Chief Scolded Over Television in Police Department
Should officers from the Nazareth Borough Police Department have access to a television with cable? That was the million-dollar question at Monday night's Police Committee meeting.
If Nazareth Mayor Fred Daugherty Jr. has his way, the RCN cable attached to a donated television in the Nazareth Borough Police Department will remain disconnected.
A Highway Department employee was instructed by the mayor to disconnect the cable on Jan. 20.
According to Daugherty, Police Chief Thomas Trachta went against a direct order by not removing the television.
“Where do you think an officer is most useful?” Daugherty asked at Monday night’s Police Committee meeting. “Sitting in the squad room watching TV, or out in the street patroling?"
While Trachta agreed that patroling the streets of Nazareth is where officers are most useful, he asked permission to have the television reconnected, saying it’s used for training purposes and so his officers can stay up to date on news and weather that may affect the borough.
Chairman Jack Herbst doesn’t mind officers using the television for training, but does not think the cable should be reconnected.
Council president Dan Chiavaroli listed several other forms of communication -- other than a television -- they can utilize, including computers, smartphones and Northampton County dispatch.
“To me, it opens up too much of an opportunity for abuse,” Herbst said, adding that the borough owns an InFocus projector, which can project anything saved on a laptop computer onto a screen or wall.
“There are other forms of communication, as well as equipment the borough owns, that can be used for training,” Herbst said.
According to Trachta, the issue started in early 2011 when RCN upgraded to digital cable, rendering an older television obsolete.
After airing his frustrations about not having a working television at the department, an officer brought in a used television that would work with the RCN upgrade.
The mayor, however, believes the chief was being evasive when he said, “It just appeared,” after being asked where the television came from.
Trachta said he honestly didn’t -- initially -- know who donated the television.
Daugherty was also not happy that an unauthorized person was allowed into the department to hook up the digital converter box. Trachta noted that the "unauthorized person" was a member of Vigilance Hose Co. No. 1 and an employee of RCN.
When asked by Chiavaroli why he didn’t ask the Police Committee to either purchase a new television or approve the donation, Trachta cited the uncertain status of the Nazareth Borough Police Department.
“At that time, there was the atmosphere that the Nazareth Borough Police Department was going to be disbanded, and we were going to Colonial Regional,” Trachta said. “I didn’t think it was the proper time to bring it up.”
Trachta added that Council had made the decision to not purchase a new police car because of the uncertain status of the department.
“After the police car got rescinded, I didn’t think it would be right to say, ‘Hey, can I get a television?’”
Rev. William Matz wondered if the mayor and chief had witnessed officers watching the television for entertainment purposes.
“I’ve never seen that TV abused one time. Never,” Trachta said. “When I’m there, the officers are never congregating. When I’m gone at night, I cannot intelligently say whether the officers are watching the television for entertainment or not.”
The mayor said he has heard rumors of officers from Nazareth and other departments watching the television for entertainment. When Councilman Charles Donello asked if there was proof, Daugherty said, “There are lots of things that go on that you can’t prove.”
Matz believes the television topic falls under common sense.
“Supervision [at night] is lacking, and we need to work on that,” Matz said. “But the officers should know what is the right thing to do. It doesn’t take extra supervision, though I think [supervision] is an orderly thing to have. This really shouldn’t be discussed in my judgment.”
Daugherty, on the other hand, believes this “shows an attitude and behavior issue.”
“It’s not that I care if a television is in the department, it’s not trusting the officers to use their time wisely,” Daugherty said, adding that the chief saying the television “just appeared” shows “a lack of respect” and “a lack of responsibility.”
According to Daugherty, “We may as well not have a mayor. The police department can do whatever it wants.”
“In your judgment, is there an attitude?” he asked the police chief. “If the mayor makes an order, is there an attitude in the department? Why does the mayor feel that exists? If I were mayor and chief of police, I’d have feelings about [the attitude]. If attitudes persist in anything, we’re all in trouble. The television is not the issue, the attitude is.”
Trachta asked Matz to read his memo to Daugherty about the television, and to “show me where I had attitude, and I’ll choose different words.”
The Police Committee agreed to leave the final decision on the television up to Nazareth Borough Council.