“Pennsylvania has it all backward,” Foy said. “Sheriffs have been around since the 1600’s. It’s time for sheriffs to get back their investigative authority powers.”
“This is something I’m very passionate about. When I was a deputy, we could investigate crimes,” Foy said.
A state Supreme Court ruling in 2013 changed things went it decided sheriffs and sheriffs’ deputies do not fall under the Vehicle Code’s definition of “police officers.”
In the opinion, Justice Thomas G. Saylor wrote that “The members of this court maintain great respect and express gratitude for sheriffs and their deputies in the performance of indispensable public services within their realm.”
“We reiterate, however, that they are not police officers – nor are they invested with general police powers beyond the authority to arrest for in-presence breaches of the peace and felonies – in the absence of express legislative designation.”
“It’s a slap in the face as far as I’m concerned,” Foy said. “We have more than 1,500 hours training, and we are as well-equipped and trained as other law enforcement.”
“It’s sad that Harrisburg doesn’t see us as well-trained law enforcement officers.”
“Just imagine, with the sign of a pen, there could be 2,200 more law enforcement officers out there fighting crime.”
“If Harrisburg was serious about the drug problems we are facing in this state, they’d make this happen,” Foy said. “We’re in these smaller communities and feeling the effects of the drugs, and our hands are tied.”
The county’s department has 11 deputies and unlike other nearby counties, none of them are employed with other agencies, such as borough police departments or as county detectives.
Currently there is legislation in the state House of Representatives that would expand the abilities of county sheriff’s departments to do law enforcement the way other municipal police forces can.
Introduced earlier this year, House Bill 466 is an Act that would amend Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, in officers serving process and enforcing orders, further providing for powers and duties of the sheriff.
Foy is skeptical, but hopeful, that House Bill 466 will become a law. State Representative R. Lee James, who represents Venango County, is one of the co-sponsors.
“It’s not the first time it’s been tried. I don’t know what the chances are, but I’m hopeful,” Foy said.
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