LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro met with Lancaster City community leaders and police chiefs from the region Tuesday, Sept. 28, in a closed-door meeting. The topic of conversation was the challenges police departments are facing across the state, with Lancaster as a perfect example.
Officials say they are focused on preparing a new generation to consider a career in law enforcement, so they, too, can affect change. The meeting took place Tuesday at 10:45 a.m. followed by brief remarks from AG Shapiro and others.
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“More is being asked from this noble profession than ever before, the pressures are higher than ever and the mission the public has asked officers continues to grow,” AG Shapiro said.
AG Shapiro, Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace, Police Chief John Bey, and other chiefs also discussed their work to find solutions to a number of issues, including the ongoing recruitment and retention problems and the spotlight on the use of force by police, which is something Chief Bey is focused on changing.
“This is not a sexy career anymore. There is a national narrative out there that kind of paints with a wide brush about police officers being inherently evil and racist and I can tell you that that is not the case,” Chief Bey said.
Right now, Lancaster City Police Department is down to 138 officers, seven fewer than it is budgeted for. While staffing is not an immediate issue, it could be soon with the inevitable retirements of veteran officers, and fewer applicants wanting to come on board.
“By the time the officer has gone through the academy and had the training in the department where they are serving, we’re talking about two years,” Mayor Sorace said.
Lancaster is looking hard to find officers that reflect the community they serve, especially women and bilingual officers.
“It comes down to more than just dollars and cents, but you have to really talk about how they can be really effective in their communities and be a part of anything that goes on that is positive and how they can affect change,” Chief Bey said.
They also discussed the need to tackle the root issues that are at the heart of the violence in the community, especially poverty, lack of education, and mental health resources.
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