John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Police Category

As COVID Restrictions Ease, DUI Arrests in the Newtown Area Are Zooming!

I've been noticing that arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) account for a majority or large portion of incidents in recent weekly Newtown Police incident reports. In the June 11 to 17, 2021, Incident Blotter, for example, 5 of the 12 incidents involved a DUI arrest. One involved a vehicle crashing into a tree and overturning! Most (4) of these incidents occurred between the hours of 10 PM and 2 AM, one was at 4:30 PM.

I wondered if there was a trend related to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions on serving alcohol in restaurants and bars. So I plotted the data for a 24-month period from July 2019 through May 2021. See the chart below.

A: Effective July 15, 2020, nightclubs had to shut down, bars were closed
unless they also offered dine-in meals, and bars and restaurants
were be limited to 25% capacity. B: Effective May 31, 2021,
restaurants and bars no longer have capacity limits.

What's interesting is the fact that in the months PRIOR to COVID restrictions that began in March, 2020 (Jan 2019 through February 2020), there were, on average, 4 DUI arrests per month. In contrast, the average for the months from January 2021 through May 2021 when restrictions eased is 15 DUI arrests per month!

NOTE: In April and May 2020, the Newtown Police made fewer patrols to protect the force from infection. Consequently, the number of DUI arrests for those months are perhaps lower than usual.

What About Other Substance Abuse Incidents?
Projections are based on the April, 2021, NT Police Report 
presented at the May 12, 2021, BOS public meeting.

According to my survey of issues important to Newtown voters this year, only 20% of respondents during the period of 2020-2021 (YTD) consider “Drug Abuse” of HIGH IMPORTANCE compared to 38% in the period 2018-2019 (before COVID).

From the police data shown in the chart above, drug abuse increased dramatically during COVID-19, yet people seem to be ignoring the problem or are not aware of the problem. A reporting system called ODMAP shows that the early months of the pandemic brought an 18% increase nationwide in overdoses compared with those same months in 2019. The trend has continued throughout 2020, according to a report by the American Medical Association.

It seems to me that we are going through a period of excessive indulgence in previously restricted activities, especially out-of-home eating, drinking, and taking drugs; i.e., we're on a binge! And there's no telling when it will end.

NT PD Statistics for May 2021

See the embedded PDF below or download the file here.

Posted on 24 Jun 2021, 01:39 - Category: Police

Facial Recognition Software is Inherently Racially Biased

Is facial recognition technology coming to a police department near you?

Thanks to Aamir Nayeem for notifying me and the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission about the intended approval by the Bucks County Commissioners of a $25,995 contract with facial recognition technology company Clearview AI to provide assistive technology for law enforcement.

"A simple Google News search for Clearview AI reveals numerous issues with the tool at every turn," says Mr. Nayeem. "Nearly 70 immigrant rights, civil liberties and privacy groups are currently calling on the Department of Homeland Security to 'immediately stop' using [facial recognition] technology (source) amid massive privacy concerns and accusations of racial bias with the software, leading to wrongful arrests."

From an article last year:

Late last month, Detroit Police Chief James Craig suggested the technology the department uses, which was created by DataWorks Plus, isn't always reliable. "If we were just to use the technology by itself, to identify someone, I would say 96 percent of the time it would misidentify," he said in a public meeting, according to Motherboard. From the start of the year through June 22nd, the force used the software 70 times per the department's public data. In all but two of those cases, the person whose image the technology analyzed was Black. 

The Bucks County Commissioners will meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at the Bucks County Administration Building, 55 E. Court St., Doylestown. The meeting will be live-streamed on the Bucks County Government Facebook page and archived there for later viewing.The approval is one of the first items on Wednesday's agenda. According to the Bucks County government website's instructions for public access, one can attend the meeting and comment in person, or an email can be sent "on April 21, 2021 between 10:30 and 10:35 am." 

There is a documentary on Netflix ("Coded Bias") on how this kind of software incorporates the prejudices of the white majority - research has shown that facial recognition is very bad at correctly identifying people of color and it's not just because of the color of their skin!

If the use of this technology by the Newtown Township Police Department came up for a vote by Supervisors, I would oppose it!

