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State Police Concerned Over Declining Officer Numbers

The Pennsylvania State Police worry that as more troopers retire and fewer new cadets come on board, the numbers of officers will fall to a critical level.

"We anticipate retirements expected in the coming years could reduce the number of troopers, by 2015, about 765 fewer than what the department's authorized complement is," said Maria Finn, press secretary for the State Police.

This year alone, 180 officers have announced they will be retiring. More than 220 are likely to retire by the end of June, which is higher than the typical average of 150 retirements per year.

The problem is that the number of new troopers is not keeping pace with the number of outgoing troopers. Some recent cadet training classes were canceled, and though one is planned for this summer, it's not enough, and the situation could get worse.

"Each cost for a class is about $7.9 million, but it's not enough to make up for the retirements. 115 cadets would be maybe 93, 94 that actually graduate and move on," said Finn, "so the number of troopers could be 1,000 below authorized levels by 2014, 2015."

The department is looking at ways to make do. The state police commissioner this week outlined the issue to joint House and Senate judiciary committee members. He said more funding for more classes would be helpful, but understands the governor's budget constraints. In the meantime, many options are being examined.

"There are difficult choices: closing barracks, consolidating some of them. They're going to look at every station, and they're working on a plan to put more troopers on the road with what we have right now, but I can tell you it's going to be one of those decisions where not everyone is going to be happy," said Finn.

The one thing that worries officers and residents is what impacts a smaller state police fleet would have on the state. Finn said the effects would likely be great.

"There's hundreds of smaller rural towns that don't have local police, and we are the only law enforcement officers, so when more towns are relying on the state police, they're going to drop their local police, we're going to have to pick that up, there's going to be more strain, more response time issues, and those types of things," she said.

The state police budget request for fiscal year 2012-2013 is $187 million, a slight increase over this year's budget. A final budget is expected to be passed by legislators by late June, before taking effect July 1.