A picture of a state trooper hiding in a car wash was on the front page of The Era, and still there are people who don’t believe the state police have a strategic occupation of the Tuna Valley.
The numbers are staggering: a huge increase in citations in the City of Bradford alone, and $142.50 is the minimum cost for most citations.
The tactics used by these troopers are a disgrace to their profession and their call of honor “to serve honestly and obey the law.”
The lying in wait on private property and businesses in our community, the surveillance of innocent civilians, the tailgating of innocent motorists for miles at a time, the outright fabrication of reasonable suspicion, the frivolous stops and harassment of our citizens — these are reported instances of Pennsylvania State Police tactics used in our community.
Just a few examples: Your license plate lightbulb is out; you didn’t use your turn signal; your license plate is dirty.
Not proactive policing, not interdiction — this is harassment of our friends, neighbors and community.
The Tuna Valley has over 40 full-time and part-time police officers with a combined budget of over $3 million. A portion of that budget goes toward salaries, welfare and pension benefits. Distressed communities like ours struggle to meet these obligations each year. Now enter the state police whose salaries, welfare and pension benefits we also pay. The average salary of a trooper is $87,000 per year. Add welfare and pension fully equipped equals $130,000 — $130,000 per year to sit at the intersection of two dead end streets waiting for someone to not completely stop at a stop sign or use their turn signal.
A woman was pulled over in front of her house, with her children and neighbors looking on, and was told her vehicle was at The City Line for three hours — that was the reasonable suspicion. This is now a crime? This is surveillance harassment and fabrication of probable cause. It’s wrong and you know it.
A citizen was followed for five miles, pulled over and told his license plate light was out; a teenage girl tailgated, and then pulled over by a state police trooper for the same thing. Both lights were checked the next day; neither light was out. Fabrication of reasonable suspicion. State police fear and intimidation did work; the girl is now afraid of the state police.
It is unfortunate that drug dealers, gangs and those who abuse the defenseless in our community are not priorities with our law enforcement.
At a time when law enforcement should be building positive relationships with our communities, the state police are doing the exact opposite. Many citizens I have spoken with have no respect for the troopers in our area and cannot discern the good from the bad because no one is being held accountable for their actions. So a blanket disdain for all troopers is the result, a position I do not personally share. It’s no surprise that confidence in law enforcement is at a 22-year low.
On Feb. 18, 2010, the commanding officer of Troop C assured me “that the state police do not engage in the practice of lying in wait outside of bars and restaurants.” I would invite Sgt. Mary Gausman of Lewis Run barracks and Capt. Wayne Kline of Punxsutawney barracks to observe just that on any day of the week at Moonan’s Car Wash across from The City Line; Country Fair across from the Corner Bar and Restaurant; Mini Mart across from Tack’s Inn; Tops parking lot across from Joe’s Steakhouse; Northwest Bank across from the Vets Club; underpass across from Rookie’s; and Crosby Mini Mart across from The City Line.
With nearly 40 full- and part-time law enforcement officers patrolling less than 7 square miles in the Tuna Valley, there is absolutely no need for the state police to patrol our community. There are many municipalities that have little or no full-time coverage. That’s where they should be.
Captain Leehuis, former commanding officer of Troop C, assure me 10 years ago it hadn’t happened. She was wrong then and to deny it now is also wrong.
Let’s work together and rid our community of real criminals — crack, heroin, meth and illegal opioid dealers, because they and their victims are responsible for 80% of the crime in small communities throughout the country.
Some people thought it was about speeding. It’s not. It’s about the tactics and the over policing.
I welcome the chance to discuss these claims with anyone who believes there is no merit to them.
(Don Cummins is the chairman of the Bradford Township Planning Commission.)