Chester Mayor: There will be no police layoffs

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Staffing concerns in Chester. Vernon Odom reports during Action News at 4 p.m. on May 2, 2017. (WPVI)

The mayor of Chester says there will be no layoffs of police officers despite talks suggesting otherwise.

Chester City police rank and file came out of an hour-long meeting Tuesday afternoon along with Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland and the police chief with nothing to say publicly.

The mayor does say this was one of a series of sessions to boost morale with the talk of possible layoffs for a police force already suffering from a shortage of cops on the street during critical hours.

"We were talking about a coverage issue. Over the weekend, we had four police officers on duty and that is not acceptable," Kirkland said.

The mayor says the city is training new cadets all the time to fill out the approved number of positions, which is 106 from the roughly 90 on the streets already.

As Action News was interviewing the mayor, officers were involved in a police chase through the city that led to arrests and a search for drugs in the William Penn Public Housing Projects a few blocks away.

The mayor is under constant pressure in this town full of joblessness and an anemic revenue base to balance the budget. The police are pressing for a new contract and potential wage and benefit cuts are an ongoing bitter issue.

"We've already cut some staffing, staff persons already. We've had a retirement of almost 20 police officers which is very devastating, officers and detectives. So we've already cut," Kirkland said.

"We've had a mass leaving last year. Twenty officers left, I was one of them, due to contract issues. So we had a loss of manpower. They've done some hiring since then, but they're still very understaffed," Randy Bothwell of the Fraternal Order of Police said.
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