YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – More than just safety is at stake for some who are against a York County township pulling out of a regional police force.
In a letter released last October, North Codorus supervisors publicized their intent to leave Southwestern Regional Police Department, which currently serves four municipalities.
Tuesday evening, residents held a rally in front of the Township building before supervisors were set to meet; signs said “LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE” and “SAVE POLICE”.
A former Southwestern officer among the ralliers said if North Codorus — which pays 48% of Southwestern’s budget — were to leave, that could jeopardize his pension.
“Well over half, I’d say well over half of my income is my pension,” said Jeff Knouse. “If the whole department goes under, if that happens, then there’s not going to be anybody there to manage the pension plan.”
Knouse rallied with dozens of other residents to keep the regional force, citing response times and familiarity as the two biggest reasons they don’t want their police services to change.
“We have a great police department here. We’ve depended on them, we’ve used them before, their response times are great,” said Ed Schwartz, who’s also upset that supervisors won’t explain why they want to leave Southwestern. “We’re willing to pay more, but the supervisors don’t want to listen to anything we have to say. They sit up there, they have no idea about numbers or anything and they won’t answer any questions.”
At the meeting, Northern York Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel presented a proposal to take over police service for North Codorus. Their bid was for $744,027 a year, with an estimated 170 hours of service needed per week (Northern’s hourly rate equals out to about $84.17).
“This, we believe, is a good fit and we believe it’s a good fit because we’re contiguous with Jackson Township,” said Bentzel.
Northern York already serves Jackson Township and seven other municipalities, and would add four officers to its current 54-officer staff if it took on North Codorus.
Their average response time is five minutes and 49 seconds, according to Bentzel. “Response times are something that every citizen in every municipality is concerned about. It’s a legitimate concern,” he said.
Bentzel’s officers are assigned to districts, with calls forwarded to the appropriate officer assigned to that area. That way, someone across town isn’t responding.
“We prioritize our calls and we get there as soon as we can. We understand what emergencies are,” said Bentzel.
Residents, meanwhile, just want their concerns to be heard and valued.
“Listen to the people, you know,” said Schwartz. “It’s a democracy. You’re supposed to listen to the people who voted you in.”
All three supervisors refused to speak with ABC27 about criticism raised by residents. They have previously hinted that they want to leave Southwestern because of the board that governs the department; it’s made up of representatives from Spring Grove and the townships of North Codorus, Manheim and Heidelburg, the four areas Southwestern Regional police serve.
If selected, Northern York’s proposal would start January 1, 2020, and be for at least five years.
The West Manchester Police Department has also submitted a bid for a 10-year-contract at $825,000 per year.