Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Norco Councilman Mike Dowd: Let's Study a Countywide Police Department

Late last week, I saw Councilman Mike Dowd trying to sneak out of the building. When he spotted me, he quickly put a newspaper to his face, hoping to evade detection.

Too late!

I quickly cornered him and began to pepper him with questions about everything, ranging from his sore shoulder to his reelection bid. You see, I already had a bunch of really tough questions ready for Councilman Tony Branco, who had agreed to meet me. But I stiffed him. I overslept. I was up too late the previous night preparing questions like, "What's your favorite color? ... What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?" So I hammered poor Rev. Dowd instead.

Dowd's a class act in a classless council. A quiet man who listens. He softly told me he'd like to see the county study the idea of a countywide police department next year. That actually makes sense.

Statewide, we have 2,630 local goverments. The Lehigh Valley consists of 62 separate muncipalities in two counties. Locally, we elect 466 officials to represent 578,500 people, or 1 local and paid elected official for every 1240 residents. And this is without looking at our 17 school districts. Given this confusing and fragmented mix of local governance, it's no surprise that our police protection comes from a mix of state troopers, municipal and regional officers and even a few constables here and there.

A countywide police department would run more efficiently, lowering administrative costs. It would professionalize police officers, enabling them to get superior training. Technological advances unavailable to smaller departments would be a reality in a larger county force. District Attorney Morganelli could wield a powerful sword against a growing gang presence. Right now, some Northampton County communities like Williams Township have no police department. That's an abdication of the responsibility to give citizens safety and security. Why bother even having a government if you can't do that?

But are deputy sheriffs really police officers? Not according the state supreme court, at least not when it comes to wiretap requests. There's enough uncertainty that state rep. Craig Dally has introduced legislation equating deputy sheriffs with municipal police officers. Dalley's bill needs quick attention from the boys and girls in the land of midnight payraises.

Will a countywide police department just drive up our tax bills? A study costs nothing. And Allegheny County's sheriff reserve deputy program is a great starting point. Its reserve unit consists of fully trained officers at no cost to taxpayers. It includes uniformed street, motorcycle, firearms and boat patrol units. They are all volunteers. They even buy their own uniforms and equipment. But they are also professionals, and understaffed municipal departments are taking advantage of these reservists.

In addition to being a good starting point,this could actually save money for both the county and its municipalities.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

studying this makes more sense as an initial measure than county-wide public health.

LVDem said...

careful, giving Republicans credit for good ideas can only cause trouble. I'm kidding of course. Dowd is a very liberal republican.

The problem will come from towns that have 2 or 3 officers and their local council failing to realize the potential benefits of this study and the possibilities of mergers.

The primary reason that I really like the idea is b/c we have townships that completely ignore their responsibility to provide for public safety. They pass the buck off to state taxpayers for their public safety by requiring that the state police provide coverage. I'm just not a fan of freeloaders.

Bernie O'Hare said...

LVDem, I think it's worth a look. Municipalities who bail on police protection don't even deserve to exist. A "reserve" unit could be a real help to many areas with small police forces. And it would give people time to get used to the idea of a countywide force, and work out some kinks. That would have to come over time. I'm surprised people would actually volunteer for this kind of thing, but Allegheny has a large contingent.

Tom Dietrich said...

Bernie O'Hare,

As a novice poster, I want to make sure I am clear about this: Good Job!

Just a little history, Route 412 has many crosswalks no traffic signals. So pedestrians must rely on the attention of drivers knowing the law, yield to pedestrians at intersections/crosswalks, and acting accordantly. Well we've had many inattentive drivers having near misses, and actually hitting pedestrians in the Hellertown and Bethlehem Areas. So after some research with our local municipalities, I was informed no 'extra' funds were available for active pedestrian safety enforcement. As a response, last year I suggested using volunteers to keep costs down, and I even volunteered myself to get the ball rolling. It fell on deaf ears.

So in short, Northampton County has some wonderful people who care about their communities, and I am glad to hear great programs(Allegheny County's sheriff reserve deputy program) get more public notice, so we share ideas and be proactive. At a minimum a 'study' a worth-wild suggestion, and I hope going forward we can all work together to get this study started.

So, kudos Bernie O'Hare!

Sincerely,

Tom Dietrich

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:04, It's actually bi-county public health. This kills me. it is costing us nothing to study the prospect of public health. We might be able to get away with a small program at no cost to the taxpayers, but there is all kind of opposition to even the idea of studying it. That strikes me as parochial. What the hell are we going to do when the next pandemic hits? I think a public health study that costs us nothing is worth every penny.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Tom, I think this is a good idea, but can't take credit for it. Rev. Dowd deserves that. But what you've just done is demonstrate exactly how something like a reserve unit could work right here. Kudos to you. The Allegheny contingent I speak of are all fully trained officers. They must be as well trained as any municipal officer. I'll mention your situation to Mike Dowd next time I see him.

