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State police appeal ruling on Fayette legislator's request for trooper numbers

| Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, 12:12 p.m.

Pennsylvania State Police have appealed a ruling by the Office of Open Records in August granting a Fayette County legislator's bid to learn the number of working troopers assigned to the Uniontown barracks.

Attorneys for state police filed the appeal on Friday in Commonwealth Court opposing state Rep. Tim Mahoney's request for the agency to release its trooper staffing numbers, arguing that public knowledge of the information is a threat to public safety.

“(The Office of Open Records) Final Determination is also incorrect as a matter of law because both harm to individuals and threats to public safety are present with the risk of disclosing manpower information at the station level,” state police counsel Jordan G. Spahr of Harrisburg wrote in the four-page appeal.

State police have maintained that someone could monitor state police barracks and estimate how many troopers are on duty at specific times for nefarious purposes.

Mahoney, a South Union Democrat, has attempted since spring to obtain the information about the Uniontown barracks to assure that his district has adequate police protection.

Mahoney said Tuesday that he is baffled by the refusal to release the information.

“To tell you the truth ... I'm shocked they appealed it. I think this is a no-brainer as far as public disclosure under the state's Right-to-Know Law,” he said. “I'm disappointed. We need to know how many officers we currently have on the street.”

Mahoney pointed to Friday's standoff near Uniontown, in which a couple that reportedly was operating a portable methamphetamine led police on a chase, fired shots at officers, then barricaded themselves in a home in North Union Township.

“That's my district. Drug use is pervasive everywhere, and public safety is a priority statewide right now, but we can't obtain information on how many troopers are out on our streets?” Mahoney said.

“And now we're going to waste more money on appeals when we could be spending that money on getting more protection on the streets,” he said. “It's a shame and unnecessary.”

In July, state police declined Mahoney's request to release the number of troopers assigned to each barracks, arguing the information could threaten public safety.

Mahoney appealed the initial decision. On Aug. 28 the Office of Open Records, which oversees the state's Right-to-Know Law, sided with him.

In its ruling the Office of Open Records noted that the state's Right-to-Know Law is based on government transparency through public access of documents.

A hearing date has not been scheduled.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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