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‘We will do the best we can': Pa. police department cuts staff to chief, 1 officer after budget cut

“The borough did what was necessary to balance the budget for 2024,” Newville Police Chief Todd Koser said. “It is as simple as that”


Newville spent the majority of last year wading through money struggles that surfaced after the discovery of financial discrepancies in December 2022 .

Newville Borough

By Maddie Seiler
The Sentinel, Carlisle, Pa.

NEWVILLE. Pa. — Newville Police Officer Shawn Gutshall looked on as the votes rolled in to eliminate his position, during the Newville Borough Council’s Dec. 28 meeting.

With a final 4-2 vote, his place in the department, and consequently that of K9 Lock, went up in smoke at the turn of the new year.

The council’s decision also furloughed the department’s secretary.

With the resignation of one officer early last year, the department, which had five members including a chief, three officers and a secretary at the start of last year, entered 2024 with a chief and one officer.

“The borough did what was necessary to balance the budget for 2024,” Newville Police Chief Todd Koser said. “It is as simple as that.”

Balancing the budget

Newville spent the majority of last year wading through money struggles that surfaced after the discovery of financial discrepancies in December 2022.

The finding led to the firing of long-term Borough Manager Fred Potzer last January and the launch of an investigation through the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office that remains ongoing. In the meantime, no charges have been fired against Potzer.

After the approval of an earned income tax hike, the council’s decision in December boiled down to a choice between property tax increases or police cuts. Members ultimately settled on a combination of the two.

“In my personal vote, I tried to work with the citizens saying eliminate the police force,” Council Vice President Edward Sinkovitz said during the council’s Jan. 2 reorganization meeting. “I didn’t want to do that. I suggested ... removing one [officer] trying to please this side of the table and this side of the table with our budget for all the citizens. That’s hard to do.”

Koser said the department did what it could to alleviate funding issues, but it wasn’t enough to avoid the cut.

State police coverage

He believes the drop down to two officers will have a “huge impact” on the remaining department.

“Good reasoning tells you that when you have less people, you will be able to provide less services,” Koser said. “Two people can provide at best 80 hours of coverage per week. That does not take into account paid time off, time spent in court, time spent training, etc. Any time spent away doing anything else affects the possible total hours of weekly coverage.”

Pennsylvania State Police at Carlisle will supplement coverage around Newville’s department.

Lt. Adam Reed, with the PSP Communications Office, said state police are required by law to handle calls for service in municipalities without police coverage.

While Koser said PSP will be covering more calls in Newville, state police coverage is not new to the borough; PSP has traditionally covered hours when Newville officers are off duty.

State police have taken on more “regular” hours in Newville since the departure of former Newville Police Officer Jason Brady early last year, Koser said.

“Assuming an increased role in providing coverage to a municipality, whether short term or long term, happens quite often throughout the Commonwealth,” Reed said. “So we are prepared to adjust accordingly.”

Response times

Newville’s police cuts have raised questions and discussions in recent meetings about how the change could affect response times.

Koser said the Newville Police Department’s average response time is less than two minutes and believes that will continue to be the case when an officer is on duty moving forward. However, the department may have to prioritize calls if they are overloaded, he said.

As for PSP, while the nearest station may seem far away, Reed said troopers are assigned to patrol zones during their shifts and are self-sufficient in those zones.

“They have the capability to complete reports and respond to calls without having to return to station,” he said.

Looking ahead

A shortened police staff has also led to questions regarding regular patrols through the borough.

Koser, who has been with the department since 2011, said as far as he knows, Newville has always had a working chief’s position, however this has become more difficult throughout the past 10 years with increasing duties and requirements for the role.

“It is hard to split your time and complete each function as well as you want to do it,” he said. “The loss of manpower exacerbates the condition. Less people definitely doesn’t add up to more patrol time.”

The department has also operated just outside the borough’s boundaries at Green Ridge Village, a retirement community in West Pennsboro Township, since early 2022 after ongoing mold issues prompted them to leave their previous station.

With the department’s lease of their Green Ridge Village space set to end next month, borough officials have discussed moving the department into the new municipal building constructed at 103 S. High St.

However, no decision has been made regarding when such a move could take place, and council members have said the borough can continue the police department’s lease at Green Ridge Village on a month-to-month basis moving forward.

As for Gutshall, who lost his position in Newville, Shippensburg Borough Mayor Kathy Coy said her borough hired him as a part-time officer with Shippensburg’s police department. The department plans to bring him on board full-time, and the borough is in the process of developing a program to include K9 Lock, she said.

Koser expressed hope that Newville might continue to utilize K9 Lock’s services in the future.

He described the whole situation as a “sad deal.” Looking ahead, Koser said the department will press on and hopes community members can recognize the challenges it faces.

“We will continue to do what we have always done,” he said. “We will do the best we can do under the circumstances that we are provided.”


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