|Gordon Crowell in 2014. You can add a beard today.|
What are constables?
Constables are elected officials who serve six-year terms. Their primary role is service of minor arrest warrants and other legal process for the Magisterial District Courts, such as eviction notices, and prisoner transport. They are required to maintain order at the polls on election day.
Though it is a Constitutional office that have existed in Pennsylvania since 1664, the constable system has been criticized as one that is open to abuse by armed officers who have minimal training and no oversight. As a result, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court adopted standards in 2013 designed to professionalize them To be certified, they must undergo 40 hours of training every year, including 20 hours of firearms training.
Northampton County has 37 certified constables, including Crowell.
What is the Constable Review Board?
Part of these standards also include the establishment of Constable Review Boards in each county to provide some oversight. In Northampton County, this Board includes the following: Judge Baratta, Magisterial District Judge Dan Corpora, Constable Kevin Spano, Acting Sheriff Rich Johnston, Controller Richard "Bucky" Szulborski, Fiscal Affairs Director Steve Barron and Magisterial District Court Administrator Debbie French.
For complaints that might result in the suspension or termination of a constable, the Review Board is required to interview the complainant, constable and all other relevant witnesses. The Board must report any suspected criminal activity to the District Attorney. After completing interviews, it makes a recommendation to the President Judge, who is the ultimate authority on a constable's continued work in Northampton County.
Who is Constable Gordon Crowell, Jr?
Crowell, a former security officer for the Allentown School District, was elected constable in 2014. He also provides security or traffic control at Notre Dame Green Pond High School. He is the Treasurer of the Pa. Fraternal Order of Constables. Ron Clever, who is their Solicitor, is representing Crowell.
Crowell and the Flagman
In 2017, there was a great deal of road work being done all summer in Forks Towsnhip, on Sullivan Trail and other roads. Ten and fifteen minute waits were common, and Detective Kelly observed that it even affected police officers. It was during one of these waits that Crowell and a flagman had an altercation in which the flagman decided to call police.
According to Kelly, the flagman was approached by Crowell, who had been waiting in traffic with his wife. Police reports indicate that Crowell became unruly and said he would have the flagman thrown in jail. He warned the flagman he would be working later that night and that he would be calling "my captain." Parts of this conversation could be heard on a 911 tape. Kelly said that she never heard Crowell identify himself as a police officer, but did hear him say "my captain." Based on this and he flagman's statement, she believed that Crowell had insinuated he was a police officer. Later that evening, Crowell admitted to Forks Tp police officers that he had said "my captain."
Crowell testified that he was waiting in line with his wife, and people were getting unruly and beeping their horns. He decided to approach the flagman and ask him if he needed help, identifying himself as a constable. He noticed that the flagman was texting someone from his phone instead of monitoring traffic. He said that flagman responded, "Shut the f--- up, you rent-a-cop! Get back in the car!" He denies he threatened to throw the flagman in jail.
Crowell and the near accident
In May of this year, Crowell was backing his car into his driveway on Sullivan Trail, a very busy road, and was very nearly clipped by a female as she was on her way to Weiss food store. She admitted that she threw her hands up at the near collision, but continued. When she reached the traffic light to turn into Weiss, Crowell pulled alongside her. He told this motorist that he was a police officer and undercover detective. When she asked for his badge number, he said it was B4119. This is actually Crowell's constable certification number. The driver reported this incident to police.
According to Crowell, the woman screamed at him after nearly hitting him as he attempted to back into his driveway. She yelled, "You f---ing cops think you can do anything you want! You're going to kill somebody!" She also gave him the finger.
Though he was backing into his driveway to park his car, Crowell suddenly realized that he needed to pick up his mail, and pulled out and was behind this woman. He admits they exchanged words at the light, but denies he misrepresented himself as a police officer.
Later that night, Crowell testified he was visited twice by "aggressive" Forks Tp police officers. The second visit was after he had gone to sleep. Since he had taken a sleep aid, he is unable to remember what he said.
Crowell and Magisterial District Judge Taschner
In the course of her typically thorough approach, Detective Kelly visited Magisterial District Judge Jacqueline Taschner and her staff. Detective Kelly learned that Judge Taschner had stopped using Crowell because of his unprofessional behavior to her staff. She also learned that Crowell had told her staff that he was working under cover for the Forks Tp Police Department.
Crowell admitted that he no longer works for Judge Taschner, but that was his own decision because he was too busy. He denied telling staff members that he was working under cover for Forks Police or behaving unprofessionally. He was corroborated by Constable Jon Whittington. "I would not have allowed it," he said.
Kelly indicated that she also had received reports that Crowell had used a light bar on his vehicle with illegal red and blue lights. When Attorney Clever queried her about It, she produced a picture. She said he was never cited for this violation because she never noticed it.
Crowell indicated that the red and blue light bar on his vehicle is gone.
Why No Criminal charges?
Either Barron or Szulborski asked Kelly why she never filed criminal charges against Crowell for impersonating a police officer. She explained that some elements were missing.
Impersonating a police officer requires proof that someone pretended to be a police officer. It also requires proof that the pretense is intended to cause the person who is fooled into performing some action to his or her detriment.
Interviews to Continue
More interviews are expected at a later date.