Shapiro promotes multi-million-dollar spending plan to recruit, retain Pa. police

By: - March 23, 2023 1:15 pm

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks during a press conference to promote his proposed budget at the Mercyhurst Municipal Police Academy in Erie County on Thursday, March 23, 2023. (Screenshot)

As part of his $44.4 billion budget proposal, Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro pitched a multi-million-dollar investment in Pennsylvania police.

On Thursday, he promoted his plans to recruit and retain more police officers statewide — estimating that the state is short roughly 1,200 municipal officers — with a suggested three-year $2,500 tax credit to incentivize working in the commonwealth and a proposed $16.4 million for four new cadet classes to train an estimated 384 Pennsylvania State Police troopers.

“I believe fundamentally Pennsylvanians have a right to both be safe and feel safe in their communities,” Shapiro said during a stop at the Mercyhurst Municipal Police Academy in Erie County. “And that means having enough police officers to patrol our communities and making sure those police officers are properly trained.”

The City of Erie Police Chief Dan Spizarny explained that large southern cities, including Atlanta, Houston, and Miami, have looked to recruit for their law enforcement agencies in Erie for years, pulling from those enrolled at Mercyhurst University, Gannon University, and PennWest Edinboro.

“When I was applying for a job way back, hundreds took the police test for the Erie Police Department,” he said. “While the rest of the country has been critically short of talent, the Erie area has been exporting many talented students across the country.”

Erie has seen a decline in the number of candidates, going from nearly 100 three years ago to 46 this year, Spizarny said, adding that 26 agencies pull from that list of candidates. The Erie Police Department, he said, has a complement of 194 sworn officers, but it’s down 15 officers.

“We’re extremely concerned with what the future holds,” he said. “I personally believe that we may have only 30-some candidates by next year’s list — again, supplying 26 agencies in the area. We’re reaching a critical time. We’re concerned. We need help.”

Shapiro’s proposal, Spizarny said, offers some relief to local law enforcement, finding ways to incentivize the profession and ensuring cadets receive the training they need to serve their communities.

José Montes, a cadet at the Mercyhurst Police Academy, said the governor’s proposed spending plan puts law enforcement “in a better position to serve and protect,” applauding the suggested tax credit.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have already started a series of budget hearings with state agencies and universities to discuss appropriations for the upcoming budget. A signed spending plan must be in place by the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

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