Small Mon Valley Police Departments Consider Merger
State to help study feasibility of -- literally -- combining forces
Four small communities southeast of Pittsburgh are talking about combing their police forces, including one where a part-time police officer fatally shot an unarmed teenager last June.
The "Mon Valley" towns of North Braddock, East Pittsburgh, Rankin and Whitaker have asked the state to study whether a merger is a good idea. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the mayor of East Pittsburgh predicts such a consolidation could happen in as little as two years. "Now is the time to do it,"Mayor Louis Payne told the PG.
The merger study will be paid for by the state at no cost to the municipalities
The first step is having the state's Department of Community and Economic Development look at things like the communities' demographics, finances and manpower requirements. Then they'd propose a structure for what the department would look like, how much it would cost to operate, and a road map to get there.
"If we can put our resources together to get a better product, let's do it." Chief Ryan Wooten, Rankin Police Department
Supporters say a merged department would allow these communities, most of which are staffed with a handful of low-paid part-timers, to afford a higher quality force. We would have mostly full-time officers, we would have maybe our own K9 unit, our own detectives, lieutenants, an investigation squad, Mr. Payne told the PG. These are things to build on that none of us have right now. Payne predicts other surrounding communities will join the possible consolidation.
There are currently 36 merged or regional police departments in the state of Pennsylvania
East Pittsburgh disbanded its police force at the end of last year after one of its officers, Michael Rosfeld, fatally shot 17-year old Antwon Rose II. The borough was criticized for failing to have written policies and procedures for its officers. The borough is now patrolled by Pennsylvania State Police.
Want to weigh in on whether a merger is a good idea? All of the communities in the study have city councils, and their meetings are open to the public and allow public comment. Click below for links to their websites where you can find out dates, times and locations of those meetings: