Full-time polic­ing a qual­ity-oflife is­sue

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Fran Maye fmaye@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @dailylocal on Twit­ter

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.”

FRAN MAYE - DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Tammy Duer­ing, Long­wood Ro­tary pres­i­dent, and Ly­dell Nolt, Ken­nett Town­ship po­lice chief.

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