HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania State Troopers Association President Bruce A. Edwards said current state budget proposals by Gov. Edward G. Rendell and the state Senate fail to provide funding needed during the 2009-10 budget cycle for hiring cadets – a situation that, if not addressed, could seriously jeopardize Pennsylvania public safety.
Last week, Rendell cut an additional $5 million from his proposed budget for the Pennsylvania State Police.
“This concerns every rank-and-file trooper because our complement is currently down 261 troopers,” Edwards said. “Two cadet classes this year will at most fill 140 of those positions. Once annual retirements take affect next year, we will see the number of unfilled slots increase again, leaving our department undermanned by 300 or more troopers.
“The uncomfortable truth is if either of these budget proposals is enacted, our department will be severely understaffed and stretched to its limit. We have yet to see a budget proposal that would provide Pennsylvania State Police with the $20 million needed to recruit, equip and train enough cadets to offset the retirements. Even then, we’ll still be well below our authorized complement.”
Recent attempts to secure federal dollars through stimulus funding and other grant programs that could be used for cadet classes have failed. The only option is to use state dollars.
“Continuing to place the safety of Pennsylvania residents on the hope and prayer of federal funding is misguided and dangerous,” Edwards said. “The PSTA calls on the legislature and Gov. Rendell to fulfill their constitutional requirement of providing for the public’s safety. With 300 or more anticipated openings, funding must be provided to place at least 200 cadets into the academy during the 2009/10 budget period.”
To make matters worse, proposed state budgets do not take into account that 19 more municipalities have eliminated their local police forces and now rely exclusively on the state police for coverage, which further stress a department already stretched too thin.
“Law enforcement duties are simply too important to leave short changed,” Edwards said. “When state police provide the sole police coverage for 85 percent of the Commonwealth it’s simply not realistic that severe understaffing can be glossed over or ignored without placing the safety of Pennsylvania’s citizens at serious risk.”