The City of Washington is preparing to submit a contract proposal to take over police services for East Washington as borough officials consider what to do with their police department.
Washington Mayor Brenda Davis confirmed that city officials discussed making the proposal to the neighboring borough and are putting together a contract for East Washington to review.
“I can tell you that I would say that the city would entertain the idea of assisting police coverage because we could just incorporate them with the patrols,” Davis said Monday. “I think we could provide a service for them.”
There is no timeline for Washington officials to submit their contract bid, but East Washington Borough Council will hold a special meeting to discuss the future of its police department Nov. 18. East Washington Council President Blake McCandless said they want to investigate all options and have as much information as possible to make a decision on what to do with the department.
“We’re still in the information-gathering stage,” McCandless said. “We want to get all of our ducks in a row before making a decision.”
He said contracting out police services to a neighboring municipality is just one of many options borough officials are considering. An independent study released in July suggested the borough’s police department update its equipment, streamline personnel files and increase the chief’s administrative duties, but stopped short of recommending it outsource police protection to a neighboring community.
However, there have been rumblings in recent weeks about contracting out police protection as a serious option. South Strabane Township supervisors had been approached about the idea but decided last week to forgo making a proposal. That most likely leaves Washington as the only other option if East Washington officials decide to outsource their police services.
Davis thinks it would be a natural partnership since East Washington currently uses Washington Police Department’s holding cell and other resources.
“We have one of the largest police forces in the county, so we could provide them with additional coverage so they would have more manpower on a shift than they’re currently getting right now,” Davis said.
She said the city is not finished putting together its proposal and still needs to discuss with East Washington officials what level of police protection they would want. Davis added that it’s far from certain that the two municipalities will agree to a contract.
“We’ve already discussed it and (City Council is) in favor of submitting a proposal depending on what East Washington would want,” Davis said. “We would need to fill out what we can do, and then East Washington would have to make a decision.”
That might make for a tough decision after numerous East Washington residents crowded into the borough’s tiny council chambers last week in a push to keep the local police department. Residents said they prefer the local, around-the-clock patrols in the borough rather than partnering with a neighboring community.
The public will once again have a chance to comment Nov. 18 when the borough council holds its regular voting meeting at First Christian Church at 615 E. Beau St. The regular meeting is set to begin at 6 p.m. and will immediately be followed by a public hearing to discuss the future of the police department, McCandless said.
The borough spends about $200,000 a year – more than 25 percent of its annual budget – on police protection and employs a full-time chief and 16 part-time officers.