LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Is a bigger police force better?

That is the question many people in one part of Luzerne County are asking these days as efforts are underway to establish a regional police force on the upper west side of the Wyoming Valley.

“Obviously there’s a shortage of police officers nationally and every department chief I speak to we’re always looking for manpower,” explained Chief Michael Turner, West Pittston Police Department.

Chief Turner says the proposed regional police force will address issues such as a shortage of police officers. The communities of West Pittston, Exeter, Exeter Township, West Wyoming, and Wyoming Borough plan to combine their resources to create what will be known as “the Wyoming Area Regional Police Department.”

“So with a regional police force, we’re talking about going with more full-time officers. With that comes more time to investigate a lot more crimes, to get into drug investigations, and also frees up time to send officers for more training,” said Chief Turner.

The regional police department would be based at the now vacant, former headquarters of the state police in Wyoming.

Wyoming Borough Council members Mike Baloga and Joe Scaltz say all five communities are facing the same challenges when it comes to operating and funding their police departments.

“The police forces have been deteriorating over the years and we’re bringing every town together. It’s going to be a strong force, they are going to be very active and proactive. A great, great force,” said Baloga.

“So every community the five of us struggle with trying to find officers to fill shifts. So with the regionalization proposal on the table, the residents will not have to worry about police coverage,” said Scaltz.

People who live and work in the area that would be covered by the new force tell Eyewitness News,

“I think it may be a great idea just because it would create more efficiency and allow for all the communities to kind of come together and police forces to come together,” said Kristin Sepela, a supporter of the regional police department.

Each community would pay a funding share for the operations of the new regional police force. There are still many details to be worked out as well as getting input from the public.

Organizers say if all goes as planned the new police force could be up and running by June of 2022.