SCRANTON — Gov. Josh Shapiro on Thursday said keeping Pennsylvanians safe is a top priority for his administration.
“And making our communities safer starts with ensuring police departments are well-staffed, well-funded, well-trained, and well-equipped,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro met with cadets at the Lackawanna College Police Academy in Scranton, where he heard from them about the challenges they face and discussed his commonsense budget proposal which invests in public safety and takes steps to recruit more police officers, teachers, and nurses to fill these critical jobs.
“When we don’t have enough local law enforcement to cover our communities, that puts an even greater burden on the men and women on the ground keeping us safe,” Shapiro said. “Policing is a noble profession and good people want to do it, so my budget is going to make it a little easier to become a police officer and address critical shortages.”
U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, said he was happy to welcome Gov. Shapiro to Scranton.
“We are very happy to have Gov. Shapiro here to see Lackawanna College’s police cadet training program and to talk about the incredible job police officers are doing in our region and the state,” Cartwright said. “Gov. Shapiro’s commitment to our area is very strong and he’s already showing up for us in many different ways.”
Scranton Police Chief Thomas Carroll said he is very passionate about public service, and more importantly, about public safety.
“The difficulty of maintaining public safety increases when staffing shortfalls exist,” Carroll said. “Our dedicated officers will always face the challenges and cover those shortfalls, but it’s not sustainable.”
Carrol said he, like all fellow public safety counterparts, is concerned about the impact of the shortfalls to operations over time.
“For the first time in our history, we have developed a comprehensive recruiting initiative to motivate good people to accept the challenges of policing and join our forces,” Carroll said. “Governor, we appreciate you understanding the seriousness of our staffing needs, promoting law enforcement’s legitimacy, and proposing recruitment incentives for public safety positions.”
Sen. Marty Flynn, D-Scranton, said, “It is was great to stand with the governor and the local law enforcement community to highlight the importance of passing a budget that prioritizes making Pennsylvania a safer place.”
Pennsylvania is home to nearly 1,000 state and local law enforcement agencies — the second most of any state in the nation. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth is currently facing a shortage of more than 1,200 municipal police officers. Roughly 1-in-5 911 dispatch positions are also vacant — and in Northeastern Pennsylvania, that rises to more than 1-in-4.
According to information provided by the governor’s office:
• To address workforce shortages, Shapiro’s budget invests $24.7 million in job retention and recruitment efforts to specifically attract more nurses, police officers, and teachers, proposing a refundable tax credit for new workers in those fields and putting up to $2,500 back in their pocket every year for up to three years.
• Additionally, the budget proposes $16.4 million for four new Pennsylvania state trooper cadet classes in 2023-24, which would hire and train 384 new troopers, helping to fill staffing gaps and provide more coverage across the Commonwealth.
• The governor’s budget will also sustainably fund the Pennsylvania State Police by creating a Public Safety and Protection Fund, reducing PSP’s reliance on the Motor License Fund.
• In doing so, an estimated $1.5 billion will be available for road and bridge projects while ensuring law enforcement has the resources they need to keep our communities safe.
• Finally, the budget creates stable funding for 911 dispatch services, supports firefighters and EMS providers, and invests in violence prevention.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.