Elizabethtown Police Chief Jack Mentzer noted something odd when discussing how his agency’s hiring procedure differs from that of the Northwest Regional and Susquehanna Regional police departments: He has to follow a civil service hiring procedure set up in the 1950s and his colleagues in the regional police forces don’t.
Surely it made sense at the time to impose a rigid set of hiring procedures on police departments. If police chiefs were given free rein to hire anyone they want, a few of them wouldn’t handle it well and would hire their friends over more qualified candidates they did not know.
But the particular set of rules that Mr. Mentzer has to follow only applies to certain police departments – the ones run by boroughs, first-class townships and third-class cities. Second-class townships (which are the overwhelming majority of the townships in Pennsylvania) and regional police departments, even those that serve boroughs like Susquehanna Regional, have much greater flexibility in hiring.
How does this make sense? There’s a good argument to be made for a rigid hiring procedure – but why make it apply only to certain police forces?
Because Pennsylvania’s civil service rules do not apply to regional forces that serve boroughs, these legal restrictions give an incentive for boroughs to enter into regional police departments just to get around the hiring restrictions. Maybe entering into a regional force is good idea, but getting around civil service restrictions is the wrong reason to do it.
The state Legislature ought to re-examine this. There’s an argument to be made for keeping civil service hiring restrictions, but if they’re good for boroughs, they ought to apply to second-class townships and regional police forces. Imposing them only on certain police forces but not on others makes no sense whatsoever.
The preceding editorial is the opinion of The Elizabethtown Advocate. The Advocate aims to give its readers a wide variety of opinions.