Open records office rules state police must release trooper numbers
By Paul Peirce
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 1:30 p.m.
The state Office of Open Records has overturned a state police decision not to release the number of troopers assigned to each barracks because it could threaten public safety.
In a ruling released on Wednesday, the office overseeing the state's Right to Know Law sided with state Rep. Timothy Mahoney, a Fayette County Democrat who has attempted since last spring to obtain the information about the busy Uniontown barracks, which is in the heart of his district.
In July, Mahoney appealed the agency's decision to the open records office.
Mahoney said he was pleased that the office sided with him.
“Now I just hope the Corbett administration and state police don't appeal it,” he said.
“We don't need to waste money. These records should be open to the public, and I don't want to see wasted money when we could be using that money to put more patrols on the road,” he said. “All of us should be fighting in the same direction — seeking funding for police patrols.”
State police officials did not respond to requests for comment.
In his appeal, Mahoney maintained that the disclosure would enable the public and state lawmakers to better understand the agency's manpower problems and help efforts to improve police patrols.
In a nine-page opinion, Office of Open records Assistant Chief Counsel J. Chadwick Schnee said “ ... it is true that individuals could monitor PSP barracks and make various estimates as to how many troopers are currently on duty for nefarious purposes.”
But, he added, that “is not in any way dependent on the release of the current working trooper complement assigned to the Uniontown barracks.”
Schnee said Mahoney did not seek information about when officers would be on duty, so concerns regarding that issue are “inapplicable.”
He noted that the state's Right to Know Law is based on government transparency through public access of documents.
State police have 30 days to provide the information or appeal the decision to Commonwealth Court.
Mahoney requested the number of troopers assigned to the barracks, the number of unfilled or vacant trooper positions and the number of troopers eligible for retirement as of June 30. He made a written request after a verbal request for the figures was denied.
State police granted part of his original request.
In a July 24 letter, Mahoney was told there are 16 vacancies at the Uniontown barracks, and no troopers are eligible for retirement at the present time.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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