No Mayor Means No Decision on 24/7 Police Coverage
Council voted 5-0 to recommend full police coverage, but since the mayor did not attend the meeting, no definitive action was taken.
Macungie Council on Monday voted unanimously to recommend that Mayor Rick Hoffman instruct Police Chief Edward Harry to provide the borough with 24/7 police coverage using Macungie officers.
The motion created by Council Member Joseph Sikorski was carefully worded to consider the powers of the mayor to control the police department. It was also very sensitive to the plight of the cash-strapped borough, specifying that the use of part-time officers and overtime pay be carefully watched and used.
But even though council talked through the motion and each member verbalized the desire to provide full coverage, nothing was truly accomplished because Mayor Rick Hoffman was not at the meeting to, as controller of the police department, give the order to turn council's recommendation into reality.
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The mayor recently issued a directive to the police chief to fill 25 shifts.
Several residents spoke in turn about their wishes to have 30 shifts -- the number the Police Chief Harry says he needs to provide the coverage -- filled.
Dorothy Kociuba said that the previous council, on which she served, allocated the money for full coverage.
"I want and expect my taxes to cover 24/7 protection," Kociuba said.
She also challenged statements the mayor made at previous meetings_ that open or unfilled shifts would be covered by neighboring police departments including Alburtis and Emmaus.
Harry explained at the May 21 meeting that there must be a Macungie officer on duty for mutual aid to occur. For example, if a Macungie officer were at a hospital or in court when he or she was called to an incident in the borough, he or she could ask that an officer from a neighboring borough be called to the scene.
But if there is no officer on duty, there is no one to issue such a request. Officers from neighboring towns cannot cross those boundaries without being requested to do so.
Absent a neighboring officer, state police would be called. Several residents said that could take time if the nearest state police officer were, for example, in New Tripoli.
Council Member Chris Becker voiced several concerns about staying within the budget allocated for police coverage, but agreed with the police chief when Harry pointed out that his department has so far used only a fraction of its part-time or overtime budgets.
Additionally Harry said that a full-time Macungie Police Officer is never scheduled to work an overtime shift.
"Part-time officers are scheduled for open shifts. When someone is sick or can't report due to other last-minute circumstances, then we call all other part-times first. Overtime is always the last option," Harry said.
"When it's necessary, then we split the overtime between two officers. The first officer will do four hours and the second officer will do the other four," he said.
Former Council Member Kociuba added that in her four years on council Harry had a history of staying within the police department budget.
The unanimous 5-0 voted did not include absent council members Linn Walker and David Boyko.
Resident John Long was not pleased when he realized that what council was working on and talking through would have no legs. The mayor could choose to disregard it.
Council Member Gregory Hutchison explained that whatever council recommended, it is still the mayor's place to command the police force.