Police Reform

I have a deep respect for the work of the WCPD, but last year our community made it clear that we need to reevaluate the way policing is done in our community. I am committed to that effort and have been working to develop a series of reforms. Our main goals need to be:

 

  • Diversifying our police department
    • We need to examine our hiring policy, and figure out why it is so difficult to hire people of color. Also, A 2007 counterterrorism intelligence report warned about the increase in White Supremacists applying to law enforcement. I know this is a concern for many residents. While I have no reason to question the integrity of our current officers, I think instituting a White Supremacist screening policy during hiring will instill confidence in our department.
    • During a recent borough council meeting regarding a memo on this subject, the Borough solicitor said that in the end, diversifying our candidate pool comes down to marketing, which is what I do.
    • I would like to target veterans who have served as military police, a candidate pool that has a higher percentage of people of color.
    • Increasing the number of officers who speak Spanish fluently, either through hiring or training. Currently, we have zero officers that speak Spanish fluently.

 

  • Increasing mental health services
      • In 2016, I had an enlightening ride-along with one of our officers on St. Patrick’s Day. During that time, I witnessed a wide range of response calls beyond just enforcement. The last call of the night, was a suicide call at 4 am. Unfortunately, this is a common call the police get.
      • Police are for law enforcement, not mental health services.
      • We need a social worker on call on every shift.
      • My 3-1-1 proposal will allow people to get access to non-emergency resources, and removing some of that burden from 9-1-1.

 

  • Reducing Overall Cost of Department, Increasing Public Safety
        • Right now the department is stretched thin. Many are working overtime, which leads to officer burnout and even higher budgets.
        • I read the Police Brotherhood contract, something that would be renegotiated during my term, and there is a provision for a 4 person “Town Watch”, part-time, private security bounded to specific areas of the borough. I am not thrilled with the idea of private security, anyone patrolling our community under the authority of the government should be trained, police officers.
        • To that end, I would like to replace this with a three-tiered Special Officer System, based on police departments in New Jersey.

Special Law Enforcement Officers

I envision our Special Law Enforcement Officers as a part-time supplement to our full-time police force when school is in session and will be limited to a specific geographic area, similar to our existing, but unused, Town Watch. Modifications to the agreement will have to be made during the police contract negotiations that will take place in 2022, but a big thing to understand is that these part-time officers would not add to our pension burden, but would still be eligible for other benefits, to be negotiated with the union.

You will notice that none of these officers will carry a firearm, by statute. During the community meeting after the death of George Floyd, I asked Chief Morehead and Sgt. Lee what their biggest criticism of the department was, and their response was that they needed to use their mouths more. I think we can all agree that we don’t need armed officers patrolling the downtown at 2pm.

  1. Class 1 Special Law Enforcement Officer
    • Authorized to perform traffic detail, spectator control, and the power to issue summonses for disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses.
    • Use of a firearm is strictly prohibited by statute.
  2. Class 2 Special Law Enforcement Officer
    • Officers of this class shall be authorized to exercise full powers and duties similar to those of a permanent, regularly appointed full-time police officer.
    • Emphasis on foot patrols.
    • Use of a firearm is prohibited, unless authorized, in writing, by the Chief of Police.
  3. Class 3 Special Law Enforcement Officer
    • A retired member of the WCPD under the age of 65, who retired in good standing.
    • Officers of this class shall be authorized to exercise full powers and duties similar to those of a permanent, regularly appointed full-time police officer.
    • Use of a firearm is prohibited, unless authorized, in writing, by the Chief of Police.

Community Policing

I want to develop a community policing program to build relationships between officers and the community at large. Doing research on the subject, the Department of Justice defines community policy as, “a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime.” This would be done through regular town halls with residents and businesses, and community events like Coffee with a Cop and National Night Out (when it is safe to do so). I also think that increased foot patrols allow for more casual contact with officers, allowing residents to get to know them better.

