West Cocalico stays with East Cocalico Police

By on October 17, 2013


ALICE HUMMER Review Correspondent

, Staff Writer

West Cocalico Township Supervisor Chairman Jacque Smith and supervisors Terry Sheetz and J.J. Stoner each said yes to continuing police coverage with East Cocalico Township Police in 2014 and working with the police board to form a Cocalico Regional Police Force at their Oct. 10 special meeting.

This decision maintains what residents say has been excellent police coverage throughout the Cocalico School District. Elementary schools are located in Adamstown, Denver and Reamstown. Cocalico middle school and high school are located in Denver.

"I’m satisfied with the decision," smiled Dr. Bruce Sensenig, superintendent of the Cocalico School District.

Sheetz made a three-part motion in seeking to continue East Cocalico Police in 2014.

"Supervisors need to notify Northern Lancaster County Regional Police that West Cocalico Township will not be joining them by the Oct. 15 deadline," Sheetz said. "For the calendar year of 2014 we’ll enter into a one-year contract with East Cocalico … and re-examine the situation."

"I’d like to ask Adamstown Borough to reconsider," Sheetz continued.

Adamstown voted 5-2 on Oct. 1 to accept Northern Regional Police Department’s offer of coverage, contingent upon West Cocalico and Denver also doing so.

"If Adamstown and/or Denver don’t agree, then I think we have to have another meeting," said Sheetz.

On June 5, East Cocalico Township supervisors sent a new contract to Adamstown, Denver and West Cocalico Township. None of the municipalities would sign the contract because of high financial penalties for withdrawal from the proposed contract and fees for an unfunded pension balance. Since then, residents have praised the East Cocalico Police and Chief while criticizing the police management.

Residents spoke to statistics showing prompt response times to calls and high clearance rates (I.e. solved cases). Although municipal officers did not wish to lose East Cocalico Police, they felt there was no choice except to shop for other police coverage, since East Cocalico supervisors declined to discuss the new contract.

Northern Lancaster Regional Police Force provided quotes for service to Adamstown, Denver and West Cocalico Township.

"I think the school somehow needs to be involved so they can share as we continue to work," said Sheetz when Jacque Smith seconded his motion.

After the meeting, Sensenig noted that "we’ll participate" if asked to do so.

Neither Smith nor Sensenig suggested how that cooperation or participation would look, or even if it would mean a seat at the table of the police board for the school district. By definition the police board is composed of the municipalities who would be financially contributing to the organization of the new regional police.

Smith praised the consistent efforts of East Cocalico Supervisor Noelle Fortna, who sits on the new police board.

"I really appreciate you stepping up to the plate," Smith said.

Fortna has been the liaison to the other municipalities as East Cocalico took steps to help keep the municipalities served by East Cocalico Police together. Some of the steps taken include taking the proposed new contract and all deadlines for it off the table; funding the unfunded pension for 2014; proposing new, reduced police costs after working closely with Chief Beever and Police Association President Corporal Darrick Keppley; abolishing the position of police commissioner, held by East Cocalico Supervisor Chairman Doug Mackley and using the new police board.

Approximately 150 residents attended the meeting, many affiliated with the grassroots group, Citizens 4 Cocalico Police (C4CP).

Retired East Cocalico Township Police Sergeant Ray Burns, a resident of West Cocalico Township, thanked the supervisors for their hard work and decision.

"You’ve asked us (police) to make concessions and we have. The police are taking no raise for 2014 and a 1.5 percent raise in 2015, which is below the cost of living and below the 2.75 percent recommended by the police arbitration report" (which was returned on Oct. 5 to East Cocalico Township).

"Please," (supervisors) work to form a true Cocalico Police Department," said Burns.

"To the public," Burns said, "thank you for your support throughout this process."

About Ephrata Review