As municipal officials around New Jersey and Pennsylvania consider merging police forces, seeking savings in a tough economy, they are finding that significant savings are no certainty, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. With dwindling financial help from state leaders, some local officials are pursuing mergers even though residents typically fight hard to save their departments. “Politically, it’s difficult to sell to constituents,” said William Dressel Jr. of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities.
The N.J. Department of Community Affairs is aware of only 16 communities out of 566 that have taken the leap, while Pennsylvania officials report there are fewer than 40 regional departments out of more than 1,100 police departments. To improve the numbers, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine has proposed setting aside $32 million for towns to study mergers. In Pennsylvania, the Department of Community and Economic Development has a 70-page guide to help local leaders go through the process. The Inquirer gives examples of various proposed police mergers. Dressel says such consolidations can be difficult. “How do you reconcile two chiefs, two lieutenants, two captains, and their pensions?” he said. While he believes the mergers should be evaluated, he says he isn’t sure they “automatically will translate into dollar savings.”