Pa. legislators want to add 10,000 more officers statewide

By Tom Barnes
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

HARRISBURG, Pa. Two Pittsburgh-area legislators are pushing a bill that would add 10,000 municipal police officers around the state at a cost of $56 million.

"The primary function of government is to protect people,'' said Rep. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler, who was a Shaler police officer for 27 years before winning election to the state Legislature last year.

He and another freshman, Rep. Jim Marshall, R-Big Beaver, plus some local law enforcement officers, will hold a news conference today at the Shaler Police Department to urge public support for House Bill 1189, which would add the 10,000 officers in towns around the state over a four-year period.

The funding formula may prove to be a problem for some legislators. It calls for taking $11.5 million from the administrative accounts of each of the four caucuses House and Senate Republicans and Democrats and adding another $10 million from the state's general fund, said Mr. Vulakovich. He said that adding police is more important than personnel and administrative functions of the four caucuses.

The bill to hire additional municipal police was first introduced in the previous term by then-House Speaker John Perzel, R-Philadelphia. It was passed by the House but stalled in the Senate.

There was concern by some legislators that it might be tilted toward helping Philadelphia hire police to fight its growing murder rate.

The new bill sets several priorities for police hiring. The state attorney general would make the decisions, and towns with fewer than 20 police officers would get the first chance to apply for more.

Second consideration would go to communities with 20 to 100 officers, Mr. Vulakovich said. Other factors that would be used in deciding which towns get more officers are the per-capita crime rate of a community and the overall population of a community.

Copyright 2007 The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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