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Police coverage sparks debate in Macungie

By Laura Shingles, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Jun 04 2012 11:35:57 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 05 2012 03:41:42 PM CDT

Laura Shingles

MACUNGIE, Pa. -

Following last week’s tense debate about 24/7 police coverage in Macungie and a follow-up discussion Monday night, the Borough Council voted unanimously to recommend Mayor Rick Hoffman allow police Chief Edward Harry to fill an average of 30 shifts per week, or 240 hours weekly.

Council member Joseph Sikorski made the motion, adding that the coverage should not be by the state police and that part-time employees should be scheduled as often as possible so the department meets its budget.

Vice President Greg Hutchison called the recommendation “livable,” and expressed concern about exceeding council’s authority.

A new state law, effective July 16, gives the mayor of any borough “full charge and control of the chief of police and the police force.” The law states, “The mayor shall direct the time during which, the place where and the manner in which the chief of police and the police force perform the duties of their rank.” However, council may establish the number of hours police officers work in a week.

John Long, a Macungie resident, interrupted the meeting to say he couldn’t believe Hutchison let the mayor scare him.

President Jean Nagle began the meeting with a request that residents reserve comments for the public comment portions and that they act respectfully and civilly. That directive stuck through the relatively tame public comment period at the meeting’s start, but President Nagle lost order by the time council members began discussing 24/7 solutions.

In the public comment period just before council voted on its recommendation, Long took to the mic to tell Nagle he thought she held a grudge against some of the audience members present. When she told him he was out of order, he said she was out of order for not speaking loudly enough throughout the meeting.

Long said he didn’t understand why council didn’t make a resolution instead of a recommendation, but council explained it doesn’t have the authority.

The mayor may follow council’s recommendation if he chooses, but it is not binding.