‘Free’ police coverage has a high price tag

May 5, 2016

In the last few weeks, editorials and op-ed articles have appeared in newspapers around the state in reaction to the Associated Press story about “free” state police coverage.

pspThe AP noted that nearly half of Pennsylvania’s municipalities rely on the State Police for all of their police protection, and others for at least some coverage. Municipalities are able take advantage of this coverage at no additional cost.

This has increased the cost of operation for the State Police, without any additional revenue to pay for it. Residents of communities that have local police forces or participate in regional police coverage pay twice – for their local coverage, and for State Police coverage in municipalities that rely on State Police.

Gerald Cross, executive director of the Pennsylvania Economy League Central Division, commented about this problem with an op-ed article published in several newspapers. You can read the entire article here.

“Mandating that all 2,561 municipalities have their own police departments is unrealistic. One alternative is to require payment for state police services,” Cross wrote. “A more comprehensive and long-term, albeit more complicated, option is to create a mechanism for local government tax-base sharing to deliver all types of critical services more effectively on a regional level. One thing is clear: A wide-ranging discussion of how local governments in Pennsylvania provide services is long overdue.”

The growing cost leads the General Assembly and administration to divert increasing resources from the Motor License Fund.  More than $800 million is proposed to be shifted from the Motor License Fund to pay for the State Police in the 2016-17 fiscal year budget. This means that fewer transportation improvement projects will be funded.

“The growing cost to the State Police for providing local police coverage should not come at the expense of transportation improvement projects,” PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner said. “Act 89 was a huge step forward in improving our roads and bridges, but it cannot work as well as it should if increasing transportation dollars continue to be used for ‘free’ State Police coverage.”


One Comment on this post.

  1. Chupacabra
    May 9, 2016 at 11:17 pm
  2. Local police are expensive. In communities with local police departments, the cost is often the largest annual expenditure. Pennsylvania Economy League research shows that the total tax revenue in some cities has declined to the point that it fails to cover the escalating cost of services like police. This can lead municipalities to cut staff in their police departments, replace full-time officers with less expensive, but less effective, part-timers or even eliminate their local police protection.