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Public reacts to police dismissal

Richard D. L. Fulton

(12/5) More than three dozen Hamiltonban Township resident appeared before the township Board of Supervisors December 4, mostly, apparently, in support of dismissed township officer.

The Hamiltonban Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at their November 29 workshop to disband their now-unionized township police department, and will rely on State Police for police protection (see related story Hamiltonban disbands police department).

Budgetary constraints was cited as the reason for shutting-down the township police force, effective December 31. The township’s sole officer, Officer-in-charge Juanita Larmer has been placed on paid administrative leave in the interim.

The supervisors indicated the meeting was advertised and that budgetary considerations were listed as an agenda item.

Larmer was present at the December 4 meeting and had signed up to comment at the meeting, but when called upon, the officer said her union representative wanted to address the supervisors.

However, township Solicitor Matthew Battersby denied the request, since the union official was not a resident of the township. "We are not taking statements from non-residents," Battersby said.

Larmer then declined further comment.

Half a dozen township residents did express were permitted to address the supervisors. Public comment was limited to a total of 30 minutes, which each resident permitted five minutes of that to express their views.

Rebekah Harbaugh, said, regarding the decision which was made during a "work session" of the township supervisors, "I believe it is wrong. The public was not informed (about the specifics of the work session, including disbanding the police department)."

Doreen Premo agreed, stating that ending the township police department was "significant and should have been one of the reasons stated for the (workshop) meeting."

Premo said she felt the meeting violated the state Sunshine Act, which establishes regulations regarding public meetings. "No voting has occurred during previous workshop meetings."

Paula Robert called disbanding the police department "a grave error," doing away with a police department comprised of an officer who is a resident of the community and knows the community. "That should not be under-valued."

Robert said she would be willing to pay more taxes to keep the local officer, a comment which was met with a round of applause from most in the audience.

State Police coverage is free, and there are other township in Adams County that rely solely on State Police protection. However, Harbaugh noted, "State Police isn’t going to be able to get here as quick as Juanita."

The supervisors took for no formal action to reverse their decision to end local police coverage.

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