Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lawmaker: No more 'dark' State Police barracks

In the wake of a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling, state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist., wants Gov. Ed Rendell and State Police to re-open the Skippack barracks on a full time basis.

The Supreme Court ruled Aug. 21 that Rendell did not have the authority to veto language in the 2005-06 budget bill. The vetoed language required a public hearing prior to the closing of any State Police barracks, according to Rafferty.

On Dec. 18, 2006, the State Police began closing the Skippack Barracks for 16 hours every weekday and all weekend, Rafferty said.

Between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, a clerk is available to answer phone calls and assist visitors but after these hours, the barracks "go dark" and all calls and visitors are directed to an automated system that redirects the caller or visitor to a Consolidated Dispatch Center.

"My concern is for the public safety. People expect that a state trooper will be at barracks when they go there." said Rafferty, who is chairman of the Senate Law & Justice Committee.

"The Senate was very concerned about the safety of Pennsylvania residents who may need to go to a State Police barracks, and inserted this language into the budget bill," Rafferty added. "Unfortunately the governor did not share that same level of concern and vetoed the language. You can't put speculated savings ahead of public safety."

Rafferty also noted that the Senate overwhelmingly approved Senate Bill 318 in May 2007 that would require all State Police barracks to remain open 24 hours a day, every day.

The bill has languished in the state House of Representatives for more than a year, Rafferty said.

Rafferty is urging House leadership to pass this important piece of legislation before the end of session this fall.

Rafferty plans to address this issue at the hearing for the new nominee for commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police.

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