Posted on 20 Apr 2021, 10:14 - Category: Police

Newtown Township Police Department 2020 Annual Report

Newtown Police Chief John Hearn has released the Newtown Township Police Department 2020 Annual Report. Excepts from his message to the community:

As we continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, we have had to find new ways of connecting with our community. I am proud of the ingenuity and determination of our officers who continue to be the model of community policing. I believe these methods of connecting with the community are having a positive effect. One example is our videos of “We Are One Call Away” and “Story Time with Officer Jules”. These short videos were directed and published to our school-age children to show our commitment to them. In addition, we continually push out our social media reminders to lock your car doors, fraud prevention tips, and driver safety tips. We are hoping for tangible results with enhanced community involvement, a reduction of thefts and frauds, and safer roadways. I have met with many community members, and have listened to and gained valuable insights into the needs of the community and potential ways of solving our specific community issues. Good policing takes partnerships with the community. We continue to find new ways of making connections, and building those partnerships.

I want to thank the community of Newtown and Wrightstown Townships for your support of our officers, and for doing your part to make us better. It is our collaborative goal to make Newtown and Wrightstown Townships the best that they can be. We are committed to serving all the members of our community and know that we will do our part.

Content Summary

  • What is Accreditation?
  • Awards and Presentations: Officer Rawa and Officer Ferraro received Commendations of Merit for their exceptional actions on October 1, 2019; Corporal Deppi and Officer Turpyn received Commendations of Merit for their exceptional actions on October 29, 2019; Corporal Paul Deppi, Officer Nicklaus Whitney, and Officer Nicholas Ciambrello received Commendations for Life Saving for their exceptional actions on February 25, 2020; Detective Christopher Bush and Officer Brent Helvig received Letters of Commendation for their exemplary actions on May 14, 2020; Officer Brent Helvig received a Commendation of Merit and Detective Christopher Bush received a Letter of Commendation for their exceptional actions on June 8, 2020; Detective Corporal Daniel Bartle received a Commendation of Merit for his exceptional actions on August 29, 2020. Download the complete report for details.
  • Criminal Investigations
  • Crisis Intervention Team
  • Commercial Vehicle Safety
  • DUI Enforcement
  • Community Outreach
  • New Police Vehicle Graphics: In order to continue to evaluate police expenditures and reduce the cost of capital purchases, a decision was made to change the ordering of two-toned; blue and white vehicles, at a savings of approximately $1400.00 per unit, to a single color. The new vehicles will now be ordered in a single color and the graphics were enhanced to properly identify the police unit, while still maintaining a clean and professional image.

  • NTPD Social Media
  • Newtown Township Yearly Statistics

Download the complete Newtown Township Police Department 2020 Annual Report.

Posted on 04 Mar 2021, 01:21 - Category: Police

Moving Toward Progressive Community Policing

Bucks County Local Officials and NAACP Discuss the Options

On September 23, 2020, the Progressive Local Officials of Bucks County, which is supported by the Bucks County Democratic Committee, hosted a Zoom webinar entitled "Policing in Our Community." The moderator was Doylestown Township Supervisor Jen Herring. Panelists included:

  • Brian Munroe - Bucks County Clerk of Courts
  • Mayor Ron Strouse - Doylestown Borough - Member of Central Bucks Regional Police Commission and Chair of the Central Bucks Regional Police Foundation (CRPF).
  • Kayma Sherman-Knuckles - Bucks County NAACP Criminal Justice and Education Committee - Reimagine Public Safety Co-Chair

The panel addressed the following questions among other issues:

  • What policing policies and practices should we as elected officials review for proper oversight?
  • What data should we be looking at to evaluate our departments?
  • What are some best practices we can consider adopting to help our police be more sensitive to community needs?

I present highlights of the discussion below. You can read my personal (UNOFFICIAL) transcript and/or listen to the entire discussion here.

