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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, April 07, 2017

Lehigh Tp Wants NorCo to Pay For Its Booking Center

Chief Scott Fogel
Lehigh Township Police Chief Scott Fogel, Supervisor Cindy Miller and Magisterial District Judge Bob Hawke were at NorCo Council's April 6 meeting to complain about Executive John Brown's refusal to fund their own booking center, which serves police departments in Lehigh and Moore Townships, as well as Northampton, Walnutport and North Catasauqua Boroughs. It is one of three booking centers that also include one in Bethlehem and one at the jail. All three facilities include a Livescan Fingerprint Computer System, Commonwealth Photo Imaging Network (CPIN) and Videoconferencing Closed Circuit TV Network. This technology enables officers who make an arrest to return to their patrol duties more quickly. Any one processed there is assessed a $300 fee. Fogel was informed in February that the terminal fees at the Lehigh Township Booking Center are unpaid, even though the county paid the terminal fees at the other two centers. Chief Fogel stated that it is a 45-minute drive to Easton, and would impose a public safety concern if his officers had to make the trip to Easton.

Judge Hawke told Council that these municipalities are all in his magisterial district, and that the processing center was built by Lehigh Tp's road crew. He stated that the criminal cases in his district would pay for the cost of the processing center. He questioned why NorCo is paying the processing fee in Bethlehem, but not in Lehigh Township. "I hope this matter can be corrected," said Hawke. He said the processing center will be shut down in the next few days if $22,000 remains unpaid.

Executive John Brown agreed that officers who can use a local booking center can cover that cost themselves. He noted that the County only agreed to pay for the booking center for 2 1/2 years, and after that, it is the responsibility of the local municipalities. He called it a nominal fee if shared by the six municipalities. He paid for the Bethlehem processing center because the 911 centers are merging.

The $300 fee charged does not come back to the booking center.It is not a profit center," he said. Brown said there is a cost advantage to the municipalities to keep the processing center and pay for it themselves instead of paying overtime.

"This is not the first conversation we had with Lehigh Township, Chief Fogel," said Brown.

Peg Ferraro was concerned. "We're passing this down to the municipality," she said. "Why isn't NorCo responsible for all the booking facilities?" ... I think we should make things a little more convenient for the townships."

But Brown disagreed. "It's a local responsibility," he said. He said it is in their interest to pay this minor fee and avoid the overtime. "They're looking for the county to pay it, and we informed them, numerous times."


Anonymous said...

What is MDJ Hawke doing in this discussion? Judges are supposed to be independent of law enforcement, not advocating for any of their concerns. His appearance flies in the face of avoiding the appearance of impropriety.

Anonymous said...

Where is the DA in this argument. Probably worrying about time clocks!

Anonymous said...

Bethlehem spends on what it wants and cries for what it needs and gets the county to pay for it. What does the 911 center have to do with bookings?

Bernie O'Hare said...

6:03, Hawke may comment at government meetings concerning matters that involve his court. There is nothing unethical about that. But what is unethical is that he also comments at nearly every township meeting about different township issues that have no bearing on his office. This is improper. I brought this to his attention last night and he walked off, saying he is a citizen and has that right. He does not. He gives up that right when he becomes a judge.

"In appearing before governmental bodies or consulting with government officials, magisterial district judges must be mindful that they remain subject to other provisions of these Conduct Rules, such as Rule 1.3, prohibiting magisterial district judges from using the prestige of office to advance their own or others’ interests, Rule 2.10, governing public comment on pending and impending matters, and Rule 3.1(C), prohibiting magisterial district judges from engaging in extrajudicial activities that would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the magisterial district judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality."


Bernie O'Hare said...

"Where is the DA in this argument. Probably worrying about time clocks!"

Does Hawke want him to arrest Brown?