Tom Dietrich said...

Bernie O'Hare,

Once again you are on the mark. Any activity associated with public safety needs to encourage people who willing to perform their duties 100% right, 100% of the time. By instituting proper training and requirements into any program will initially scare off the undedicated, and help to grow citizens who want to contribute to the safety of their neighborhoods.

As for 'studies' if something has merit at the county level and is responsibility addressed, I am hard pressed to find people who are against it. Just a point of responsible good government.

Tom Dietrich

P.O'd Naked Blogger said...

Lehigh County needs one too. Out here we Lehigh Berks Regional, and they are a joke. their professionalism is lacking. They are glorified hall monitors with guns. Any law enforcement agency should be 100% qualified, not just, "Okay"

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

I think this sounds like such a terrific idea I'm almost astonished I didn't think of it already!

... okay okay, I admit I did think about it a few times.

Really, I can see two obvious drawbacks to it which would be that

a) I could see at some level that the need for police in the core cities is so much higher than in some of the quieter municipalities that in fact even though by design a county police force would provide better service to small boroughs and townships, in effect it could mean less service.

and b) to be honest, I think being a police officer in some of the smaller municipalities is a really cush job that passes over most of the safety issues that face urban police departments. Not to minimize the very important work that these officers do, but really its kind of a different form of policing. Municipal officers protect and serve by protecting pedestrian safety (and please please please note that I am not being sarcastic here). City police respond to extremely violent situations, comparitively.

I know I'm walking a fine line here in suggesting that small municipal police officers don't have serious work - that's not at all what I'm suggesting. If anything I think that the reason why the quality of life is generally so much better in the small municipalities is because a small police force can make a large impact on the safety and well being of the community.

Anyway, the point of point b) is that the municipal police officers and their families would definitely be drawing the short end of the stick if they were suddenly told that they had to start making drug busts and responding to gunshots fired on a regular basis.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Look Out LV,

1) The point of a countywide police department is to provide more, and not less service, even in the smaller muncipalities. If it can't accomplish that simple goal, it's not worth pursuing.

2) The "reserve" unit I mentioned from the western part of the state serves exactly that purpose. It has been used to enhance police protection in smaller areas, and at NO COST to the taxpayer.

3) I don't think you're being sarcastic at all when you speak of pedestrian safety. That's the point of two comments by Mr. Dietrich. It's extremely important, as anyone who bicycles or who runs on roads can attest.

4) Policing in downtown Easton would be much different than Bushkill Tp. You've got a point. I'm have to hear what police officers and deputies themselves think of this idea. But one big plus is that there would be a lot of backup readily available and a larger force could afford things not available to smaller departments, like a crime lab. They could really deal far more effectively with a gang or drug problem, which does not stop at a municipal boundary. The officers would be better trained and that should result in fewer violations of civil liberties. Not too long ago, Bill White wrote about a black man who was ticketed in A-town for "littering." I only know what Bill wrote, but it sure sounds like race was a factor in that decision. Officers who are better trained don't make those kinds of mistakes.

I think it's worth a serious look. Government's role is to take care of its citizens, not provide KOZ zones for developers.

Thanks for your views.

Bernie O'Hare said...

PO'd blogger, Yeah I think LC could be looking at this, too.

Look Out Lehigh Valley said...

yes I should have ended my comment by reiterating that I think this could be a great thing, and its definitely an idea that is worth a study - by both counties.

Not to be beating the dead horse of bi-county cooperation, but in general I think the more regionalism that occurs in the lehigh valley the better.

WindGapper said...

I think this is a wonderful idea. In addition, it should be looked into for fire and EMS as well. A study on all of this would be wonderful!

Anonymous said...

Windgapper hit the nail on the head. Another issue within the county wide public safety realm is fire protection. The antiquated way of volunteer fire departments have to change within Pennsylvania and Northampton County. In Saucon Valley, alone, there are five (5) volunteer fire companies. They have a hard time recruiting volunteers and compete against one another for grants and revenue from the Commonwealth. Northampton County would be better served if we consolidated volunteer fire companies into regional professional departments. I know this would step on political toes, but it's the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

Question. How much did Lou "Mr. Easton" Ferrone, chairman of the Parking Authority in the city of his namesake extort from you to pose as sheriff?

I bet it wasn't nearly as exhoritant as the bribe he extracted from his partner Arcadia Properties, the Easton heritage Alliance, the Easton Historical Commission, and Mayor Phil Mitman for his promoting of Riverwalk.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Billy!

Consider yourself lucky that it's not me! If it were, I'd kick your lanky Alabama ass right into the Easton septic system so you could feel at home with all the Turdaros.

