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Residents upset with Mercersburg police department pack council meeting

February 11, 2013|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com
  • Businessman Dwayne Johnson addresses the Mercersburg (Pa.) Borough Council on Monday about problems he perceives within the municipal police department.
Photo by Jennifer Fitch

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — Perceived issues with the community police department drew a significant percentage of the Borough of Mercersburg’s residents to a town council meeting Monday.

More than 30 people packed into council chambers, while dozens more waited in the hallway and on the sidewalk outside Borough Hall. Represented were residents and business people from the one-square-mile municipality that about 1,500 people call home.

Jeremy Jones, who lives and works in the borough, described what he called “willful and purposeful, aggressive policing,” which he said includes officers waiting outside establishments with liquor licenses to target their customers for potential driving under the influence arrests.

The borough council reached a temporary resolution on one of the crowd’s main gripes. The council voted unanimously to recommend commercial truck inspections cease for the first half of the year.

Mayor James Zeger, who oversees the police department, said he would make that recommendation a directive. He said the debate had already done enough damage in the community.

The basic inspection looks at items such as tail lamps, windshield wipers, tires and turn signals, and can become more extensive than that.

“We wanted to make sure the trucks were safe and in compliance with federal regulations,” Police Chief John D. Zechman said during a forum Jan. 23.

Some business owners claim the inspections can last 45 minutes to two hours. That, they said, not only affects time-sensitive deliveries such as food and asphalt, but causes their vendors to add surcharges for delays.

Commercial driver’s license holder David Knox holds a different opinion. Knox, who lives in Mercersburg, said he welcomes inspections because it reflects well on his record when he passes one. He said he does pre-trip inspections of his vehicle every time he drives it.

“If (someone) is not legitimate when he pulled out of the parking lot, that’s his fault,” Knox told the council.

A newly formed committee is tasked with looking at police-related issues. Representatives on that committee include the mayor, police chief, three business people and three council members.

Zechman attended the meeting but did not make any remarks.

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