An independent, multi-faceted study of Richland Township’s police department, the first of its kind since 2008, has provided residents with not-unexpected, encouraging news.
Supervisors had requested the study as part of their ongoing consideration of the township’s annual budget, which they have noted will be hard-pressed to sustain the police department at its current levels of service and staffing without a tax increase. They have noted the 2020 budget dodged such an increase already only through unexpected, one-time revenue sources.
Highlights of the four man-day study were presented at the March 9 public board of supervisors meeting by Dave Mettin, who performed the review, as well as “8-10 others,” as a consultant for the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED). Mettin also serves full time as police chief in Plumstead Township, whose force is similar in size to Richland’s.
Mettin said he gathered information through statements from the department; a review of its policies; an in-person tour; area surveys; and interviews. In summary, he found the current staffing of 15 full-time officers, plus one half-time officer for truck inspections, to be “in order,” a conclusion reached in part by comparison to other municipalities on a per-capita basis. He noted Richland’s was among the lowest in the county on that basis, and easily justified the addition of another full-time officer. To meet the average nationwide, Richland’s staffing would be 21 officers.
Mettin noted calls for service and service hours could justify 18 officers, while pointing out financial considerations were still part of the picture. Crime rates, crime severity, and solving crimes were considered, with the department rated as “doing well” in those regards. The rate for serious offenses was about the same as it was countywide.
He praised the department’s record management system as “up to date,” with officers able to enter information from their vehicles. He recommended annual testing on policies and annual performance evaluations, as well as review of adequate officer deployment at peak times, which he said was “probably already done.”
The department’s facility on California Road was rated highly for “design, function, technology and security,” and vehicles were “in good condition, and well-equipped to help keep officers safe.” Mettin concluded that “kudos were in order all-around,” including for financial management.
Commenting on the presentation, Supervisor Chair Tim Arnold said there was “no doubt it would turn out like this,” with the current number of officers on staff justified “under every possible scenario,” especially considering “one of the 15 is actually a school resource officer.” Following brief discussion with his fellow supervisors, all agreed to consider the cost of adding another full-time officer, as part of pro-active planning for optimal staff size going forward, including review of present overtime use, within a theme of “don’t short-change to save a dollar.”