By Tom Knapp firstname.lastname@example.org
May 07, 2009
A question about public access to police records exploded into a firestorm of debate among residents and supervisors Wednesday in East Hempfield Township. At the center of the storm were charges that a police officer in the township was promoted to the rank of sergeant despite a protection from abuse order filed against him after he allegedly battered his wife. That officer, supervisors said, is now up for promotion to lieutenant... When a resident asked Bagnoli if the officer in question was promoted after the PFA order was filed against him, the chief sat down without response... Wheaton said the board previously approved a policy for the review and testing of police officers that has not been uniformly followed.
FULL ARTICLE HERE:
Excerpts rearranged (so I could get it straight):
SUPERVISOR DOUGLAS BRUBAKER
"We have an officer who, in my opinion, committed an egregious crime against a co-worker who happened to be his wife... I am furious, I am beside myself and I am embarrassed for this township... In my opinion, this has been shoved under the rug." Brubaker, a member of the public safety committee that oversees police operations, said it took several months for him to obtain a copy of a police arbitration report. "We need to seriously reconsider … who the people are who are making these decisions... I want this to be a strictly open and transparent, merit-based process … and in my opinion I am being thwarted in doing that."
SUPERVISOR HEIDI WHEATON
Supervisor Heidi Wheaton quickly made a motion asking the solicitor to look into the issue. "We don't need any more litigation in this township... The people have a right to know... I don't appreciate any laws not being followed properly in this township. Wheaton, noting there was no discipline taken against the officer, requested an independent investigation by the state Attorney General's office into the matter.
CHIEF DOUGLAS BAGNOLI
Chief Douglas Bagnoli said reports on criminal investigations are exempt from open-information laws because they can contain personal information about victims and suspects in a case. Bagnoli supported [Supervisor Heidi Wheaton's] motion [for an independent investigation by the state Attorney General's office]. "I totally agree with you," he said. "It's the only way to find out the facts. I think you're going to find out you're wrong." However, he noted the alleged incident of violence in question occurred outside the township and told Wheaton, "I wish you'd come to me and talked to me before you brought this up in a public forum." When a resident asked Bagnoli if the officer in question was promoted after the PFA order was filed against him, the chief sat down without response.