Billy Givens said...

Bernie,

Thanks for posting my comment and for your response.

The only revision I would make to my comment would be to change the last five words of the last paragraph, "for his promotion of Riverwalk," which lends to much dignity for what he does, to "his stooling for Riverwalk."

Seriously, Bernie, please desist from referring to your's and my mutual friend John Todaro as "John Turdaro."

It's not nice, or, as our not mutual friend Bill White - he's your friend but not mine - it's not "civil."

Also in a serious vein, I want to meet with you regarding Riverwalk as it relates to the federal Security Prosperity Parntership Act (SPPA), or Northampton American Union, now being "fast-tracked" (no pun intended since we're talking transporation here)by the U.S.'s Resident George W. Bush, former Pres. Fuentes Fox of Mexico, and Jim Martin, former Prime Minister of Canada, as reported recently in the posting on my own blog titled "'Escape from Freedom" - Erick Fromm,'" and elsewhere on my blog and website.

Also in a serious vein, I want need to talk to you about "Breaking News" reported at 5:18 p.m. ET in yesterday's The Express-time and captioned "Warren Co. probe centers on bank transfers from Alzheimer's patient's account.

But when I clicked on the caption, I got only "Page Not Found."

I can't help but wonder if the patient's name isn't Alice Kays Kitchen, whose grand-daughter Diane Kays Kitchen alleges was improperly placed in a nursing or assisted-living home in BangorBorough, Northampton County.

Diane contact me after reading my Billy Bytes accounts of the plight of Plainfield Township resdent Anna Mae Kessler.

Anna Mae was committed to the Williams Manor nursing or assisted-living facility at 164 Baron Road in Bushkill Township under circumstances similar or identical to those of Alice Mae.

Anonymous said...

Hey Givens! It looks like Alice Kays, Anna Mae, John Turdaro and you, all need to be in a retirement home.

Hey Bernie! When the f@#$ are you going to pull the plug on Givens? He's so OT, he's freakin senile. Stop the madness on your blog. Other people obey the rules on your blog. I understand freedom of speech, but stop the OT, self-serving, self-engrandizing, senile, got his own blog that nobody reads, Givens.

Billy Givens said...

Anon. 4:20 AM.

Bernie's not likely to pull the plug.

He's had it pulled on him, by Northampton County no less, and he complained, justifiably so.

And though you may think me old, I still possess bigger, brassier balls than you, else you'd identify yourself.

And since you say you understand "freedom of speech," then surely you understand that under the same Constitution, every person has the right to face his or her accuser.

How can I face you if you cower at telling me who you are?

Anonymous said...

Hey Givens! Who was Anonymous 10:13? Oh, that was you! Don't like when the kettle is called black, do you?

Go accuse Bernie of extortion on your own blog where nobody wants to read it. Leave the rest of us talking about public safety or whatever else is on topic!

Billy Givens said...

Anon. 7:56 PM'

What you see as OT others might define as astigmatism or myopia.

Where this "lanky Alabamian" - Bernie's description - is from, OT was the blinders we affixed to a horse's head, the opposite end of that animal's anatomy that best describes you.

Blinding the beast's peripheral vision pulled its stare straight ahead and down, comatose to any motion from its left or right that might panic the brute, causing it to bolt and kick its traces.

Anonymous said...

From Anon 7:56

Out of respect for Bernie and his blog, I will desist in getting into a diatribe with you, Mr. Givens. Verbose accusatory statements accomplishes nothing.

The on topic discussion of public safety is an important issue in the Lehigh Valley. Rev. Dowd should be commended for his insightful thoughts of regionalization of police resources. A local hot button issue being identified by Rev. Dowd unmasks municipal responsibility to it's protection of citizens.

PSP's coverage of remaining townships within Northampton County is minimal because of staffing shortages at the barracks. One vehicle at night to patrol between Lower Mount Bethel and Williams Townships is rediculous.

I've decided to take the higher road Mr. Given's.

Anonymous said...

From Anon 7:56

Did anyone read the newspaper re Williams Township EMS merging with Easton EMS because of lack of volunteers? Rev. Dowd's perception is uncanny! This will occur again. We must meet the challenge of the future with a study today.

Bernard P. Fife said...

I lived in Fort Myers, Florida for 20+ years and experienced having a city and county police force. They seemed to work well together and it gave needed police coverage to the rural areas in the county.

We also had a county-wide school district. That was a disaster. It was too big to manage and there was talk of breaking it up into city districts. Kids were being bused from one side of the county to the other. The transportation costs were staggering.

I would support a county police force but not a county school district.

Anonymous said...

from experience not a fan of Dowd. Man of God thing must be practiced not just preached.