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Macungie Questions '24/7' Police Protection

After discovering that comprehensive coverage may be slipping, Macungie Council said it would revisit the issue and set the number of hours per week its police department will be on duty.

Macungie Council on Monday began to examine the amount of police coverage in the borough after it was revealed that Mayor Rick Hoffman had directed Police Chief Edward Harry not to schedule part-time officers to cover regular shifts.

The directive also said no full-time officers could be paid overtime to cover regular shifts left suddenly unfilled due to illness or other unforeseen circumstances.

Harry has covered up to six extra shifts in the past several weeks himself -- at no charge to the borough -- to make sure that has not happened. Indeed, Harry said, there has never been a time that a Macungie police officer was not on duty in the seven years he has been chief.

Former Macungie council member Dorothy Kociuba said the 2012 budget, called for "24/7" police coverage but she was not sure that what the residents thought they were paying for was necessarily the case.

"So if a part-time officer is not available when someone calls in sick," she said to the mayor, "You do not allow the chief to get a regular officer to cover the shift," she asked the mayor who said yes, that's the case. 

"So people don't know if there are no police on duty," Kociuba asked, setting off an uproar among the residents in attendance.

Hoffman responded that as long as nobody has the information that there is a shift that's not filled here and there, nobody's the wiser and the borough is as safe as ever.

The budget stated that Chief Harry could schedule part-time officers to bridge the gap that would allow for the complete coverage. A sixth full-time police officer was taken out of the budget.

Several council members said Pennsylvania State Police at Fogelsville and the Emmaus and Alburtis police departments would provide back up when there is no officer on duty.

But jurisdictional regulations say that if there is no officer on duty in Macungie, police from Emmaus and Alburtis may not come into Macungie unasked just to help out, Harry said.

Chief Harry clarified the issue by saying that there must be a Macungie officer on duty for aid from neighbors to occur. A Macungie officer would not have to be in the borough as there are times police are out of the borough on police business at the hospital, district justice office or Lehigh County Court.

In those cases Macungie would be eligible to received neighboring aid because one of its own would be on duty.

However, if there is no officer on duty, the borough is at the mercy of state police proximity if there is an emergency.

Residents went wild.

After Council President Jean Nagle restored order, Mayor Hoffman and Chief Harry agreed to meet with Solicitor Patrick Armstrong to reexamine the mayor's mandate that 25 shifts per week only would be filled.

Harry said the budget allowed for 33 shifts to be filled, but that he had been managing to schedule 24/7 coverage using 30 shifts per week. He was "banking" three shifts a week in case there comes a time when extra police coverage is needed as it usually is during the annual car shows and Halloween Parade, for example. 

Council members agreed to come to the next meeting, to be held at 7:30 p.m June 4, with their ideas for more complete coverage, as well.

The mayor also agreed that Harry should schedule 24/7 coverage by whatever means necessary until the June 4 meeting, and that Harry should not cover the shifts himself. 

Carl W May 22, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Regionalization may sound great on the surface, however, it's proven to be less than it sounds. Police aren't really as dedicated, just by sociology - they don't really feel an affinity - a gut-level part of communities they protect. Also, social norms, laws & values DO vary per community, making them feel less of an integral part. Sellersville, PA, - Penn Regional Police, & Colonial (Bath). You might want to confer confidentially with them. For me, I've avoided doing ANY business in Macungie for years - cops always looking to ticket. Sad, because there are nice places to patronize, but even they acknowledge the problem.
Responsible Citizen May 23, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Carl W...you have no logical reason to weigh in with an opinion regarding a municipality you do not reside in. You would have a much more inciteful, educated opinion had you attended last night's council meeting! It became readily apparent the mayor and majority on council had absolutely NO IDEA the details of 24/7 police coverage. Yet...they are responsible for legislating on this vital service!! Our dedicated police chief needed to take to the podium and explain ad nauseum these details which those of us in the audience as tax-paying residents completely comprehended following his first explanation! Scarey isn't it!! The next election cannot come quickly enough in order to remove these imposters and elect conscientious, devoted individuals with the same devotion our police chief has for this borough!!!
John Rogers May 23, 2012 at 11:20 AM
Hey Carl. Don't break the law and you don't get ticketed. Seems fairly simple.
Carl W May 24, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Hey, "John Rogers," I DIDN"T break any laws. Proven in court.
John Rogers May 24, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Carl. I made a simple statement. If you don't break the law you don't get ticketed. But, I assume from your response that you received a ticket for something you obviously feel you didn't do. That is your business and since I wasn't there I can not comment on the alleged violation. What I will point out however is that District Court judges, and all judges for that matter, often times find people not guilty. Not because they did not commit the violation, but for one reason or another decided to cut them a break. Not sure if that happened in your case, but quite frankly, I couldn' t care less since I was making no inferences to anything that happened to you. Simply a generic statement. Don't take things so personal. You'll get an ulcer.

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