Matter of ‘safety’

District attorney speaks in support of Sheriff’s deputies gaining full law enforcement powers

This is a look back to when Warren County District Attorney Rob Greene testified in Harrisburg in support of Sheriff’s deputies gaining law enforcement powers. He did not speak on Friday.

Sheriff’s deputies do not have full law enforcement powers.

A bill that was before the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would change that.

Warren County District Attorney Rob Greene addressed the House State Government Committee to urge legislators to pass that bill.

“This is a matter of public safety,” Greene said. “That’s the key.”

“When you can increase over 2,000 law enforcement (officers) across the Commonwealth with the stroke of a pen and no cost to the taxpayers, I don’t know what I’m missing. It doesn’t make sense not to.”

“I’m in a rural county,” he said. “We’re a very large county geographically.”

He said the majority of Warren County falls exclusively under state police jurisdiction.

If the bill were approved, in cases where all available state police are on calls, if there is another call, sheriff’s deputies could respond.

“A sheriff’s deputy should be able to go out to that call, investigate that scene, and have the same powers as law enforcement officers,” Greene said. “The rural counties need this.”

“The only reason that I can think of that you would not pass this… is the training,” he said.

Both deputies and municipal and state police go through basic training. Some deputies have attended the Act 120 training required for municipal and state police officers. “Everyone I’ve talked to says they’re exactly the same,” Greene said.

Committee members Reps. Mary Jo Daley and Steve McCarter (both D-Montgomery) expressed concerns about jurisdiction issues.

“In an area that has a lot of local police departments and a pretty large sheriff’s office, I’m concerned about chain of command and how that would fit into local police departments,” Daley said.

“Trying to integrate into the chain of command… I’m having difficulty seeing how that plays out,” McCarter said.

McCarter also said his county’s sheriff’s deputies might demand raises being that they would be “doing the same job categorization” as municipal and state police.

Greene’s position is opposite that of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA).

Rep. Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) quoted a Thursday release from the PDAA.

“PDAA does not support House Bill 466 because adding a new entity to provide general police powers may cause duplication and issues of dueling jurisdiction especially without any oversight by the local and state police,” Sims said. “They are concerned about the impact on the balance of powers under current law possessed by local and state police and sheriffs.”

Greene said he is not concerned about those issues in Warren County. “I think that could be easily worked out,” he said.

Sims also pointed out that Greene and the Warren County Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) stand opposed to the state FOP.

“My FOP took a vote last week,” Greene said. “We have 38 members. I believe 29 of them voted. They voted unanimously in favor of House Bill 466.”

“Are you aware that the state FOP is opposed as well?” Sims asked.

“I am,” Greene said.

“Do you disagree?” Sims asked.

“Absolutely,” Greene said. “There is no logical reason to not make sheriff’s deputies law enforcement officers with full powers just like municipal officers and the state police.”

“I think it’s an extremely important issue,” Greene said. “Most of the civilians in the Commonwealth have no idea that sheriff’s deputies do not have law enforcement powers. They are elected to help us with public safety.”