Macungie Mayor Rick Hoffman has ordered that two police officers be on duty in the borough every time Macungie Council meets.
The mayor has been adamant that the Macungie Police Department will provide 24/7 coverage to the citizens of the borough with 25 eight-hour shifts a week.
Twenty-five shifts -- instead of the 30 provided for in the borough's 2012 budget -- means no more than one officer is on duty at any time, and if an officer is ill or there's a scheduling emergency, Hoffman has said it is acceptable for there to be unfilled police shifts.
And if there are two calls and only one officer on duty, someone is just going to wait, Hoffman has said.
In an email dated Sept. 26, 2012 to Macungie Police Chief Edward Harry Jr., the mayor said:
"I would like you to schedule a tac-shift officer on the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month, beginning with October 1, 2012.
This additional officer should be scheduled to work a 7 p.m. - 3 a.m. shift, and he should be available to be called to Council Meetings if necessary.
In the event that a Council Meeting is rescheduled due to a Holiday, the tac-shift should also be rescheduled.
If you have any questions, or need additional clarification, please let me know as soon as possible since this needs to be started by Monday."
A tac-shift, ("tac" being short for tactical) overlaps two of the three primary shifts. If all 25 shifts allowed in a week are filled and no one takes any time off, four tac-shifts are available per week. Tac-shifts are most often used in the 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. time slots, Harry said.
Harry's reply said first and foremost that the Macungie Police Department would comply with Hoffman's directive.
But he recounted in his response a question he asked the mayor when Hoffman originally approached Harry verbally with the request.
Any call to council would be answered "in priority of importance based on type of call and responded to accordingly. This was not acceptable with you stating that you did not want to have to wait," Harry's written response said.
"Why is it acceptable for any other citizen of this community ... to wait and not you or council? ... One of the reasons citizens have become so frustrated over the years with the borough is the appearance of a double standard. ... the issuance of this order for the stated reasons can accomplish nothing but to solidify that feeling in the community. Do any of us really want the public to think that you and council are entitled to police protection beyond what is provided to them? Or that your and council's safety is any more important than theirs?"
Hoffman was challenged at the meeting by former council member Dorothy Kociuba who asked Hoffman why he needed two officers on duty on a week night.
"The police won't keep order, it's [President Jean Nagle's] job to keep order," Kociuba said.
Hoffman was incensed.
"Why? Because these meetings are not in control. When [Nagle] hits the gavel people refuse to obey. If it continues those people will be asked to leave, and if they don't leave they will be escorted out until decorum returns...until these are run as meetings and not Wild West shows," Hoffman said.