Sequestration Cuts in Norristown-Area Police Departments
How could the Congressional decision impact local law enforcement officers?
A series of automated budget cuts known as sequestration are set to hit the federal government’s spending by midnight on Thursday. If Congress does not pass an alternative plan, the forced reductions in budgets will seep down through the states, in to the municipalities, and of course to the area’s residents.
In the Norristown area, things are no different. The community will see an impact, should sequester head into action. What might local residents notice?
According to Chief Dale Mabry, West Norriton Township Police, many worries surround the programs the township has begun to institute in area schools, like the School Resource Officer (SRO) program.
“West Norriton and East Norriton just submitted concept papers to PCCD [Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency] in an effort to expand the school resource officer program in the school district,” said Mabry. “Should we be subsequently be chosen to receive a grant, the money for this program would come from Justice Assistance Grants (JAG).”
While the township awaits word on how sequestration will directly impact the police department, Mabry said they are exploring other options for funds.
“The school district and the townships are exploring every possible avenue of funding to maintain the SRO [programs] in the schools,” he said.
Retiring Norristown Police Chief Russell Bono said his department is also anxiously awaiting specific word. His department has already faced reductions in aid over the years.
“A complete cut in these grants would be a significant blow to Norristown in its fight on crime,” said Bono. “The amount we have gotten in the last ten years has continually been reduced to a point where we received about $35,000 last year, from highs in the $100,000 range years ago.”
Bono said his department needs that federal funding to assist with the purchasing of much-needed equipment.
“I have always used the money to purchase needed equipment that would otherwise not be possible to purchase and to help reduce the overtime costs of aggressive patrol details,” he said. “A complete loss of funding would require the municipality to pick up those costs or lose the advantage of having them.”
Like its nearby neighbor Lower Providence, East Norriton used to rely on the funds to get bulletproof vests.
“We no longer seek funds through that grant,” said Karyl Kates, chief of East Norriton Township’s police department. “We were co-recipients in a five-year federal grant that had helped fund the four, school resource officers in the Norristown Area School District, as well as several support and behavioral services.”
Kates said that, come June, the SRO positions will cease to exist unless more funding comes along.
“We, along with West Norriton Township, recently applied for a state grant to help fund the SRO position,” said Kates. “[We are] still waiting to hear if we get selected to proceed, fingers crossed.”
She said that increased reductions will hurt her department much longer than a single fiscal year.
“All I know is that grand funds were already very limited,” said Kates. “And, in my opinion, it will only become more difficult to obtain funding in the future.”