City of Lancaster Announces Changes to Fire and Police Bureaus
SEPTEMBER 28, 2023 | BUREAU OF FIRE BUREAU OF POLICE MAYOR'S OFFICE
By: Amber Strazzo Righter
Today, Mayor Danene Sorace, alongside Police Chief Richard Mendez and Fire Chief Todd Hutchinson, announced strategic changes within the City of Lancaster’s Fire and Police Bureaus aimed at enhancing efficiency and fiscal responsibility without compromising public safety.
Mayor Sorace emphasized that public safety remains the City’s top priority, and these changes are crucial to maintain a high standard of public safety while addressing the City’s financial challenges. The City of Lancaster faces a structural deficit, and revenue does not naturally meet the increasing costs to maintain current services.
Effective January 2024, the City of Lancaster will close Fire Station 6 and discontinue the Police Bureau’s Mounted Unit. These decisions were made after careful consideration and consultation with the chiefs. Station 6 and the Mounted Unit have served the community for decades, and their closure is a difficult but necessary step.
“We have a responsibility to our residents to have top-of-the-line fire and police response while also being responsible stewards of tax dollars. Both announcements today will help the City of Lancaster increase efficiency and maintain our high standard of public safety,” said Mayor Sorace.
The closure of Station 6 will not impact staffing levels, as the firefighters from Station 6 will be redeployed to existing stations. The move will improve safety conditions for firefighters and maintain industry-standard response times. The closure is a cost-effective measure, avoiding costly renovations needed to meet modern safety standards.
“The Lancaster City Fire Bureau of today is now reflected in safer, modern facilities supported by new apparatus, and a fully dedicated team of professionals who are best in class. We look forward to continuing our high level of service to the community,” said Chief Hutchinson.
Similarly, the discontinuation of the Mounted Unit is a response to staffing challenges and the evolving needs of the community. Mounted officers will integrate into the patrol division to give much-needed support and help ease the strain on patrol officers who are working diligently 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to calls for service. The decision aims to address the City’s current financial constraints, the limitations of the Mounted Unit in patrolling, and the evolving landscape of policing.
“Integrating the mounted officers back into platoons will ease the strain on patrol officers and alleviate some financial burden on taxpayers who cover the costs of necessary overtime pay, estimated to be $900,000 in 2023 alone,” said Chief Mendez.
Both Chief Mendez and Chief Hutchinson expressed their appreciation for the longstanding service and contributions of Station 6 and the Mounted Unit. They assured that the changes are aimed at ensuring a necessary level of public safety while maximizing public dollars.
The Police Bureau remains committed to exploring new, innovative approaches to engage with the community, including utilizing technology, expanding bike patrols, and potentially introducing a therapy dog to enhance community engagement.
The changes announced today mark a strategic step forward in the City’s commitment to maintaining a high level of public safety while adapting to the challenges of the 21st century.
Why is this decision being made at this time?
Pressing financial and staffing level concerns have led the Bureau to make this decision now. The decision to discontinue the Mounted Unit was a challenging one. The Bureau understands the sentimental and symbolic value of mounted officers and appreciates the long-lasting relationships they have built.
The reality is that Lancaster City’s Police Bureau, along with many others, is struggling to fill open positions. The Bureau receives, on average, 40,000–50,000 calls a year, and even though the Bureau has quickly responded to the majority of these calls, the additional pressure is weighing heavily on officers already working in high-stress situations.
Mounted officers face limitations in responding to calls compared to patrol officers — primarily due to the additional responsibilities of caring for the horses. This impacts their availability to attend to emergencies and high-priority incidents. Continuing to staff the Mounted Unit while the four platoons and Criminal Investigation Division face significant staffing challenges is not viable.
Integrating the mounted officers back into platoons will ease the strain on patrol officers and alleviate some financial burden on taxpayers who cover the costs of necessary overtime pay, estimated to be $900,000 in 2023 alone.
When will this decision go into effect?
January 1, 2024
What will happen to the horses?
Although the Bureau is sad to say goodbye to the mounts, they will make great additions to loving and well-experienced families. The Bureau will work with the Police Foundation, as done with all retired horses, to ensure that Jake, King, and Angus find loving homes.
How will the Police Bureau continue to enhance community engagement efforts?
The discontinuation of the Mounted Unit certainly marks the end of an era, but it also signals the beginning of a new chapter for the Bureau in our commitment to public safety and community engagement. We understand the importance of building trust and positive relationships with our residents. We are exploring new, innovative approaches to engage with the community, including utilizing technology, expanding bike patrols, and potentially introducing a therapy dog to enhance community engagement.
What will happen to the barn and other equipment?
Vehicles and equipment that can be sold will be to raise funds for the Police Foundation. The Police Bureau will ensure that any funds generated from the sale of Foundation-bought items will be given to the Foundation. Ultimately, the Department of Public Works will determine the future of the barn.