Gov. Tom Corbett said on Tuesday his 2013-14 budget would pay to hire 290 state police cadets and 90 civilian police dispatchers to brace the state police against a wave of expected retirements and growing demands from rural communities without police forces.
“This is, by no means, going to catch us up to where we need to be, but it’s a start,” Corbett said during a news conference at the state police barracks in Moon.
State police Commissioner Frank Noonan said scores of retirements would offset some of the cost of the hires. He estimated the hiring would increase the bureau’s costs about $38 million.
“We need to start thinking about how we are providing police services, particularly in suburban and rural places,” Corbett said, noting state police patrol municipalities without police forces. “That’s a lot of miles, a lot of acreage, and those municipalities are not contributing at all to the cost of the state police.”
Corbett said the state can afford the additional staffing in part because the Legislature last year passed a bill that dedicates half of traffic fines issued by state police to a state police academy fund. Lawmakers estimated it would generate about $4 million a year.
“Before that, it went to the municipality and the county, I guess, and it wasn’t getting to the state police at all,” Corbett said.
Ninety cadets are set to begin 27 weeks of training next month at the Pennsylvania State Police Academy in Hershey under the state’s budget.
The additional 290 cadets would be phased in over three classes slated to start in August, November and April 2014. It wasn’t clear where they would be stationed.
In the 2012-13 fiscal year, 136 state police retired or said they plan to do so. Corbett’s office said 1,243 troopers are eligible to retire by the end of June. In a similar announcement in February, Corbett said the state would hire 115 troopers.
State police have about 4,100 troopers; the 2012-13 budget authorized up to 4,680. Corbett said hiring dispatchers would free troopers to patrol.
Joseph Kovel, president of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association, urged the Legislature to protect the money budgeted for hiring.
On top of retirements, Kovel said troopers are contending with heavier workloads because they are conducting more roadside truck inspections, responding to more traffic accidents and fielding more calls for help related to natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale.
Corbett plans to give his annual budget address next Tuesday.