Mayor's Edict Stands: 25 Police Shifts Per Week
Mayor Rick Hoffman reaffirmed his decision to limit police shifts.
After several weeks of being absent from council meetings, Macungie Mayor Rick Hoffman walked into the bi-monthly meeting about 10 minutes after it began on July 16.
Much to the dismay of Council President Jean Nagle who was trying to maintain order and run a meeting, residents immediately wanted Hoffman's decision on 24/7 police coverage.
And in the wake of the antics at the past several meetings, and in light of his repeated absence, two residents actually asked the mayor to step down.
He did not respond to the first request, but as residents' tempers rose, so did Hoffman's.
By the time the meeting reached the point in the agenda at which the mayor was to address the police issue, the atmosphere in the room was tense, and conversations no longer featured "inside voices."
Hoffman said that even though, in the past month, the Macungie Police Department had to deal with various officers taking an accumulated total of more than 30 vacation days, all shifts were covered.
There was no lapse in 24/7 coverage, he said.
"At 16.37 per hour, that's a savings of $654 per week and $34,000 per year to the borough, which is in the borough's best interest.
"My decision on 25 shifts a week stands," Hoffman said.
Macungie Police Chief Edward Harry said Tuesday he was not surprised with the mayor's ultimate pronouncement. Indeed, the department's schedule has been assembled through September.
"But creating it is not the hard part," Harry said, "What's hard is requests for days off. It's easy to issue orders, but putting into practice is another matter entirely."
"We don't have the luxury of looking at this only in dollars and cents," Harry said, "If you don't care about officers and their lives, then it's easy. But things come up. People have needs."
Harry said he definitely believes the day will come that there will be an open shift. Part-time officers look to other departments once the Macungie schedule is made, and then they're not available if something comes up at the last minute.
Back at Monday's council meeting, chaos began to creep in after the mayor announced his decision. Questions flew about what he's been doing and where Hoffman has been that he missed so many meetings.
"Where have I been?" Hoffman repeated, "I have been not here."
"When I have something to say, I can show up. My decision stands. There is no discussion," he said.
Macungie Police Sgt. Travis Kocher, who did not at the meeting, responded Tuesday to the mayor's statement by agreeing that there has been no lapse in police coverage throughout the borough since the mayor cut the number of shifts covered by Macungie police to 25 from 30 per week.
The mayor has also ruled that no overtime pay will be approved if one officer covers for another who comes down with the flu or has a family emergency.
"There have been no open shifts so far," Kocher said, "but that is solely based on Macungie police officers' devotion to the department and to the community, not the scheduling skill of the mayor."
Kocher explained that there never was an issue with officers taking a lot of sick time, but now if somebody gets sick, the person he or she is relieving is tasked with staying four extra hours and the next person on duty after that must come in four hours early.
So instead of three officers each working eight-hour shifts, two officers each work 12-hour shifts, he said.
If that were not able to happen, Kocher said, Pennsylvania State Police would be notified, and they're very good. But there are things they won't do that every county department does for its community such as answering EMS calls and following up on anonymous complaints.
Every full time Macungie police officer has multiple CPR saves, Kocher said, because even though Macungie Ambulance is excellent and arrives very quickly, Macungie police officers have the advantage of being closer. Every time.
The Macungie Police Department is dedicated to helping all citizens of Macungie, he said, no matter who they are or what they need.
"The question," said Chief Harry, "Is how long can we keep this up?"