutiny and research. It's kin to a movement that considers any debate about those in uniform out of bounds. It's a direct reflection of a society that, without question, pours cash into "security" to the detriment of that which is being secured.

Fiscal responsibility be damned.