Need for a More Progressive Police Organization

Brian Munroe mentioned that he created a liberal law enforcement group made up of progressives that have police and law enforcement experience. Right now, it's called the National Democratic Law Enforcement Association. This was in response to the fact that 61 of the 64 Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) organizations in PA voted to endorse Trump and only 3 – 5% - voted to endorse Biden. Also, the National Association of Police Officers, a lobbying group that says it represents more than 241,000 officers nationwide, endorsed President Trump for a second term. This comes after the association had supported Mr. Trump's challenger, Joe Biden, in the 2008 and 2012 elections [source]

"We feel like the FOB is missing a phenomenal opportunity to grow closer to the community," said Munroe. "Instead, they're kind of circling the wagons and getting defensive, and we understand that. But we think that we can fill a void. And there is a potential for a national article to be written up on this. The Washington Post is very interested in writing the story, so we'll see where that goes."

Policies and Training

“What are some policies that would be helpful for us to look into in our own police departments to help make sure that we have the best policies as far as the racial disparities?", asked Sherman-Knuckles. The following were policies mentioned during the webinar:

  • de-escalation training
  • diversity training
  • hiring and promotion
  • use of force
  • vehicle pursuit
  • firearms training

A question that elected officials can ask of their police department: Does our police department actually have policies on the books – not just in contracts – for all these?

Refreshment training is also important - especially de-escalation training. Just as important as providing for that is how often it's provided and how quickly it is provided when you have a new hire.

Directives & The Use of Force Continuum

“I would be guessing, but [in our department] there might be as many as 40 or 50 [directives], which outline conduct on the part of our members in the police department,” said Strouse. “So we will have a directive on the use of force, will have a directive on our canine corps. We'll have a directive on our body cameras in terms of how they're operating and how the information is secured and so forth and so on. Those directives are reviewed by the police commission. If you don't have a police commission, they should be reviewed by elected officials to make sure that they meet the demands of the community and the current environment that we find ourselves in in so many of our communities. We're reviewing them right now. And we'll review them on an ongoing basis. From a publicly elected person's point of view to make sure they're appropriate and appropriate to the times and appropriate to modern policing.”

Directives are not necessarily written policies, but are notices put out by the chief or by a lieutenant.

“So to a certain extent, what I understand is that our directive with regard to the use of force has a continuum of intervention on the part of the individual police member of the police department,” said Strouse. “Yes, they have to make a judgment as to where to enter that continuum. But if their training is proper, they enter that continuum at the lowest level. The lowest level actually could be a conversation. And lethal use of force is at the very end of that continuum. So that is where, from my perspective, the training is absolutely essential so that they know that under all possible circumstances, they pick the lowest level of continuum to engage this person who may be committing a crime or whatever."

Does Training Work Equally Well for People of Color As It Does for White People?

“I've seen, at least on social media, people saying things like the training worked for all the white people, but it didn't seem to work for anybody of color,” said Herring. “So they knew not to shoot somebody that was white, but people of color don't get that same sort of benefit from training. Do you feel that's fair?”

“So I think most of the time the reason why they are quick to trigger is because of the bias,” said Sherman-Knuckles. “It could be, you know, unconscious biases. That to me is not true, but it is the fact that your race makes a difference. So if that's the case, let's now look at some statistics of the police department and how they used force and how to deal with black and brown people. So if it's not true, then we can look at the data and the data cannot lie.”

“Because if you talk to police chiefs, the first thing they will tell you that, oh, no, we don't target black and brown people,” said Sherman-Knuckles. "We don't treat them differently. But then when you get the data in, they can see it and see that, oh, you know, maybe it is true now looking at the data, let's do something about it.”

“So, yes, I do believe that white people are treated differently in terms of ‘quick to shoot’ than black and brown bodies.”

Diversity Training & Non-Profits

“So often this kind of training is a partnership,” said Strouse. The Pearl Buck Foundation was mentioned. “I think that's something that we should be doing and something that we would welcome. And often it has to come … from the outside. We can figure out a way to fund it…[which] might be [via] the foundation rather than [from] the taxpayer... But I guess I'm suggesting is just finding the right partner and then finding ways to make it happen.”

Unfortunately, nonprofits are struggling these days. How about funding via resident donations through GoFundMe? or this: The Central Bucks Regional Police Foundation.

