Future of Mt. Pleasant police uncertain

May 2, 2014

No one seems to know what the fate of Mt. Pleasant Township’s police department will be, but everyone in the community is talking about the possibilities.

A proposal from McDonald Borough police to enter a contracted agreement with Mt. Pleasant’s police department is not off the table, but Mt. Pleasant officials are also considering other options. One option is to create a regional police department that would serve multiple municipalities.

During a voting meeting last week, Mt. Pleasant supervisors voted 2-1 to authorize Supervisor Dencil Backus to explore options and gather information on regionalization.

Chairman Bryan Smith and Backus voted in favor of that motion, and Vice Chairman Gary Farner was opposed.

Backus is just beginning to gather information. He said he will likely present his findings during the next meeting, and during subsequent meetings until the board reaches a consensus.

Mt. Pleasant’s small municipal hall in March was flooded with residents who came to protest what they thought was a proposal to disband their township police. To their relief and surprise, supervisors announced that was never part of the plan.

In fact, three new officers were hired during that meeting, bringing the total to three full-time officers and four part-time officers. Lou McQuillan, police chief of Mt. Pleasant, also hopes to hire another full-time officer in the future.

McQuillan said he is skeptical of any plan that would absorb Mt. Pleasant’s police department into another department. His ultimate goal is for Mt. Pleasant police to provide around-the-clock services. Currently, officers work 24 hours a day, five days a week, with part-time officers filling weekend shifts.

McQuillan said he wouldn’t necessarily be against the idea of a regional department, as long as it is done properly.

McDonald’s proposal, submitted by police Chief Mark Dorsey, did not touch on regionalization. But Dorsey said his proposal for contracted services between Mt. Pleasant and McDonald “could be tweaked and made into a regionalized department.”

McDonald’s territory currently covers McDonald, Midway, Robinson, Burgettstown, Independence and West Middletown.

“It’s not called that yet, but it’s really regional right now, and we would add Mt. Pleasant into it if they would decide to go in,” said Terry Bennett, mayor of McDonald.

If the municipalities pursue regionalization, it would require the creation of a board of directors with one representative from each participating community. Each police department would technically be disbanded in the creation of a new regional department.

“I think everybody would stand to benefit from a regionalized department,” Dorsey said. “There’s a lot of things, a lot of advantages of consolidation, when you do something like that.”

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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