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Malvern Police Supporters Turn Out for Borough Meeting

Borough Council is considering closing the police department.

Malvern Borough Council meetings rarely draw more than a handful of attendees. But with possible closure of the borough police department on the Tuesday night agenda, the crowd was big enough to necessitate a larger venue.

About 100 borough residents filled the seats and lined the back wall of , the majority of them there to express opposition to the council's with contractual coverage from East Whiteland Township.

At the start of the meeting council president Woody Van Sciver laid out council's motivation for possibly closing the department, which accounts for the biggest piece of the borough's $2.8 million annual budget.

"We're investigating this because we believe we may be able to spend the same money in a more efficient way to get a stronger complement of police services," he said.

Over the next two hours, residents ran down a litany of concerns: that out-of-town officers would be unfamiliar with the borough and its residents; that expansion on East King Street and elsewhere would increase the need for a local police department in coming years; that, once disbanded, a borough police force would be difficult or impossible to rebuild.

Some residents expressed skepticism or confusion about the rationale behind the proposal. They suggested the council considers it easier to close a department in which officers are against and each other than to deal with the personnel problems directly.

Councilman Duane McCrory said he planned to vote against closing the department, but resented any implication that the council was doing anything other than its duty and trying to serve the borough's best interests.

Mayor Gerard McGlone said the exploration process was in its infancy, and any contract would mandate one full-time officer in the borough at all times, with no increase in response time.

"If we were to move forward with this—and again that’s a big, big 'if' ... —my expectation would be Malvern's current officers would be encouraged to become officers of these other departments," McGlone said.

Judge Chester Darlington, who lives in the borough and works with Malvern and East Whiteland officers, was in attendance. State Rep. Duane Milne, a Willistown resident, also showed up, curious about how the meeting would play out.

Residents speak

During the two-hour discussion, more than two dozen residents stepped to the microphone to express support for the department, recounting anecdotes about its effectiveness and warning of electoral reprisal if the plan to close it moves forward.

Resident John Kohler said most residents have had positive interactions with the police force, and noted his home was one of the farthest points from East Whiteland Township.

"I say this with all due respect to everybody in the room. If we need to shake  anything out of the rug, I don't think our patrolmen is the place to start," Kohler said.

"If you take away our police department, you’re cutting off one of our limbs," former mayor Dominic Pisano said.

Syd Baglini, a recent arrival to Malvern, recalled watching multiple borough officers patrolling the night of Hurricane Irene through her window when she was too nervous to sleep. The police force was a factor in her decision to move to the borough 14 months ago, she said.

"This was a community where everything seemed to work just right here, we were safe and well protected. We had fire and police within moments of us and a nice, big hospital down the street. I’m old," she said, drawing light laughter.

Tom O'Dwyer, a representative of Raintree Condominiums, said he spoke for 200 borough residents when he said, "Do not disband our police force."

Resident Vicki Sharpless said that when she lost her husband last summer, the Malvern Police were the first ones there.

"I believe they do a really good job," she said. "And I'm also told it won't save us any money, correct?"

Van Sciver replied that yes, there wouldn't necessarily be a cost savings.

"Then why are we even talking about this?" Sharpless said.

Tempers rise over allegations

The meeting grew heated near the end, as the council president bristled at allegations of backroom deals and alternate agendas. He asked the first public commenter of the night, Joyce Pettitt, to return to the microphone and restate her earlier accusations.

"I said, apparently, there is—allegedly—our mayor and borough officials entered into a backroom deal, which is legal, with East Whiteland, due to an apparent personnel conflict," Pettitt said.

"Who is making those allegations? Please raise your hand. Is it you, ma'am?" Van Sciver said.

No, Pettitt, responded. It's the word on the street, said voices in the crowd.

"We are the street," Van Sciver said, motioning to the council members. "We are all residents of the borough, everybody up here."

Responding to calls for more transparency, Van Sciver said council meetings are open to the public but poorly attended, and all meeting minutes are posted on the borough website. He could not discuss police personnel matters, he said, but he could guarantee one thing: "There's no backdoor deal. No side agreement. No deal."

