Shippensburg Police Department

 

Fred A. Scott, Chief of Police

 

60 West Burd Street ~ Shippensburg, Pennsylvania 17257 ~ Department: 717.532.7361 Fax: 717.532.2313
 

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Police shortage hurts Ship

By Dale Heberlig, Sentinel Reporter
Last updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 4:57 PM EST

The nationwide shortage of police officers is a problem that weighs heavily in the Borough of Shippensburg, where Chief Fred Scott constantly juggles his lineup to make ends meet.

With one patrolman on an extended disability leave and the ranks of part-time cops quickly shrinking, Scott’s able-bodied officers (six full-timers and three part-timers) are forced to pick up the slack with frequent overtime.

The workload demands unusual department policies.

“I’ve had to deny leave lately, because I need guys on the road,” Scott says. “That’s something I never had to do before.”

Borough council is also taking steps to change hiring practices to make police jobs in Shippensburg more attractive.
Physical standards have already been relaxed slightly, and lawyers are refining the language in a rule change to make it possible to hire a prospective officer who has not yet achieved Act 120 certification.

Not just local

It’s a song sung from coast to coast and border to border.

Kim Kohlhepp, manager of the International Association of Chiefs of Police center for testing and career development, says staffing numbers is always among the top concerns for any police department.

He says Shippensburg’s plight is not unusual.

“They are not alone,” Kohlhepp says. “Many, many others have similar problems.”

He says the reasons vary geographically, and suggests low unemployment numbers here may contribute to the problem.

Double duty

The borough has sought police candidates since January, 2007 when veteran patrolman Dave Lively retired. Scott says a handful of part-time officers he used have also moved on to full-time work elsewhere or quit for other reasons.

“I had six or eight part-timers a year ago, now I’m down to three,” says the chief.

One full-time officer — injured on the job — has been unable to work since July.

It means double-duty for those left on the roster.

No one is complaining.

“We do what we have to do,” says Patrolman Mike Rinaldi. “Sometimes it’s a double shift. Other times, we stay over for half of the next shift, and the next guy comes in early.”

Rinaldi won’t discuss scheduling specifics for security reasons, but says the pace takes it toll.

“It starts to wear on you physically after a while. You feel like you never get enough a rest, and this time of year it’s easier to get sick when you’re tired.”

Bob Van Scyoc is one of three part-timers the department leans on.

Van Scyoc retired as a sergeant six years ago after 23 years as a full-time Shippensburg cop, including a stint as temporary chief.

He decided to stay on as a part-timer, and his recent workload is growing. He says two patrol shifts a month has grown to a half dozen a month lately.

Less interest

“There was a day when you had to fight off the people interesting in police work,” he says. “It seems like there isn’t much interest anymore.”

The local numbers support that thought.

Scott says he’s advertised for candidates twice in the past year in an effort to create a list of available candidates.

He says six people filed applications the first time around.

“Three showed up to take the test and they all failed,” he says.

The second round of advertising generated just two applications. Only one pass, then that applicant promptly withdrew from consideration prior to a background check.

Salaries

Scott says there are probably several factors contributing to the problem locally.

One is money. The starting salary for a patrolman in Shippensburg is $32,600. That figure ranks below the national average of $38,569 for municipal cops.

Money is not the only factor, Scott says.

“Police work is not what it used to be,” he says. ‘Who wants a job that you have to work nights, weekends and holidays and have people call you names?” he asks.

Scott says public disrespect for cops is growing.

“When I started out, people would own up to it when they did something wrong. Nowadays there’s always a challenge. Everything’s adversarial.”

No vacations?

The seasonal crunch of spring and summer is approaching fast.

Rinaldi says, “We’re going to need time to cut our lawns and people are going to want summer vacations.”

There’s no relief in sight, though.

If the borough council approves the hire of a candidate without Act 120 certification, that candidate becomes a cop only after completion of a 20-week training period. The next class doesn’t start at Harrisburg Area Community College until June.

The math isn’t complicated. In that scenario, there’s no relief before fall.

A qualified, Act 120-certified candidate, would be a godsend.

“Then we’d only need a couple of months to train them — teach them the difference between theory and reality,” Scott says.

In the near term, it looks like more overtime for the department’s members — including Chief Scott, who fills overtime needs along with his officers.

“I’m pulling extra hours, too,” he says. “For example, I worked Christmas, and other chiefs ask me why. I tell them I was hired as a working chief.”
 

 

  

 

  

 

 

Shippensburg Police Department  Phone - 717-532-7361  Fax - 717-532-2313        Last Modified :01/30/12 11:28 PM          Copyright 2008