To help Philadelphia deal with gun violence, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell yesterday announced two initiatives that he said could eventually put 170 more police officers on the streets. One programs will provide matching funds to help the city hire 100 officers for street patrol. To participate, the city must pay part of the cost. The second would bring state police in to patrol interstate highways in Philadelphia, which the state this could free up perhaps 70 city officers. The city is already committed to reducing the overall size of the Police Department by nearly that many officers. At a news conference Rendell talked of the crisis in drug trafficking and gun violence, with 219 homicides in the city this year. “The crisis has increased,” he said, “and it is time for action.”
The matching-grant plan, for which Pittsburgh and some other cities also would be eligible, is modeled along the lines of the COPS program adopted by Congress in the 1990s during the Clinton administration. Under the Pennsylvania version, known as Police on Patrol, Philadelphia would get $50,000 per year in state money for three years for every new police officer added to street patrol, beyond those already budgeted, up to a maximum of 100 officers. That’s as much as $5 million per year. “If we have an opportunity to hire an additional 100 officers, heavily subsidized, that’s something we’d regard as good news,” sais Mayor John Street. The city would have to pay the remaining costs of employing the officers – about $15,000 per officer per year – and commit to keep them on the payroll after the state grants cease. Philadelphia has about 6,400 sworn officers.