It was police bashing night at Nazareth Borough Council Thursday. And judging from council's comments, it seems the police force -- which was in danger of being abolished last year -- and its chief can't do anything right.
Council's beefs? Furniture on a sidewalk, the cost of a gun maintenance course, whether a borough detective is really a detective and an issue recently raised by council's police committee -- the force's television set.
This is the same police force that was nearly abolished last year. But in December, Mayor Fred Daugherty Jr. dropped his bid to eliminate the force and contract wtih Colonial Regional Police, which serves Lower Nazareth Township, Bath, Chapman and Hanover Township (Northampton County).
On Thursday, Council Vice President Larry Stoudt gave his report from the Public Property Committee meeting, then asked permission to bring up “the police thing.”
Council President Dan Chiavaroli gave him the go-ahead.
Stoudt said he called the Northampton County 911 center’s non-emergency number earlier this week and made an anonymous tip about furniture -- a couch and two chairs -- that was placed in front of a business on Center Street.
“I wanted to see what kind of response I was going to get,” Stoudt said, adding that three days later, he’s still waiting for that response.
Stoudt listens to a scanner, so he knew an officer was notified about the furniture, he said.
“For three days officers have driven by there,” he half yelled. “I don’t know how they can miss it. [The furniture] is on the sidewalk.”
Stoudt explained that he placed an anonymous tip because he didn’t want the officer to handle the furniture situation just because a council member called the 911 center.
Police Chief Thomas Trachta listened but did not respond to Stoudt.
The next topic of debate was whether Det. Fred Lahovski should be paid for 12 hours of work while he attends a Smith & Wesson pistol armorer school.
The course, according to www.smith-wesson.com, teaches:
- Disassembly and reassembly procedures
- Parts nomenclature and function
- Installation and fitting of new parts
- Inspection techniques
- Troubleshooting and repair
- In-depth discussion of firearm safeties
- Maintenance and Lubrication
By having Lahovski take the course, according to Trachta, the department’s guns wouldn’t need to be sent to an outside business if something breaks or malfunctions -- Lahovski would be able to do the repairs on site.
The borough of Forty Fort, Luzerne County -- where Lahovski is the part-time police chief -- will be paying for the course and Lahovski’s travel expenses, according to Trachta.
The only money Nazareth would have to put forward is the 12-hour pay.
Due to the uncertainty of Lahovski’s time with the Nazareth force, Councilman Jack Herbst does not believe he should be the officer to take the course.
He’d also like to shift the schedule so the borough wouldn’t have to pay Lahovski for 12 hours.
Chiavaroli suggested that before a decision is made, additional research should be done into local gunsmiths who could handle the repairs.
As the conversation about the armorer school began to wrap up, Councilman Frank Maurek asked if anyone knew when Lahovski became a detective.
“I don’t recall council ever making a motion [to make Lahovski a detective],” Maurek said. “I don’t like to use that word ‘detective.’”
According to Stoudt, the title was discussed but a motion was never made or voted on.
“That title has been thrown around quite a bit the last couple of years,” Herbst said. “It’s more or less a title. There’s no pay increase or anything like that.”
The conversation quickly ended and turned into a debate about a subject raised at a recent police committee meeting -- the television in the department. At the Jan. 23 committee meeting, Trachta asked permission to have the television reconnected, saying it’s used for training purposes and to allow his officers to stay up to date on news and weather that may affect the borough.
Daugherty instructed a highway department employee to disconnect the cable on Jan. 20.
“My vote is going to be ‘no,’” Stoudt said. “Who’s running the borough? The chief and police department or this council sitting here running the borough? It’s time council decides who’s running the borough.”
Stoudt said he told Trachta on a Tuesday to have the television out of the department by 10 a.m. the following Friday.
“I showed up at 10 a.m. Friday morning and it was still there and it was playing,” Stoudt said. “Nobody gives a damn what we say here as council.”
The television debate will come to an end when the full council votes on whether the television stays or goes.
Council's regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 6.