“Some of this, frankly, requires funding above and beyond what we might expect from a taxpayer based police department,” said Ron Strouse. “So we've actually also created a foundation, a 501c3 [Central Bucks Regional Police Foundation (CRPF)], that funds some of those initiatives that go above and beyond what you might think a tax-based Police Department might provide. The 501c3, for example, has funded, in our case, the first two dogs of our canine corps. Once it's established, it becomes part of the regular budgeting for a police department.”

Mission of the CRPF: The Central Bucks Regional Police Foundation's purpose is to improve the quality of life, public safety, and environment through community policing, crime prevention, education, humanitarian efforts, and technological advances accomplished through initiatives developed by the Central Bucks Regional Police Department.

Keeping Track of Race & Gender During Stops

“The only reason that Radnor started keeping track of stops or pedestrian stops, traffic stops, was because there was a lawsuit,” said Monroe. “Somebody was claiming that, you know, the police department stops minorities at a higher percentage than white. And what they started out having us do is they started having us issue a citation [with] four copies .... And of course, you don't put the race and sex on the copy you [give to the] individual because in that scenario they're going to say, what on earth is that about? But what we do is for our internal copies, we would be required to write, you know, white, male, white, female, Asian, male, so on and so forth.”

How would we, as elected officials, municipal councils, steer our police department into collecting that type of information?, asked Herring.

“Well, I'm going to weigh in and say that the level of supervision coming from elected officials of police departments is all over the lot,” said Strouse. “I hope I don't get anyone angry on this, but I think by and large, it's a relatively low level supervision. And definitely, given our experiences over the last few years, let alone the last few months is inadequate to the task.”

“I think I think there needs to be some dramatic change there. It should begin with the elected officials,” said Strouse. “I mean we're all elected to provide primarily, first and foremost, public safety. So this is this is where it begins. And probably without exception, it is the largest budget item of any municipal budget in terms of expenditures in public safety is our police department. So there's a there's a lot of argument that the public should be more engaged in this process.”

Make Noise!

Herring asked: Any recommendations as far as how we can break through that stone wall that comes up when you try and stick your nose in the police business as an elected official?

“It starts with making a lot of noise,” said Strouse. “Elected officials in part are elected to do their job. And if you're being stonewalled, you're being prohibited from doing the job. So I guess it starts with making a lot of noise. But then it you know, it has to get down to the nitty gritty of actually doing the work, some of which might have to be in committee or executive session.”

Posted on 02 Oct 2020, 01:02 - Category: Police

Police Town Hall Discussed at Meet Mack Monday Meeting

Below is an edited transcript by John Mack, Newtown Township Supervisor, of the July 6, 2020, “Meet Mack Monday” Zoom meeting. The focus of the meeting was police accountability and Town Hall meeting. View the video archive here.

NOTE: The Newtown Township Police Town Hall will take place LIVE on July 23, 2020, at 7 PM at the Municipal Building, 100 Municipal Drive.

Statement by Chief Hearn

"I along with my Board supervisors felt it was important that I meet face to face and reiterate that Newtown Township Police Department is here to "serve and protect" and to reassure our community of our commitment to fairness, respect, and dignity of everyone and to continue to build trust and legitimacy. Although this is not an ideal time to encourage our residents to gather together, we felt the need to reassure our residents. As stated in the press release the number of attendees will be limited to 20 residents on a first come first basis due to COVID-19 restrictions. No reservations, however, additional meetings may occur later if the interest is there. Mask coverings will be required in order for everyone's safety, and in our attempts to get people to freely open up on topics that may be discussed, it will not be televised or recorded."

UPDATE

On Thursday, July 23, 2020, Newtown Township Police Chief John Hearn hosted his first live town hall meeting with residents in the township’s public meeting room. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 restrictions and a competing Council Rock School District meeting, only 12-15 residents and 3 Supervisors (Dennis Fisher, David Oxley, and John Mack) attended. Also in attendance was Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub.

Although the attendance was not what was expected, the meeting was very informative and a good first step to further meetings in the community. Prior to the meeting Chief Hearn requested that the meeting NOT be officially recorded or televised so that people will "freely open up on topics that may be discussed." Consequently, this summary is based in large part on the copious notes I made during the meeting.

Read more about the meeting in the August 2020 issue of Newtown News Update.

Transcript

Posted on 13 Jul 2020, 01:15 - Category: Police

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