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Officials to deliberate regional law enforcement in Armstrong

| Thursday, May 15, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

Officials from several communities want to meet with local law enforcement officials and magistrates to discuss how a regional police force would work in Armstrong County.

About a half-dozen officials from Ford City, East Franklin, West Kittanning, Manor and North Buffalo want to talk to them about the logistics of pooling resources to start a regional police force in central Armstrong County.

Manor Township Supervisor Paul Rearick said meeting with local magistrates and police officials could help the group better understand costs and how many officers would be needed to cover several communities in the county.

“We need to understand how coverage would work and how it would be funded,” Rearick said. “These people might be able to give us a better perspective of how it would work.”

While the group plans to keep seeking information on a regionalized police, several officials remain skeptical.

“Our communities cover a wide area, and we're going to need lots of people to provide service,” said East Franklin Supervisor Barry Peters. “Once we start employing all these people, I don't know how it'd end up being any cheaper.”

West Kittanning Mayor Jim Sobiski said he plans to continue regional police discussions, but he thinks his borough may be better off contracting services from neighboring Kittanning.

Carol Augustine, a member of the West Kittanning police committee, agreed. She wants to see details before supporting a regionalized force.

West Kittanning hopes to either contract or join a regional police force to have constant police coverage, instead of relying on two part-time officers. Augustine said borough officials aren't sure the regional police force could provide that amount of coverage.

“This regional police force is not a sure thing and probably wouldn't give us someone in the borough around the clock,” Augustine said. “If we joined and had to disband our police, and this didn't work, then we would be stuck with nothing.”

Rearick said few people in Manor talk about regionalized police or even contracting patrols from another department. But those he has discussed the idea with have been supportive, but only if it improves police coverage in the township, he said.

“The people I've talked to are in favor of something, as long as it's done properly,” Rearick said. “It could be a good thing for all of our communities, but if it's just to get rid of some people and change patches on uniforms, I can't support that.”

The group plans to meet publicly with police and judicial officials on June 11 in the Armstrong County Courthouse.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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