Though it was not on the meeting agenda, Macungie Council on Monday voted to equip borough police cars with private GPS units. Mayor Rick Hoffman introduced the topic during the "Mayor's Report" segment of the meeting.
The vote, with a motion initiated and seconded by Council members Linn Walker and Gregory Hutchison, respectively, was split. Walker, Hutchison, Christopher Becker and Council President Jean Nagle voted in favor. Council member Debra Cope voted against. Councilmen Joseph Sikorski and David Boyko were absent.
Council voted against installing the units in April. The reason then was that it was going to cost thousands of dollars to install and use the units for the length of the proposed two-year contract.
This time, however, the contract is for one year, and Hoffman said he has raised the entire amount necessary -- $1,408 -- through donations. Walmart donated $1,000 and the rest came from individuals.
The units are to be monitored by two people: Hoffman and Macungie Police Chief Edward Harry. With the use of a password supposedly known to only the two, the system can be monitored from any computer or smart phone, Hoffman said.
Hoffman's reopening of the issue came as a surprise since it had already been defeated once, and though Cope said she wanted the motion withdrawn so she could refer to her notes on the topic before voting on it, the motion stood.
Hoffman repeated his claim that a GPS system he can monitor is necessary because of "all the complaints" he has received about Macungie police speeding at times and at other times parking for hours on end.
Cope said that there has never been a documented complaint about any Macungie police officer, to which Hoffman responded that residents don't document complaints because they fear retaliation from the police.
Borough resident Marvin Moyer protested the move during public comment. However, the mayor reminded him of last week's court decision before answering him by saying, "I am the chief," and "I am in charge," at least twice during Moyer's statement.
Chief Harry said Monday night in a telephone interview that he has no problem with any kind of GPS system being installed in police cars. Indeed, Macungie police cars already have at least one kind which has been installed in all Lehigh County police cars by the county.
But, Harry said, he cannot comment on these units because he knows nothing about them or the monitoring process.
"The problem with any GPS is security," Harry said. Unless the monitoring is secure -- limiting where it takes place and who has access -- it compromises not only the safety of police officers but also the safety of residents of Macungie, he said.
If a person with ulterior motives knows where a police officer is, he or she also knows where the officer is not, Harry said.