HARRISBURG — State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said the increase in funding for his department is critical and could avert tougher decisions like closing stations.
Noonan’s budget was given a 7.6 percent increase — from $195,254,000 to $210,102,000 — or $14,848,000 more than expected. Noonan said the allocation is just what his department needed.
“It’s what I was hoping for,” Noonan said. “The governor and I have been talking for some time. He understands how important this is. This was a little better than he even proposed.”
Noonan said the state trooper ranks are down 540 from full complement. He said there are about 4,100 troopers right now, and he hopes to add 290 this year. He said with the depleted ranks, it is getting more difficult to fill shifts.
“That puts more pressure on the men and women working,” he said. “We’re dealing with a lot of retirements; we expect between 150 to 200 to retire this year.”
Noonan said he will add dispatchers as well. He said they are critical in the ability of the state police to do its job.
Noonan, from Clarks Summit, said the problem goes back to the last two years of the Rendell administration when no recruiting classes were held. He said it’s been difficult rebuilding the department.
“It’s my hope that this budget will mark the beginning of that rebuilding process,” Noonan said. “With this budget we won’t have to worry about cutting stations or reducing coverage.”
Noonan said state police are responsible for covering 80 percent of the state’s land mass, representing 27 percent of the population. He said that in 2012, 10 more municipalities eliminated police departments; 50 towns have done the same over the last five years.
“Most are smaller towns with low population but large land mass,” he said.
Troopers also are called to cover state events, such as the memorial ceremony in Gettysburg, the Little League World Series and the U.S. Open Golf Tournament held recently in Ardmore.
“Law enforcement is absolutely a terrific career,” he said. “I would recommend a career in the Pennsylvania State Police.”
According to the Pennsylvania State Police website, the 137th Cadet Class is tentatively scheduled to commence in August. The size and exact date of this class has not been determined.
The website states the starting salary for a trooper graduating after July 1, 2011, is set at $58,211 and overtime pay and shift differential are paid as applicable.
Additional benefits include: an annual clothing allowance of $500 for clothing maintenance; 10 vacation days during the first year of employment; 15 sick days per calendar year; 13 paid holidays and 4 personal days per calendar year.