The mandates placed upon the Altoona Police Department by the recovery plan for the city are onerous, devastating and insulting.
Those words are the only ones that characterize their effect. Not only do they apply to the city workforce as a whole, but these comments strictly pertain to the police department and to public safety. The residents of Altoona deserve better.
It is apparent the police expert from Mannheim Township, not a third-class city, did not take, nor make the time to read and review the monumental amount of information provided to him.
He formulated opinions on APD staffing, which have no relevance to a third-class city.
Why did he not perform the job professionally and formulate decisions based on relevance? One cannot compare beans and apples. Isn't that what he got paid for?
The loss of a police department information technology expert was the first blow. Considering the vast amount of technology inherent for a police department to use, why hamper its effectiveness?
The IT was also the deputy emergency management coordinator. He happens to be a neighbor, and when called upon to be the EMC, he was rarely home. Duty first from a dedicated officer.
Next, the APD loses a highly trained and competent evidence technician. You can't have just anyone, without being sufficiently and professionally trained, perform this vital function.
Then the eradication of the deputy chief's position is another major blow. Altoona needs a deputy police chief.
Why did the APD lose its deputy chief slot, but the fire department is adding one and having two? Isn't the demonstrable function of the APD important enough? Where is the equality? Simple, there is none.
Altoona receives about 30,000 calls for police service. I did a pro bono study for the APD in July 2007.
The police department staffing is nowhere near what other third-class cities possess. The FBI recommends a city the size of Altoona should have 74 police officers, yet the Act 47 people think it should be 66.
Since the incorporation of Act 47, the APD has lost 260 years of dedicated, professional experience. Police experience is mandatory if crime is to be abated and cases solved. The manpower decisions of the Act 47 team are an insult to the understaffed and overworked APD. It is imperative the APD be proactive rather than reactive.
Suggestion: Let's swap police chiefs, Chief Janice Freehling goes to Mannheim Township for a spell, and Chief Neil Harkins comes here from Mannheim to try to run the APD with the suggestions he made. I'll lay odds Harkins couldn't cut it.
I have been involved in the testing of potential police candidates for the APD as chairman of the City Police Civil Service Board. I find the officers we have are among the finest men and women to serve our citizens.
The men and women are professional, educated, sincere, and dedicated.
It's time to stand up for the APD and not permit the city to kowtow to outside, demeaning interests. The residents of Altoona deserve better; no, that's not correct. The residents of Altoona demand better! I'm angry and Altoona's citizens should be as well. It's your safety at stake.
Donald E. Belsey