Police program worthy

The new police internship program to which Hollidaysburg Borough Council gave unanimous support earlier this month might have benefits beyond the borough’s borders.

It could encourage some other communities served by municipal police departments, in this county and beyond, to implement similar programs.

With many communities across Pennsylvania experiencing challenges in recruiting additional officers, the program will provide a new avenue for increasing eventually the number of potential candidates for police positions, if those who become part of the program continue pursuit of a police career.

Presumably, some interns might choose eventually to seek a full- or part-time position in the county seat’s department, as positions become available, or what they learn in their Hollidaysburg internship might benefit other departments someday, if there are no Hollidaysburg vacancies when they complete their state-mandated training.

Regardless, while the interns are serving in Hollidaysburg, the police-related work that they’ll be doing besides riding in a patrol car with one of the department’s supervisors could have benefits for the department’s general operation.

The key will be to make the internship program as meaningful as possible for participants, in a way that hopefully will give them a positive edge as they work to complete all training requirements.

But there will be necessary, reasonable limits tied to the internship program. Commendably, Hollidaysburg council members recognized the need for those limitations as they considered granting their approval to the program.

Understandably, the safety of the interns was one of the primary concerns. Council members rightly worried about students’ possible exposure to dangerous situations.

At a council meeting on Oct. 11, Police Chief Rodney Estep addressed that concern.

Estep said that, since the department’s rulebook prohibits exposing members of the public to danger — the interns would be part of the public to which the rulebook refers — interns would be required to exit the police vehicle in which they are riding before the officer driving it could respond to a dangerous situation.

That wouldn’t mean driving the interns back to the police station before beginning the response. As explained by Estep, “we drop them off along the road . . . they walk back to the station.”

Estep said that with such a required procedure in place, he would feel comfortable that there would not be a high likelihood that the interns would be exposed to danger.

But back to the issue of manpower: Estep told council members that the hands-on experience that such an internship program would provide to young college students could foster the kind of interest necessary to help put to rest some of the current difficulty that Hollidaysburg and many other departments are experiencing in trying to recruit additional manpower.

“I believe in it wholeheartedly,” Estep said, referring to the program.

As noted by the chief, the program would allow for two interns “one young man and one young woman” who would spend about 20 hours a week with the local department.

Half of the time would be devoted to active involvement in police-related work, including participation in patrols, and the rest would be geared to administrative tasks –tasks with which all departments deal.

Hopefully, the internship program will become an ongoing success story, one that other departments will see fit to implement also.