Police Chief: Nazareth Police Department 'Running Out of Favors'
Nazareth is relying too heavily on part-time officers, according to the borough's police chief, and neighboring municipalities are fed up with filling in the gaps in coverage.
The Nazareth Borough Police Department is relying heavily on part-time officers. That’s a problem, according to Police Chief Thomas Trachta.
During Monday night’s Police Committee meeting, Trachta said part-time officers are not reliable because of other obligations and full-time jobs. And, he added, if given the choice to work for Nazareth or another municipality -- many officers work for multiple departments -- on any given night, the officers will choose the other municipality.
“We’re barely hanging on,” Trachta told the three committee members and Mayor Fred Daugherty Jr. “The borough has been dragging its feet for far too long. Hiring more part-time officers is not the answer. Running the department at 50 percent and hoping for the best is a recipe for disaster.”
Trachta added that neighboring departments have been filling in the gaps in coverage, and Nazareth is “running out of favors.”
“The police department needs to stand on its own two feet and rely on itself and not rely on our neighbors,” Trachta said. “It’s not fair to our neighboring municipalities for us to rely on them.”
Trachta later added, “You can’t keep sending your kids to another family’s house for dinner if you have the food in your house.”
“You also can’t merge with the other family if they won’t adopt your kids,” the mayor noted, hinting at the issue that if Nazareth contracted services from Colonial Regional Police, members of the CRPD Police Commission -- which consists of two representatives each from Lower Nazareth Township, Bath and Hanover Township, Northampton County -- made it known that they did not want to be contractually obligated to hire Nazareth’s current full-time police officers.
Due to rising operating costs, Daugherty has long been an advocate for disbanding the Nazareth Borough Police Department. In June 2011, he announced his recommendation to buy coverage from Colonial Regional Police.
Six months later, he withdrew that recommendation because negotiations failed to move forward -- or even start.
In March of this year, after recording 19 losses within the last three years -- totaling about $1.1 million in claims -- Travelers Insurance dropped Nazareth Borough’s workers’ compensation policy.
At Monday’s meeting, Daugherty said he “almost” wanted to applaud Trachta for his “very grand speech” that was “a little out of the realm of actuality,” but noted that anything council tried to move forward with was stymied.
Committee member Charles Donello, however, agreed with Trachta.
“He’s right. We haven’t done anything,” he said. “We say, ‘We’re going to address it.’ How long until we are going to address it? I really am surprised the town doesn’t get together full house and doesn’t ask what the heck council is doing. If there is progress, then that’s between the few who know what’s going on. How can I sit on a Police Committee and not know what’s going on? I hear as much as you do, [Trachta].”
Richard Troxell, the only resident in the audience, said he didn’t understand why Upper Nazareth and Bushkill townships could run full-time police departments, but Nazareth couldn’t.
Daugherty told Troxell to ask those townships’ supervisors how many grievances were filed by the police unions, or how much money has been paid out in legal fees in years past.
“Then you will see the difference between the borough and Upper Nazareth. The borough has many problems,” Daugherty said.
Troxell wondered which municipalities would be on board to regionalize or merge.
“That’s a very good question, sir, but I am prohibited from giving you an answer,” Daugherty carefully said.
The tense meeting was left open-ended, with Trachta asking:
“What is the status of talks with Upper Nazareth?”
“Same as before -- nothing futher,” said Jack Herbst, the committee chairman.
“What is the status of talks with Colonial Regional, if there have been any?”
“Nothing futher,” Herbst simply said.
Herbst did say, however, that “we’re working toward a full-time police department or a working police department -- any avenue that would provide adequate service to our citizens.”