Greenfield, Freedom townships to discuss police merger

Meeting is not slated to end with final decision on proposal

Supervisors in Greenfield and Freedom townships are set to meet Monday to discuss a proposed police merger, 20 years after Freedom Township split away to form its own department.

The 10 a.m. meeting — approved unanimously last week by the Greenfield Township supervisors and agreed to by their Freedom Township counterparts — isn’t slated to end in a final decision.

Greenfield officials merely hope to open a line of communication on the issue, Chief Supervisor Ray Benton said in a public Facebook post.

“This is the first meeting to see if either township is interested in working together for the same goal,” Benton wrote.

The neighboring municipalities have maintained separate police departments since Freedom Township officials asked to separate from a joint force in 1997.

The separation followed more than 20 years with a shared department.

While both townships’ supervisors have agreed to meet Monday, the prospects of a new joint department remain unclear. The Freedom Township supervisors aren’t set to comment until they meet with their counterparts, Secretary-Treasurer Lisa Edmundson said.

“We don’t personally know anything,” she said. “All we know is, (the Greenfield supervisors) wanted a meeting, and we agreed to meet with them to discuss whatever they want to discuss.”

The two departments and municipalities already share some connections. Benton, the Greenfield supervisor who backs the merger, works as a part-time officer in Freedom Township, while Freedom Township Assistant Chief Nathan Claycomb works as acting officer-in-charge in Greenfield Township.

The departments also share a presence online, posting news updates and seeking public assistance — along with several Morrisons Cove departments — on a joint Facebook page.

“It’s nothing unusual for two smaller municipalities to basically look into the idea of a joint service to see if it’s feasible,” Claycomb said.

While both departments employ a handful of officers, Freedom Township’s dwarfs its neighbor’s despite its smaller population.

Freedom Township employs three full-time and five part-time officers, Claycomb said. Greenfield Township employs one full-time and one part-time officer. Freedom Township had a population of 3,458 as of the latest census in 2010, while Greenfield Township was home to 4,173 people.

Benton said police shortages are increasingly common in municipalities large and small. He cited Altoona Police Chief Janice Freehling’s recent comment that officials filling open spots receive only a fraction of the job applications they used to.

“Most local police departments are experiencing the same issues,” Benton wrote.

Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.