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Springfield police training time once again scrutinized

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Springfield Township is again probing how department police spend their time.

At the July meeting, Supervisor Karen Bedics expressed concern about the “substantial number of hours” the township police department was spending on non-essential trainings while on the clock.

Figures presented to the board showed that during a 2½ -year period from 2017 to the present, 307 hours were used for non-mandatory events, or approximately 10 hours a month.

These non-mandatory events, all documented by the police department and reported to administration, include motor vehicle crash reconstruction, active shooter drills and evidence gathering, but also “Shop with a Cop” and Community Day.

It’s not the first time the department has come under scrutiny. Last year, Bedics called on the department to submit detailed reports about its daily activities following complaints, but other supervisors and a former police chief, Robert Bell, raised objections and the requirement was dropped.

Bedics said that time spent on trainings/events meant time away from patrol that the taxpayers are paying for.

“Ninety percent of these trainings are during the day, but I’m covering,” responded Police Chief Michael McDonald, who confirmed that all trainings are straight time, not overtime.

In an e-mail Monday, Township Manager Mike Brown said the chief selects non-mandatory trainings “that help the department overall and still keep officers on patrol to the maximum extent possible.”

The township has a four-member department but also relies on state police for coverage during the overnight hours.

Supervisor James Nilsen observed there were a lot more non-mandatory trainings in 2017 than in subsequent years. Brown attributed that to the hiring of Officer Arnold Melton, a police academy graduate who formally joined the department in December 2015.

“It doesn’t seem out of line,” said Nilsen, referring to the data. Board members agreed to revisit the matter at a later date.

Also at the meeting, supervisors approved the final plan for an over-55 housing development bordering Old Bethlehem Pike. While the bulk of the project is in Upper Saucon, 33 acres containing 11 single-family homes lies in the township.

Representatives from Traditions of America informed the board that there would be three large stormwater management areas designed to mitigate severe flooding, and that drainage would be improved on Old Bethlehem Pike, the access point to the development

As per Upper Saucon requirements, half of the 133-acre property will be designated open space, and it will also feature a walking trail.

Supervisor Bedics said the project had “gone above and beyond” the stormwater management requirements. “As long as the developer lives by our ordinances, there’s not much we can do to say no,” concluded Supervisor Robert Zisko.

The project still needs the green light from the county conservation district and the state Department of Environmental Protection, the meeting was told.


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