Colonial Regional Police Department could serve as a model as neighboring municipalities including Nazareth consider merging their police forces.
“I’m with them all the way. I’ve spoken with the mayor (Fred Daugherty) on a consulting basis to provide information on what a regional department can do,” Colonial Regional Chief Roy Seiple said in a phone interview with Patch on Friday morning.
Daugherty has sent a letter to determine which townships might be interested in the project, according to an Easton Express report.
Studies have shown that consolidated police departments can offer more services at a lower cost to residents. There are 32 regional forces in the Commonwealth, said Seiple.
This isn’t the first time Nazareth has considered a police department merger. The borough was poised to become part of Colonial Regional when the department was formed in 1995, but Nazareth's mayor vetoed involvement, said Seiple, who was a Nazareth police officer at the time.
Seiple and four other Nazareth borough officers were laid off when Colonial Regional was created and the borough stopped providing police coverage for Lower Nazareth Township.
Officers from the boroughs of Nazareth and Bath composed the core of Colonial Regional's eight-member force at its inception. The department has now grown to 24 full-time officers with an array of expertise.
Colonial Regional includes a K-9 unit, three detectives, a DARE officer, truck inspectors and 18 members of the Northampton County Drug Task Force.
“I can afford my guys a lot more training because there are more people to cover shifts,” said Seiple. “It’s worked out well.” Seiple has been chief for eight years.
Nazareth Borough Police Department actually could have been considered a regional force as far back as 1974 when it covered Upper and Lower Nazareth townships, said Seiple.
A 2010 report by the Pennsylvania Economy League states, “Regional police forces have the quantity and quality of officers to ensure coverage in the event of a series of issues occurring simultaneously. Full-time officers have more time for investigation and training, therefore, regional police forces have the ability to spend more time investigating crimes that lead to more arrests. Further, training opportunities in regional police forces are more readily available and cost affordable. This includes training in specific types of crime and criminal activity as well as in weapons. It should be noted that weapons and equipment are more sophisticated and in greater supply in regional police forces.”
The Colonial Regional Police Department was formed by joint agreement of the municipalities of Bath Borough, Hanover Township, and Lower Nazareth Township.
Seiple expects regionalization will become even more popular for Pennsylvania’s rural municipalities if lawmakers pass House Bill 1500. The bill will require boroughs and townships without a police force to pay per person for state police coverage.
Municipalities such as Nazareth Borough and Upper Nazareth Township which already have police departments will have to negotiate collective bargaining agreements and contracts if they decide to consolidate.
Pennsylvania has a 40-year history of regional police departments dating back to 1969.
Nazareth Borough and Upper Nazareth Township officials could not be reached for comment.