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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Police commissioner, chief job description approved

  • The monthly meeting of the Honesdale Borough Council brought a lot of discussion, particularly regarding the police department.
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  • The monthly meeting of the Honesdale Borough Council brought a lot of discussion, particularly regarding the police department. Councilman Bob Jennings made a motion to establish a job description for the “chief law enforcement officer of Honesdale Borough.” “I move to establish a job description for the chief law enforcement officer of Honesdale Borough, Wayne County, Pennsylvania, regardless of a designation of Chief of Police or Police Commissioner, the contents of that job description being attached hereto, incorporated herein and made a part hereof,” he said. The job description was developed from Carbondale, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre Police Departments through the corresponding mayor's offices. The Honesdale Borough Police Department has had three police commissioners in its history. They are Sgt. William Ashworth, Herold Wipple and current police commissioner Rick Southerton. All of the others were police chiefs. The description starts out by saying the police commissioner or chief of police is the chief executive officer of the Honesdale Borough Police Department and is “responsible for the general direction of the police department, setting policy, developing administrative procedures, preparing an annual budget, making recommendations to the Borough Council and maintaining liaison with other law enforcement and criminal justice agencies and the community at large.” It adds that the term chief of police will be “interchangeable with Police Commissioner, the Police Commissioner being the senior rank, except that in circumstances where an individual hired to act as the Police Commissioner has not been certified by the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission (Act 120) this individual will not act as a police officer but will perform all other duties associated with the position.” The description also states if the chief executive officer becomes Act 120 certified, he/she may become a member of the Honesdale Police Officers Association. They'll also be able to conduct or assist “in any law enforcement investigations or apprehension of offenders.” Jennings stated there has “never been” a policy named for any of the previous police commissioners or police chiefs. “I hope now they'll abide by the description,” he said. Some of the duties included in the job description are: • Responsible for acting as chief administrative officer of the Honesdale Borough Police Department and the final departmental authority on all matters of policy, operations and disciplines. • Exercises all lawful powers of the office and issues such general orders, special orders, memorandums and other directives as necessary to ensure effective delivery of police services to the community. • Responsible for the delegation of responsibility to those under his command with commensurate authority. • Must research/define how policy change will affect present operations. • Work with Borough Officials on budget development. • Supervise critical incidents. • Meet with elected officials to discuss law enforcement problems. • Meet with business community leaders to discuss law enforcement problems. • Develop and institute an adequate and progressive training program for all members and employees. Some of the qualifications included in the job description are: • Thorough knowledge of applicable federal, state and city laws and ordinances. • Thorough knowledge of modern police practices, techniques and methods. • Ability to analyze complex problems; evaluate a situation, respond correctly applying appropriate discretion and common sense. • Ability to deal with the public firmly and courteously and to maintain effective working relationships with the public, news media, city administrators and others contacted in the normal course of duty. The motion of establishing the job description was seconded by councilman Harry DeVrieze. It passed by a unanimous vote from the council, with the exception of council president F.J. Monaghan who was absent from the meeting. The full list of the 52 duties and 15 qualifications will be available at www.wayneindependent.com. Other business Jennings also made a motion pertaining to the collective bargaining agreement with the Police Commission, that has been in negotiations for awhile. “I move to amend the pending, proposed seven year draft contract between Honesdale Borough and the Honesdale Borough Police Officers Association by including that the chief law enforcement officer of the Honesdale Borough Police Department, regardless of being titled Chief of Police or Police Commissioner, shall be a member of the Police Officers Association bargaining unit and shall be selected as and by the sole and exclusive determination and discretion of Honesdale Borough Council. The contents of the proposed amendment to the pending collective bargaining agreement is made a part hereof, attached hereto, and incorporated herein by reference thereto,” he stated. “I'm not sure if that's the right way to go and do it in the middle of contract negotiations,” said councilman Scott Smith. “At the end of the day the union has to agree.” “Hopefully you're close in wrapping this up,” said solicitor Rich Henry. The following would be added into the draft contract if approved: • The rank structure of the Honesdale Borough Police Department shall include a Police Commissioner or Chief of Police, the Police Commissioner being the senior rank. • The Police Commissioner or Chief of Police is responsible for the general direction of the police department, setting policy, developing administrative procedures, preparing an annual budget, making recommendations to the Borough Council and maintaining liaison with other law enforcement and criminal justice agencies and the community at large. • In circumstances where an individual hired to act as the chief executive officer has not been certified by the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission (Act 120) this individual will not act as a police officer but will perform all other duties associated with the position. • When the chief executive officer of the Honesdale Borough Police Department is or becomes Act 120 certified he/she may be a member of the Honesdale Police Officers Association. • Additionally when the chief executive officer of the Honesdale Borough Police Department is or becomes Act 120 certified he/she may conduct or assist in any law enforcement investigations or apprehension of offenders. The motion was seconded by Devrieze and was a unanimous vote by those present, with the exception of Smith who voted no. • Jennings also made a motion regarding the pay of the part time officers. “I move to pay part time officers with Pennsylvania Act-120 $15 to $18 per hour depending on experience and educational qualifications to be determined by the Police Commissioner Southerton,” he said. After some confusion with the motion Smith explained that the police commissioner makes the recommendations, but the council makes the approval. Southerton asked for clarification on when the increased wage would start and was told it would be in January. All existing part time officers are at $15 and will all see their change to $18 come their first paycheck of 2014. New police officers with no experience will start at $15 with a “two year window” of increased increments. Depending on their experience as a police officer, new officers can start at $18. Council clarified that the wages by police experience, whether the officer was always with the Honesdale Borough Police Department or not. Smith seconded the motion and it was passed unanimously. • DeVrieze made a motion to advertise for a full time clerk/typist for the police department starting at $13.50 per hour. “I don't understand why we need to have a full time person for just the police department,” said Smith. “I don't see why we can't split their time between the police, zoning, etc.” “What if we hired a part time person to start and we can always change it later,” said council vice president James Brennan. “We've had complaints where people called the police department during normal hours and they didn't get anyone,” said Southerton. “But we've also heard complaints about a uniformed officer answering the phone. You can't have it both ways. There's certainly enough work there to hire another person.” “Paying $13.50 seems high for that position,” said Smith. Mayor Ed Langendeorfer and Director of Public Works Rich Doney agreed. “We have full time employees who are almost at the price,” said Southerton. “It doesn't seem fair to pay a new person the same as people who have been there for a certain number of years.” Brennan questioned whether they could even talk about wages publicly and was told it was public information. After some discussion the motion was amended to advertise for a full time clerk/typist and that the salary will be negotiated. The motion was then seconded by Jennings and passed by majority vote, with Smith voting no. • Jennings made a motion to appoint Troy E. Johnson of Honesdale as a Civil Service Commission Alternate member. It was seconded by councilwoman Juanita Pisano and passed unanimously.

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