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If East Pittsburgh Disbands Its Police Department, It Would Be An Unusual Step In Allegheny County

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
The East Pittsburgh Police Department has come under fire for allegedly having no policies on use of force.

The community where a police officer fatally shot Antwon Rose in June might get rid of its police department. East Pittsburgh officials said last month they’d consider paying another agency to police their borough.

Data show it would be rare move. Fewer than one in five communities in Allegheny County rely on other municipalities, the county, or the state for law enforcement.

George Dougherty, a public policy professor at the University of Pittsburgh, said residents sometimes thinks it’s less expensive to outsource police services rather than to fund their own force.

He notes, however, it’s an unpopular choice for several reasons.

“Each of these communities develops their own culture - they have their own history, their own background,” Dougherty said. “And people have grown up for generations seeing a police car with the name of their town on the side of it.”

Dougherty said some communities don’t spend much on police and have become used to a low level of service. Other municipalities, meanwhile, might worry the quality of service will decline if it's shared with other communities.

Dougherty said municipalities aren’t guaranteed to save money by outsourcing law enforcement. To serve more communities, he said, an agency might need to hire more officers or spend more on other resources.

In addition, to maintain a well-trained force that provides a high level of service, communities might need to spend more still. Dougherty said such investment can be beneficial.

"Better-quality police service can mean a higher perception of safety in the community, which can lead to people investing more, not only in their private properties," he said, "but [also] people outside of the community being more willing to invest in those communities."

The following municipalities in Allegheny County don’t manage their own police force, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development:

  • Aleppo Township (contracts from Ohio Township)
  • Ben Avon Borough (contracts from Ohio Township)
  • Ben Avon Heights Borough (contracts from Ohio Township)
  • Bradford Woods Borough (belongs to the Northern Regional Police Department)
  • Chalfant Borough (contracts from Forest Hills Borough)
  • Dravosburg Borough (contracts from McKeesport City)
  • Emsworth Borough (contracts from Ohio Township)
  • Glen Osborne Borough (contracts from Sewickley Borough)
  • Glenfield Borough (covered by Pennsylvania State Police)
  • Haysville Borough (covered by Pennsylvania State Police)
  • Kilbuck Township (contracts from Ohio Township)
  • Marshall Township (belongs to the Northern Regional Police Department)
  • Neville Township  (contracts from Ohio Township)
  • Pennsbury Village Borough (contracts from Carnegie Borough)
  • Pine Township (belongs to the Northern Regional Police Department)
  • Richland Township (belongs to the Northern Regional Police Department)
  • Rosslyn Farms Borough (contracts from Scott Township)
  • Sewickley Hills Borough (contracts from Ohio Township)
  • South Versailles Township (contracts from White Oak Borough)
  • Thornburg Borough (contracts from Crafton Borough)
  • Wall Borough (contracts from East McKeesport Borough)
  • West Elizabeth Borough (contracts from Elizabeth Borough)
  • Wilmerding Borough (contracts from Allegheny County)
An-Li Herring is a reporter for 90.5 WESA, with a focus on economic policy, local government, and the courts. She previously interned for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in Washington, DC, and the investigations team at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A Pittsburgh native, An-Li completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan and earned her law degree from Stanford University. She can be reached at aherring@wesa.fm.