COLWYN — A years-long conversation in Colwyn about police leadership in accordance with the local police union came to an end Monday night.
Colwyn Borough Council unanimously approved an executed settlement agreement with Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 27 of Delaware County that borough Solicitor Ken Schuster called, “very, very favorable” to the borough as it outlines the department’s employment of less than 10 police officers, all part time, in the borough of 2,500 residents.
“There were no wage increases. They did away with longevity, there’s no pension obligation, no medial benefit, there’s a removal of the chief’s position from the bargaining agreement, and none of these rights apply to part-time officers,” said Schuster at the meeting. “The FOP is no longer interested in representing the police officers in the borough of Colwyn so it’s a very favorable contract.”
The FOP Lodge 27 only represents full-time police officers in Delaware County, save for the Chester City Police Department, which has its own FOP lodge.
Borough officials said negotiations have been ongoing since 2014 and the agreement will last until Dec. 31, 2023.
A copy of the agreement requested from Schuster Tuesday morning through a Right to Know request went unanswered.
Colwyn is one of the smallest municipalities in Delaware County, and despite having a police force of of seven part-time officers and the police chief position vacant (Lt. Michael Hale has been serving as the borough’s top cop since the summer), the force gets full-time pay to provide around-the-clock police coverage in 12-hour shifts from 7 to 7.
According to signed timesheets from October and November 2019, officers were routinely working 40-hour weeks with as much as 35 hours of overtime in their biweekly pay cycles. Officer Donald Quick reportedly worked 36 hours straight from Nov. 4 to Nov. 6 before taking a four-hour break and resumed a 12-hour shift from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. into Nov. 7. Officer Donald Lassiter had a similar 24-hour continuous cycle in at least one of his timesheets from that month.
Before these timesheets were submitted to the borough police overtime was already over budget by double - $36,000 to $17,500 - by Sept. 30, 2019. Salaries for the year were set at $185,000.
Mayor Maurice Clark said there is so much overtime because the department is short-staffed and needs to provide protection in the borough all day. The borough had previously used Pennsylvania State Police to cover the overnight hours intermediately, as recently as 2018.
For 2020, after a $1 per hour bump in pay for officers to $17.25, the salary line item for part-time police jumped to $232,000 and overtime dropped to $15,000. A new police chief is budgeted to make $87,000 in 2020.
In spite of all of the tax money that go to support the police department in the cash strapped borough, about one-third of the borough’s operating budget, residents were hard up Monday in telling council that police are nowhere to be found, allegedly hanging out at the Dunkin’ in Collingdale or sitting at the police station during the overnight hours.
“We got a police force, but crime doesn’t stop after 9 or ten o’clock at night,” said resident Sam Zigler, Jr. “You can’t even get a cop out here. Y’all need to fix that, number one. If we try to call the police, nobody’s here to take care of us. We pay enough taxes that we should be protected.”
Clark immediately responded to Zigler’s concern, saying officers are on patrol 24/7 in the borough.
“Where? Every time I ride around I don’t see a cop nowhere,” Zigler retorted.
Krisna McGeachie cited recent attempts of people trying to break into her vehicle and related safety issues in the borough. She wants a more visible police presence in the borough.
“Are these officers patrolling?” McGeachie asked Clark, which he confirmed. “Now that means I’m going to jump in my truck at 2 in the morning and patrol myself just to see. I’m telling you, honestly, we need more officers.”
Clark said two candidates had submitted applications in November to be part-time officers but they have yet to be interviewed. Enticing officers to come to the borough, he said, is impeded by the lower pay rates compared to other municipalities in the area.
He and borough council President Barbara Williams said officers use the borough as real-life training before going on to other departments.
Chestnut Street resident Tatiana Hawkins did not hold back, saying the services in the borough, through the elected officials, is “terrible.”
“Don’t tell me about the police department because your police department sits in back of my house all night and doesn’t do anything,” she said. In pointing out an officer at the back of the meeting hall, Hawkins said he, “sits in the f----- parking lot all night long, him and his comrades. They don’t police anything!”
She continued, “Don’t tell me that you are paying them overtime to play pocket ball while they’re sitting in their car all night long because they’re not doing anything.”
At the end of the meeting around 8:45, an officer left the police station parking lot across from borough hall in a marked police vehicle and then returned a minute later, turned the vehicle off and went into the station.
Kimberly Brown, a known critic of the efficiency of borough management and the police department, was not surprised to see such a short patrol.