Mayor: Police can feel free to speak if study authorized

April 21, 2004|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - If the Chambersburg Borough Council decides to go forward with a comprehensive study of its police department, Police Chief Michael DeFrank and the other officers will be allowed to speak their minds to the consultants, Mayor Thomas Newcomer said.

The council is considering authorizing a study of the department that would look at all aspects of its operations, including management, morale, organizational structure, training, overtime, staff levels and subgroups such as the K-9 unit and crime impact team.

"What impact would the gag order have on the consultants?" asked Councilman Allen Frantz. The question was in reference to a directive Newcomer issued about two years ago prohibiting members of the department from speaking to the media or public about internal affairs or personnel matters.


"We wouldn't want anyone to put a clamp on what someone can say" to the consultants, Newcomer said. "We need to know what the internal problems are and what the attributes are, because this department does have attributes."

Newcomer said members of the department are not prohibited from giving information to members of the media on routine police matters.

"The so-called gag order is a myth perpetuated by those wishing to do harm to the mayor and the community," said Councilman Carl Helman. He said it would be "interesting" to put the members of council under oath and ask each if they had discussed internal matters with the public and media.

There has been friction between Newcomer and some members of the council over the mayor's administration of the department, most recently over a proposal by Newcomer to reduce the number of officers on the Crime Impact Team from five to four.

Borough Manager Eric Oyer estimated the cost of a review at approximately $40,000 and recommended it be done by an independent consulting firm rather than through a free review service offered through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

Council President William McLaughlin said a study may or may not prove useful, depending on how much it would cost to implement and whether it violates the contract with the police union. If it does, he said it would become "another expensive study used to prop open a window."

McLaughlin suggested the borough administration develop a request for a proposal to send to consultants and bring before the council by the end of July.

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