The top concern I have heard from residents is that few of our officers actually live in town. I think there are two ways to fix this, one short-term and one long-term. Short-term, we should be looking into a home buying credit so we can encourage officers we hire to live in our community. Long-term, we want to encourage members of our community to join our police force. We should work on a Police Academy feeder program to encourage youths in our community to become the police in our community.

I already have established relationships in many communities that are not exactly trusting of the police. I plan on using my position as supervisor to make sure that the department can be trusted, and work to build those relationships.

A Focus on Sexual Assaults

I read every police report provided to me, 2008-2019. While we saw a slight uptick in 2019, the general trend is that crime is down. I would imagine 2020 numbers would be low with the kids out of school and bars closed down, I do think working off 2019’s numbers would be more accurate when thinking long term.

For too long, women have had to carry the burden when it comes to the discussion around sexual assault, despite being the victims in the majority of cases. It is time for men to start taking responsibility and having discussions ourselves about how we can stop this behavior that destroys lives. As a 35-year-old man, I am uniquely qualified to reach out to the young men in our community and start these conversations. I want to go down to the Frat houses and engage with the students and other young men in our community directly, as well as create marketing materials discussing the consequences of sexual assault.

The WCPD reported 6 sexual assaults, and the WCU police reported another 6. So that was 12 recorded sexual assaults in our area. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, 63% of sexual assaults aren’t reported to police, and that number jumps to 90% on campus. That means we likely have many more incidents that aren’t being reported.

According to RAINN, 50% of Campus Assaults occur in August – November. So during my time as Mayor, I will develop a program with our police department to engage directly with male students at the beginning of the school year, and continued discussions with other groups throughout the year.

A Way to Really Support the Police

One of the largest sources of crime in our borough is from the overserving at the bars downtown. We can yell at the bar owners all we want, but in the end, these problems stem from the fact that at the point of sale, there is an economic incentive for the bartender to serve as much alcohol as they can, to raise their tips. I have thought of several ways to address this, but I prefer a softer touch, based on my job at Outback many years ago. We need businesses to support their employees economically when they decide to cut off a drunk patron, so they don’t keep serving to ensure they will get a tip at the end of the night.

During my administration, “We Support the West Chester Police” signs on businesses will mean something. I am working on a program that bars and restaurants can participate in to earn a “We Support the West Chester Police” placard on their business. Right now there are two requirements, but I am open to feedback from residents and business owners:

  1. This business shall guarantee tips up to 20% for any employee who handles alcohol when dealing with a patron who is cut off because of intoxication.
  2. A way to communicate that a patron is in danger must be devised and posted in the bathroom. Employees must be trained on what to do if signaled for help.

Communication

End the practice of posting recently arrested people to our Facebook page. As someone who works on social media professionally, there are two reasons for this:

    • Ethically, I think it is wrong to use social media as a modern stockade. You are innocent until proven guilty, and I feel it is inappropriate content.
    • There may be a possible liability. If someone’s face is posted after an arrest and they are acquitted, and somehow our post causes them to lose a job or otherwise impact their life, we could be liable for damages. With facial recognition technologies on the rise, this is a very real possibility.

Under my supervision, the police social media channels will be used as force multipliers, public service announcements, highlight the community, and allow residents to get to know our officers better.  I have also spoken with the Chief about reevaluating how we use the CrimeWatch resource along similar lines.

In Conclusion

In early February, I had a call with Chief Morehead to talk about these reforms and about the direction I would like to take the department in. He seemed very receptive and during our excellent discussion, he was very open to my ideas. I believe he is willing to listen to the concerns of the community and is willing to put in the work to form the connections in the community that we need.

Also, I want to let you know that the WCPD is NOT accredited, but that this will be resolved by the end of the year. I have heard that the renovations we performed on Borough Hall a couple of years ago went a long way towards accomplishing this goal, and after speaking with the Chief, our department should be accredited by the time I am sworn in.

If you have ideas about improving the WCPD, do not hesitate to contact me.

Do you have questions, comments, or concerns? Send us a message below:



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