After the meeting, Mayor McGlone said he didn't know how the council would vote, but if he was responsible for breaking a tie, he would vote against closing the Malvern Police Department.

Asked whether personnel-related turmoil was behind the decision to explore closing the department, the mayor said it wasn't. The possibility of closing the police department has been raised publicly many times in recent years, pre-dating the personnel investigation that took place last year, he said.

"I think everybody feels that decisions have been made behind the scenes. That just is not the case. Every single person up here is a volunteer giving of their time, trying to do the right thing by this borough. They're evaluating. They're learning about it just as we all are," McGlone said. " ... We wanted to see where the borough stood on this. I think it was pretty clear."

 

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Brent kirker April 19, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Keep the police. No savings equals why even think about it.one of the reasons I live in malvern borough is because of our Mayberry Andy and Barney police it makes our town special safe and Norman Rockwell perfect. Bad idea council
Brent kirker April 19, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Not to mention the personal commitment the guys on our force have in knowing who we all are who has what dog and where we live I have lived in a few towns but have never felt as safe as in malvern boro and that's because of our police and fire companies.
Andrew Trevino Franklin April 19, 2012 at 01:54 AM
i love the main photo for this article. i have not yet read/heard a concise argument on why the borough was even considering this. seems like the discussion is over now.
Pete April 19, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Those of us who want to keep the police force have a very strong position. That is why I am surprised and disappointed that some people would resort to hearsay and inuendo in making accusations. Not only that, they are making Malvern look bad to the world. We should support our police AND our borough council - after all, council are the elected officials that won the majority vote in Malvern. It was strange to have residents treating council as if they were outsiders - they are residents, too.
Lyn April 19, 2012 at 04:56 PM
I agree Pete. As residents we support both sides, the police department and the borough council. The disturbing news to me was that by eliminating the police force in Malvern and subcontracting services that the borough won't be saving any money. That it is basically a wash. Why bother then when we all love having our department?
RHoney April 19, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Borough Council and Mayor McGlone's arrogance at the meeting made it appear as if they aren't part of the community. It was pathetic to see President Van Sciver answer the crowd by continuing to read off the letter that was sent in the mail (which is confusing and misleading). WE WANT ANSWERS!!!!!!
Pete April 19, 2012 at 10:32 PM
We have an excellent police force and I am glad many feel the way I do. We also have an excellent borough council who are doing their job. I would have a problem with any borough council that *didn't* review the largest items in our budget periodically. People screaming at their elected officials is what happens in big cities and on the national stage. It shouldn't happen in Malvern.
Pete April 19, 2012 at 10:33 PM
Why would you want that level of antagonism in such a small community? That's not how neighbors should treat each other in Malvern.
Susan April 19, 2012 at 11:24 PM
To Mayor McGlone, I would say these "rumors" have their basis in print and a poor job of communicating to the public at large of what was going on until last night's meeting. As a Malvern Borough resident, I DO read the Borough Council agenda and minutes. In October of last year, the minutes ended with an 'Executive Session to discuss a personnel matter.' There were several Executive sessions after that to discuss personnel matters. In the January 6th minutes, a citizen asked in open session - that council meets in Executive session but the public never hears the results. The March 6th posted meeting agenda announced a discussion regarding police services at which time it was brought to the attention of the citizens in attendance that the Council was discussing the termination of the Malvern Police force. I can understand that personnel matters must remain private disucssion but to the average person, executive session = closed door meeting. When the first public acknowledgement of the potential termination of the police department comes at the March 6th borough meeting, (which the police attended) after nearly 6 months of executive session meetings, it isn't a stretch for the average citizen to conclude executive session = closed door = back room deal. To be continued in next post..
Rob D. April 19, 2012 at 11:26 PM
