Gilberton Dissolves Police Department

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The departure of that nut Mark Kessler left Gilberton without a functioning police department, so now they’re just disbanding it:

Ordinance 2014-1 reads, “Whereas the council of the Borough of Gilberton has agreed that it can no longer maintain a police force with the borough. Now therefore be it hereby ordained that the police department established by Chapter 5 Article 4 of Ordinance No. 81-5 is hereby disbanded, and that section of the ordinance repealed.”

The borough has been without a police force since July 31, when police Chief Mark Kessler was suspended, being accused for allegedly using borough automatic weapons on his own time in YouTube videos without permission from the borough council or Mayor Mary Lou Hannon. Kessler contested the charge.

At the time of his suspension, Kessler was the only police officer. The Pennsylvania State Police has provided police enforcement since that time.

The borough and Kessler reached a negotiated settlement that was signed on Feb. 20 stating that Kessler is “separated from his employment and voluntarily retired.”

When a police department dissolves, it should be the county’s responsibility to pick up the slack, not the state police. We really need state lawmakers to make it a priority to increase the number of county police departments.

Most Pennsylvanians are served by janky part-time police departments and volunteer fire departments and that’s basically a tea person’s dream come true. If you’re a liberal, you care about high quality public services, and the biggest roadblock to scaling up better local public services in Pennsylvania is the fact that municipal governance is fragmented across 2562 local governments, most of whom have extremely low fiscal capacity and hilariously small tax bases.

This entry was posted in Economic Development, Economy, Social Services.

6 Responses to Gilberton Dissolves Police Department

  1. GDub says:

    Obviously Pennsylvania needs to relook municipal organization to reflect modern times (a more flexible code would help–even “borough” is too large of a category).

    Too much optimism about pension consolidation. Fees might be a problem for the smallest investors but the idea that you “lose” massive amounts of money over time is overblown (try earning anything in a bond or savings account these days). (And it is likely that the funds having the public employees picking stocks have a lower expense ratio than the professionals).

    The bulk of pension problems are political, and this is true in less fragmented states than Pennsylvania. Setting promises at a high level, putting money in at a low level, and asking the stock market to make things right is a recipe for high risk and big losses when times are bad.

  2. stcif01 says:

    Rolling pensions into PMRS is not the only thing to be done but it would save considerable amount of money.

    “Joseph McLaughlin, director of the Temple University Institute for Public Affairs, has estimated the consolidation of the municipal pension plans could save local governments more than $14 million annually in administrative fees.”

    Also, once under stronger state control (PMRS), more corrective measures can be mandated because the state will have direct authority.

    • GDub says:

      I’m not saying don’t do it, but $14 million is a laughably small percentage of the problem that it is like staving off personal bankruptcy by looking in your cash for change.

      Requiring municipalities to follow state law on pension practices would be a good start. It doesn’t seem that anyone is arguing that the pension plans are “underperforming”–just that they don’t earn enough to meet what is being paid out.

  3. Jon Geeting says:

    Pennsylvania has a quarter of the nation’s municipal pensions. Imagine the horrible investments that are out there.

    • GDub says:

      But why are they or would they be “horrible”?

      Pension funds, by nature, do not generally meet the market average because they are hedged against major downturns and are more conservative. I guess I’m waiting for someone to show me a magic municipal pension fund anywhere in the US that would meet this alleged “standard” of performance.

      • Jon Geeting says:

        Because most are managed by non-professionals. Some people are legit financial advisors trained to watch markets. They’re generally going to pick better investments than the Treasurer of a random 200-person borough.