Rendell wants more money for cops

February 4, 2008 3:54:16 PM PST
Gov. Ed Rendell will ask lawmakers to put more police officers on the street by doubling the funding for patrol grants to $20 million a year.

The additional $10 million would pay for another 200 officers across the state, half of whom would be hired in Philadelphia, Rendell said at a news conference Monday.

Pittsburgh would get 40 more patrol officers, while Allentown, Wilkes-Barre, Chester, Altoona and Erie are among the cities that would add five state-funded positions. Rendell hopes to secure the funding for at least three years.

Rendell announced the plan at City Hall in Philadelphia - where he served two terms as mayor - and plans to submit it to lawmakers in his state budget.

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who took office last month, said he welcomes any help he can get. Ramsey has announced goals of cutting the city's 400 annual homicides by 100 this year while reducing the number of shootings by police, who fatally shot at least 20 people in 2006 and 16 last year.

"We have a serious crime problem here in Philadelphia, and it's going to take all the resources we can muster to get a handle on it," Ramsey said at Monday's news conference.

While Philadelphia's crime problem is well-documented, Rendell noted that gun homicides across the state rose 36 percent from 2000 to 2006. He plans to renew his fight for gun-control legislation this year, which the Legislature has been loathe to adopt.

"Shootings affect families (and) communities, and drive up our health care costs," Rendell said.

Rendell's budget would also fund 100 patrol officers hired in Philadelphia in 2006.

The city's police department has about 6,500 members, but Ramsey noted that about 10 percent of them are on medical leave or otherwise unavailable for duty.