EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — Is bigger really better when it comes to police departments? Officials in five Luzerne County communities say yes. And a new regional police force could start patrolling the streets of those communities by the end of the year.
Eyewitness News was standing in front of what will be the headquarters for the new Wyoming Area Regional Police Department, which is the former state police headquarters.
Local officials say this new police force is needed to help better protect and serve their residents.
“We’re all excited. We think that we tried to do this, the past 20 years and we finally have gotten to the point where all the towns recognize that this has to be done. Everybody is short with police officers,” explained Joe Pizano, Exeter Council President.
That is just one reason the communities of Wyoming, West Wyoming, West Pittston, Exeter, and Exeter township decided to form the new Wyoming Area Regional Police Department.
“We’ve all had issues covering schedules and shifts with our police. We’ve done multiple advertising to bring in part-timers and there just not enough people out there,” Pizano explained.
Joe Pizano is President of Exeter Borough Council and a member of the Regional Police Commission which has studied this idea for the past year or so. He says the idea failed in the past for many reasons, including politics.
“I think it’s probably because people didn’t want to give up their own power in their own town. The same with police,” Pizano added.
The new police department will provide 24-hour coverage and Eyewitness news spoke with Wyoming Mayor Joe Dominick.
“A lot better coverage. Basically all these boroughs right now back each other up on a regular basis but now it’s going to be housed under one department,” explained Mayor Joe Dominick-(r) Wyoming Borough.
At a cost that will be lower than what each community is paying for separate departments. State Representative Aaron Laufer helped negotiate with state officials to obtain the building and then helped secure a million dollars in state grants to purchase and renovate the former state police barracks on Wyoming Avenue.
The Wyoming Area Regional Police Commission named DF Pace from Philadelphia as the first Police Chief for the Wyoming Area Regional Police Department. Pace is currently working for the Philadelphia Police Department and has more than 20 years of experience in law enforcement.
Exeter Council President, Joseph Pizano, who is also Chairman of the Commission says Pace will leave the Philadelphia Police Department in several weeks to assume his new position in the Wyoming Valley.
“Being able to have that to be able to utilize that by the new police department that’s going to be a huge asset. Once again turning lemons into lemonade,” stated Representative Aaron Kaufer (r) 120th district.
Lindo Sabatini runs a restaurant in Exeter and says for him it’s all about improved police coverage.
“For me, the biggest problem was just like my businesses or any business around here, it was hard to staff it. So, if we are able to have the staff for one police force instead of five, sounds to me, better for everybody.”
The force would be comprised of 13 full-time officers and 13 part-time officers with a $1.7M budget.
Police officers could be patrolling neighborhoods by the end of the year.