Hempfield Township proposes public safety committee; police coverage could be examined
Almost a year after Hempfield’s fire bureau came into fruition, township supervisors are looking to establish a public safety commission — with police coverage being one area of potential focus.
While the seven-person commission is far from being formed, Township Manager Jason Winters presented a conceptual plan that focuses on six key areas — fire, emergency management, public safety and security, emergency medical, inspection and codes and health and wellness.
The goal is to create a body that can advise township supervisors by making recommendations regarding policy and service levels.
“This public safety commission is to look at the overall picture of safety and have them sort of study it,” Winters said.
One area the commission could look at is police, as the township does not have its own department. Instead, it has a deal with Pennsylvania State Police, which assigns four vehicles to regularly patrol and respond to calls within Hempfield.
The commission would study the plan already in place and determine if policing is a topic that needs to be improved. If so, they could form a subcommittee to discuss any issues.
Commission members could also start a study to determine if the township should have its own police department.
“We did do that study 15 years ago on police,” Winters said. “At that time, overwhelming, it was not needed. So if there’s another study made, it’s up to the board to make that study.”
The conceptual plan has three subcategories for public safety and security — animal control, school and community safety and traffic safety.
Another part of the commission includes the Bureau of Fire, a group that was formed to oversee the township’s 12 volunteer fire departments.
Under to public safety commission, the 12 chiefs would work to improve operations, training and retention, standards and policies, and safety.
The rest of the commission would be made up of volunteers from the medical, legal, insurance, business or education fields in order to give “expert” advice on certain topics.
Moving forward, officials will add more details into the structure of the commission. From there, they will create a proposed ordinance change showing the layout and structure of the commission, Winters said.
During a workshop meeting last week, supervisor Doug Weimer asked for further information on how other communities set up public safety committees.
“I think this is a real positive step for a community our size,” supervisor Rob Ritson said at that time. “I think we have some outstanding public safety issues that are too big for one or two individuals to take on. So, with 43,000 people, I’m confident we can find seven dedicated and qualified people within these fields, or whatever, to help us with that task.”