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Clarion, Forest County Sheriff’s Departments Hoping to See Authority Expand
“I would love to see it happen, but I think the chances of it happening are as good as me standing on top of the courthouse flapping my arms,” Munsee said.
Currently there is legislation in the state House of Representatives that would expand the abilities of county sheriff’s departments to do law enforcement the way other municipal police forces can.
House Bill 466 is an Act that would amend Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in officers serving process and enforcing orders, further providing for powers and duties of the sheriff.
The bill was introduced earlier this year, and Munsee has made his feelings known to state Rep. Donna Oberlander, who represents Clarion and Armstrong counties, and to state Senator Scott Hutchinson, who represents Clarion, Venango, Forest, Butler, and Warren counties.
Munsee said he believes the sheriff’s department can be a supplemental police force.
“We have no desire to be a 24/7 force,” Munsee said. “We don’t need the spotlight. We get along with the state police here in the county very well, and we aren’t trying to take anyone’s job.”
“The state police are far better equipped to handle more serious crimes like homicides, but there are many that we could handle – scams, burglaries, things like that.”
“And, when major incidents do happen, we can be there to back up the state police while they are investigating them.”
Munsee said the major obstacle to this legislation becoming law is what it has always been.
“The problem lies in the eastern part of the state. Some of the counties out there, like Montgomery and Chester, have sheriff’s departments with 100 deputies and even K-9 units.”
“The Fraternal Order of Police, the higher-ups in the state police, don’t support it because they think it would result in sheriff departments taking over the domain and result in municipal and state police losing jobs.”
“The state police officers I know on the job wouldn’t have a problem with us having more powers.”
“We can do DUI arrests here in Clarion County, but if we don’t actually see a crime happening, we have to call the state police.”
In Forest County, Sheriff Bob Wolfgang (pictured below) feels so strongly about HB 466 that he took to Facebook to voice his support.
According to the Facebook post Wolfgang said, “We are seeking support for Pennsylvania HB466 of 2017. This bill would give back the authority to investigate crimes to sheriffs and deputies. We are asking our citizens and supporters to send letters of support to members of the Pennsylvania House State Government committee.”
“Currently the state police are short 417 troopers with 2,000 eligible to retire over the next year. As we all know our state is in a crisis with the opiate epidemic. Shouldn’t it be all hands on deck to combat the problem?” Wolfgang said.
“It is our hope that if 2,300 Sheriffs’ and deputies’ authority is restored will there still be need for a $25 per head tax for municipalities that have no police. This agency and the Pennsylvania Sheriff’s Association support all law enforcement regardless if they’re state or municipal.”
Wolfgang ended his message by saying those interested in writing a letter of support can respond with a private message, and they will be provided with a sample letter and the addresses of the House members on the State Gov. Committee.
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