Pennsylvania bill would add 10,000 police officers

| 11/1/2006

In an effort to stem an increase in violent crime in the state, the Pennsylvania House has approved a bill that would add 10,000 police officers across the state. The price tag is $450 million.

House lawmakers voted 175-20 Oct. 24 to send the bill back to the Senate for approval of changes. If approved, the bill - SB812 - would head to the governor's desk.

Sponsored by House Speaker John Perzel, R-Philadelphia, the bill would require counties to pay 30 percent - $135 million - of the cost for the new officers and municipalities would pay 20 percent - $90 million. The state would pick up the tab for the remaining 50 percent - $225 million.

Opponents say the bill could cause a problem for financially strapped communities. Commissioners in Westmoreland County, PA, said a local tax increase likely would be required to offset the cost, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

Supporters deny it would present a hardship for county governments.

"It's not a mandate. It's their choice, and counties can choose not to participate," Al Bowman, a spokesman for Perzel, told the Tribune Review.

Officers would be added during the next four years using a distribution formula that takes into account the existing number of officers, crime rate and population. That would amount to about 2,600 hires annually throughout the state.