The best way to combat rumor is with the TRUTH. President Van Sciver can continue to take the remarks made at the meeting personally or he can look at it for what it was, a clear sign that the Borough Council has done a poor job of advising the community of their intentions. By the way, Mr. Buckley may not be a favorite of the community, but the way President Van Sciver treated him at the meeting when he walked up to speak in front of all of those residents was childish and unprofessional. Maybe President Van Sciver should leave his ego at home and remember that he has volunteered to serve the Malvern residents, not humiliate them. Besides, if the Mayor stands by his remark of holding the meeting to find out what the public wants and demands, I think the residents at the meeting made their wants and demands crystal clear.
Susan April 19, 2012 at 11:27 PM
The minutes for the March 6th meeting have not been posted yet to the website so no one not in attendance knows the details, only that the police found out that day that this was being considered. And the rumors continued to fester. THen Council President Van Sciver spoke to the East Whiteland supervisors meeting on March 16th about subcontracting the police, a full month before meeting with Borough residents. That is why this resident was angry. It DID appear to be a 'done deal' until the meeting with al of us. Communications were handled poorly. I empathize with the Mayor, Council and Police. None of this is easy. But there is a better way. Susan Cook Malvern Borough
Pete Kennedy (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 11:54 PM
Hi Susan, thanks for participating in the discussion. You might have already seen it, but in case you have not—here is my story on the March 6 Council meeting, which posted March 7: http://patch.com/A-rxn7 And here is a story on the March 16 East Whiteland Board of Supervisors meeting, at which Mr. Van Sciver raised the topic formally: http://patch.com/A-rBGl
Susan April 20, 2012 at 12:19 AM
Hi Pete and thanks for hosting this website (which I only recently found out about) I read both of your stories and the links to others embedded. They were a big help to me understaning the timeline of the recent events and some of the underlying issues from last year. I want this to have an agreeable outcome for all concerned. Susan
Andrew Trevino Franklin April 20, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Unfortunately, the borough council brought this on themselves. Even now, there has yet to be any CLEAR reason WHY this was even considered.
Jackie April 20, 2012 at 02:57 AM
I agree Rob. Mr. Van Sciver's treatment of Mr. Buckley was very inappropriate and immature. Mr. Buckley is a citizen of Malvern, like he rest of us, and has a right to respect while speaking. Mr. Buckley was the only one "from the other side" of the issue who even got up to speak. So, technically, Mr. Buckley was on Mr. Van Sciver's side.
MTP April 20, 2012 at 04:03 PM
The Borough Council meeting Tuesday evening was nothing more than a political headgame!! Its easy to get elected,much harder to govern. Its apparent that the Council has some kind of issue with the police contract and the union.The Council dances around the subject with the lame excuse of executive session. I think both parties need to sharpen thier skills in reguards to compromise.The Council needs to make the hard decisions,clean house if need be.The police and the union must also compromise.Malvern is a good place to work as a police officer. The police and the union need to keep in the back of thier mind that there are four thousand police officers laid off in New Jersey,who would love to work in Malvern. Both parties involved need to compromise or the citizens of this town will do it for them.
citizenknow April 21, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Malvern Borough cops are compensated considerably less than surrounding departments and are provided with significantly less resources than surrounding departments yet they still manage to do a fantastic job of keeping the community safe. Council has indicated that contracting would bring in more resources but at the expense of what? It would be a cost neutral move at best, but contracting out to a neighboring department that doesn't have the knowledge of the intricacies of the borough is a big draw back. The Malvern Police are able to do as much as they do with what they're given because they work in a small town and can deal with all the problems and unique challenges that a small town brings.
RHoney April 24, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Mr. Lindstrom, it was apparent that the borough council was antagonistic. The residents were extremely frustrated with the lack of weak answers they received.
Ant 3 April 25, 2012 at 05:17 AM
"As much as they do," Seriously? They sit in the back alleys of King Street waiting to pound their chests with authority. I love living in Malvern but the overwhelming police presence is unnecessary. Read the police blotter, it's a joke. The east whiteland police are more desirable for my taste.
Pete April 25, 2012 at 01:06 PM
I agree notification could have been better. I am not sure the note on my door was particularly, objective however (still not positive how it got there). I like all of the Malvern police officers I know and appreciate their service, but are you saying the department is perfect?
john April 25, 2012 at 02:45 PM
I think its crazy to have a police force for such a small town. They can easily be merged with the other local forces. What a joke.

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