PHOENIXVILLE - A representative of the Phoenixville Police Association called for borough council to "vote soon and vote down" the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that calls for police department policy changes, at Monday's meeting.
Police Association representative Paul Verduci, attorney with the Lehman and Verduci law firm, said that allegations were "unfounded" and that police have had their names "dragged through the mud," although the department was cleared of any wrong-doing through several investigations.
"The myth that the Phoenixville police department performs less than exemplary work should be ended," said Verduci. "The police already have a black eye because of no fault of their own."
Verduci said that several police officers have been hampered to perform their duties because the MOU has yet to be voted on.
"I empathize with officers looking over their shoulders and their response against the MOU," said Council Chair Jim Lolli (R- East).
Councilwoman Tish Jones (D-East) disagreed with Verduci.
"There is no perfect anything," she said. "If there were concerns, that's what people believed was going on. We know we have a great police department.
"Not just minorities complained. We've got to make sure that people feel comfortable to say whatever they want to say."
The MOU document should be broken down into several sections to see which parts council "agrees or disagrees" with, said Lolli.
A committee or task force of police, the mayor, several residents and state and federal officials met for more than a year to address what some residents considered was police harassment.
All standing and past charges were found groundless through investigations conducted by the district attorney's office.
Recently, the special mayor's task force had addressed the issue of recruiting minority and women police officers.
Several areas of the MOU document met positive support from council including a need to increase advertising to attract a larger candidate pool.
Police already take diversity training a on a regular basis and council seemed to agree that those classes should continue.
Council would also likely agree to fine tune a standing complaint procedure.
The borough currently requires candidates as a prerequisite for application to have attained Act 120 training.
The task force calls for future recruits to no longer be required to have Act 120 training prior to hiring. When all candidates are tested, a pool of only the top three performers will be eligible for hire under current guidelines.
The Mayor's task force suggested as part of the MOU document that if that ACT 120 training were paid for, along with a police officer's salary while in school, that more minority and women candidates might be hired.
Scoda said that when candidates are limited to those who are ACT 120 qualified through a five-month, $4,000 process "you lose good people."
"You could have a Master's degree and be prohibited from taking the test because you haven't got Act 120 certifcation ... or until you went to school for five months," said Scoda.
Councilwoman Tish Jones asked council to consider how other police departments handle recruitment of minorities.
"We need to look at other police departments and see what they're doing," said Jones. "Then look at each person as an individual and not just make blanket statements . No, we can't do it. We need to have an open mind for each individual."
Councilman John Messina (D-North) wondered if the borough was locked into any agreement. "Can we change at any time?" he asked Borough Solicitor Glenn Diehl.
"We could visit it again when adding new positions," said Diehl.
Police Chief John M. Kalavik told council that the hiring process can last as long as eight months. He called this length of time "unacceptable" and said that a list of candidates could be retired at any time.
Councilman Bob Tigro was opposed to paying for a new hire's Act 120 certification and paying those officers salary while in class.
"We want the best qualified person," said Tigro. "Does Act 120 sometimes prevent that? Yeah, maybe it does. Your best recourse is to provide for the safety of the residents of the borough. We don't have the luxury of waiting."