Full-time policing a quality-oflife issue
Public safety has increased and culture has changed since Kennett Township went to a full-time police force a couple of years ago, said Lydell Nolt, Kennett Township police chief.
Nolt, who spoke to members of the Longwood Rotary Club, said most people know that if they drive aggressively or drive drunk in Kennett Township, there’s a good chance they will be caught. The police department employs nine fulltime officers with around-the-clock coverage.
“In this area, you are more likely to be hurt and killed by a drunk driver than any other crime,” Nolt said, adding that Kennett Township police routinely participate in roving DUI checkpoints. Forty percent of all DUI arrests in Kennett Township are now for controlled substance, he said.
Currently, he said, his force is battling the opioid epidemic, and it’s hit the township hard, as it has in many other places in the county.
“We now have Narcan in every one of our police cars,” he said. “We’ve already used it several times this year. Overdose calls are becoming – it’s hard to say it – a routine call. We have already had a situation this year where we had a police officer go to the hospital for being exposed. The problem is this is so far-reaching, it doesn’t matter the age, where you live, white, black, rich poor, fathers, teenagers – overdoses are common. We have gotten to the point where we have acknowledged there is a problem.”
Kennett Township was the first police agency in Southern Chester County to utilize body cameras, and it was a model for the District Attorney’s Office on how police agencies should use body cameras. Nolt said the cameras have been extremely useful.
Two weeks ago, he said, his officers stopped a woman on a Honda motorcycle after it came back as stolen from Delaware. Officers approached the woman with guns drawn in a felony stop. It turned out that the registration number was wrong and the motorcycle wasn’t stolen. But when the woman and her attorney came to Nolt’s office, he pulled the body camera footage and explained the process step by step.
“Body cameras are great,” Nolt said. “We can’t go back.”
Kennett Township officers have also been vigilant for distracted drivers. Nolt encouraged Rotarians to contact their lawmakers to push for changes to cellphone laws.
“In Pennsylvania, you can still use hand-held cellphones while driving,” he said. “But not in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey or many other states.”
No one gets a citation for texting while driving, Nolt said. He said because of a provision in Pennsylvania law where motorists are permitted to use GPS, it makes the law unenforceable. “The officer sees a phone with fingers moving, but they could be entering something in their GPS,” Nolt said.
Nolt also said officers now routinely walk the halls in elementary schools, and do pre-school checks.
“At Greenwood Elementary, they are so used to seeing police officers there, teachers don’t even stop at all,” he said. “This is relationship building. You can’t expect a good relationship if you only see (police officers) when something is wrong.”
Tammy Duering, Longwood Rotary president, and Lydell Nolt, Kennett Township police chief.