Residents slam New Freedom council over police decision

Inga Andrews, widow of New Freedom Councilman Gene Andrews, addressed the borough council about its policing issues in front of a standing-room-only crowd.

"This council, the way it is, has failed the people — and I think you ought to be ashamed of yourselves," she said Monday, Feb. 12.

Former New Freedom Borough Council member Ed Smith addresses the current council during a public meeting, Monday, February 12, 2018. Smith was a member of the council when they formed Southern Regional Police Department and thinks the current council is making a mistake by withdrawing from the department. John A. Pavoncello photo

Inga Andrews spoke less than a half hour after the council stood for a moment of silence in memory of her late husband, who died Jan. 21.

She was one of more than a dozen people to speak out during Monday's New Freedom Borough Council meeting. About 200 people filled the small borough office to protest the council's decision to leave Southern Regional Police by the end of the year.

The borough's departure would leave Glen Rock, Shrewsbury and Stewartstown as the three main member municipalities of the department.

However, there is a possibility that New Freedom could stay with Southern Regional Police, assuming the council's requests to the police commission are met. The police commission is made up of officials from each municipality.

Leaving: Last month, borough officials announced New Freedom's decision to leave the regional department.

Borough council members have maintained that the issue with the department is the future financial stability and size of the department.

During Monday's meeting, Councilman Bruce Merrill proposed writing a letter to the police commission asking the group to consider either merging the current police department with another department or pushing to get more member municipalities to establish more of a financial base.

“The goal is to get a more resilient police department," he said.

New Freedom resident Douglas Brent holds up a map showing Northern York County Regional Police Department's coverage area, in orange, and New Freedom Borough, in red at the bottom of the map, during a public meeting, Monday, February 12, 2018. Residents expressed their displeasure with the borough council's decision to withdraw from Southern Regional Police. John A. Pavoncello photo

He suggested the proposal require the commission to come up with a committee dedicated to finding additional municipalities to add to the department.

Prior to the vote, Councilman Ken Earll questioned the idea, saying he would like to consider staying with the department as is.

Merrill said that shouldn't be the case.

“Lacking some incentive, there's not much, if any, stomach to do any of that work on that commission,” he said.

Merrill's proposal passed unanimously by the attending members of council.

More:Police commission talks future without New Freedom

More:'We are moving on': New Freedom leaving Southern Regional Police

New Freedom residents thank Southern Regional Police officers after a public borough council meeting, Monday, February 12, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

One officer: Dennis Sarpen, council president, said the council has looked at other police options and narrowed them down to two — Southwestern Regional Police and Northern York County Regional Police. Because a council member and the mayor were missing from Monday's meeting, Sarpen said the council would not be voting on those options.

Voting on those proposals was postponed to the council's March meeting, he said.

With those two options, there would be one officer based in the New Freedom borough office 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That officer would take over the space currently occupied by Southern Regional Police. 

These new plans didn't sit well with many New Freedom residents, who were critical of the idea of one officer for the entire borough.

“What happens when there’s a mandatory two-officer call?” New Freedom resident Doug Brent said.

Andy Bobby questioned what might happen if there is less of a police presence.

"We have a strong police presence — I think that's what keeps the crime down," he said.

Kim Bosley mentioned that criminals can come in from other counties and Baltimore.

"Why in the world would you think that one officer could handle the crime or possible crime?" she asked.

Sarpen said later in the meeting that the chiefs of each potential new department have plans in place for those situations, but he did not elaborate.

Speaking out: Multiple residents were met with rounds of applause by their neighbors after expressing public support for the Southern Regional Police Department.

Bob Werner said New Freedom residents are "tired of being jerked around," and said the council should be ashamed of what they are doing.

"I can't imagine that we keep anybody employed in that police department, with all the unknowns," he said.

Joan Mason said she moved to the area six months ago, and the officers already know the names of her grandchildren.

"I hope I didn't make a mistake moving here six months ago. I really hope I didn't," she said.

Ed Smith told the council that the department is very good and that money wasted each year should instead go into the police department.

"You can see around us that we want this police department," he said.

He also mentioned he didn't think one officer would need all the room that Southern Regional Police currently uses in the New Freedom building, and so the borough would likely lose revenue in rent from that.

Background: Last year, New Freedom and Glen Rock submitted letters of intent to leave the department by the end of 2017, citing funding issues.

Both boroughs were concerned about how the department was funded, and after bringing in a consultant to examine the funding, the boroughs then agreed to try a new method called "Police Protection Units," or PPUs. That method allows municipalities to purchase service hours, which the chief would allocate appropriately.

All of the full-member municipalities agreed to remain with the department through the end of 2018 to see how the new formula worked out. 

The formula has been in place since July.

Southern Regional Police also serves Railroad and Winterstown on a part-time basis. The department provides services to Southern York County School District as well.

The police commission's next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 7 at the New Freedom borough building. 

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.