You may have read about the discussions Seven Fields Borough is having with Cranberry over the cost of their police protection, something we have provided them on a contract basis for nearly 20 years now. So, for the record, here’s what’s going on.
Seven Fields approached us about two months ago and said they couldn’t afford their current police protection. So they asked if we could continue providing that coverage, but at a lower cost. Our response was that if we lowered the price, Borough residents would get the same high-quality police protection as Cranberry residents, but for less than our residents themselves had to pay. In effect, Cranberry residents would be subsidizing their neighbors’ police service.
Three years ago, when we negotiated our current agreement, the on-going cost of police protection was the Number One issue for the Borough and that had to be resolved. So we jointly called in a Police Services consultant to help craft a new agreement – one that addressed future costs for the Borough, along with the need to be fair to Cranberry’s taxpayers. That goal was accomplished, and a new agreement was approved by both governing bodies, extending police coverage through the end of 2016. It was the fourth such agreement worked out between two neighboring communities.
Today, however, the Borough’s revenues are flat and Seven Fields is at the stage in their municipal lifecycle where they need to make tough decisions about their priorities. We realize that. At the same time, though, it wasn’t all that long ago that we worked hard to arrive at the current agreement, which we had thought was the answer. But to provide Seven Fields with the same level of police protection as the residents of Cranberry Township for less than our residents pay, or to lower the level of police protection that both communities receive, would violate the premise our Board of Supervisors established when that contract relationship began in 1993.
At the same time, however, I do believe it’s possible for the Borough to obtain police protection at a lower cost. Lots of communities in our region already do, generally by cutting back patrols, reducing service levels, hiring part-time officers, and leaning more on state troopers. And there are probably other communities in the area who would be happy to provide pieces of that arrangement for Seven Fields for less than Cranberry would have to charge.
We have gone to great lengths to make sure Borough officials understood our department’s high level of expertise, training, equipment and investigation capabilities – qualities which are unmatched among municipal police forces in Butler County. And when you compare the terms of our current contract with Seven Fields against those municipalities in Allegheny County which also contract out police service, it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison; local police departments there don’t need the expertise to investigate major crimes – that’s provided by Allegheny County’s Police Department. But here in Butler County, we don’t have that luxury; it’s either municipal police or state police. However, even though our state police are highly qualified, they are spread too thin to provide the level of service our residents expect.
So we will continue working through this process with Seven Fields. But as we do, we will also do our best to make sure that the facts are presented fairly and that the ultimate decisions are based on those facts and not on misunderstandings of what’s actually involved in providing police protection.
If you would like to read the current Agreement between Seven Fields and the Township, just click here.
As always, I would appreciate your thoughts and comments on this topic. Write to me at: email@example.com