THE MAYOR’S REPORT: Police past to present

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

So, I’ve opted to author this report on Monday, Memorial Day. Ah … the side porch sittin’ weather has arrived. It’s 87 degrees right now. I intended on a follow-up law enforcement past to present article that I’ll get to that in a moment. How did you do on my quiz of the photograph from three weeks ago? Grab a glass of iced tea and join me for a few minutes.

First, it’s Memorial Day. I was on Center Square shortly after 7 a.m. and said hello to a gentleman that was taking photos of the veterans’ banners, those that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. I encourage you to visit our Center Square where some 24 flags adorned the center and perimeter over the weekend and today. Drive or walk the streets of Greencastle and honor the displays of our veterans. Visit the Veterans Monument and Memorial at 60 N. Washington St. The center monument honors all veterans. The “V” designed memorial honors some 120 veterans from the greater Greencastle community that paid the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we so enjoy and take for granted today. They grew up in the villages and farms of Antrim; the streets of Greencastle — Addison Avenue, North Carlisle Street, Town Drive; and many other locations around the community. Take time, visit this location, and say a prayer for the Gold Star families.

Greencastle Mayor Ben Thomas Jr.

There was a good turn-out at the memorial service at Cedar Hill Cemetery this morning. My special thanks to Rear Admiral Grafton Chase Jr., United States Navy, for his humble and inspiring message to the men, women and children who attended. I encourage you to thank the veterans in your family for their service.

So anyway, the 1962 photo that was displayed in the May 10 edition of the Echo Pilot was probably taken by Record Herald reporter Vaden Richards. I had many citizens and fact checkers contact me. Some got my questions right. So where was this? The police officer and AAA school safety patrol student were standing near the intersection of South Washington and East Franklin streets on the east sidewalk. You can observe the chain link fence to the east in front of the schools at the time. The two schools were to the right along South Washington Street. The houses to the left of the police officer still stand today. There was a gas station beside the alley known as Spruce Lane. Between the officer and the student is the “town hall” that had offices and shops in the first floor and apartments in the second and third floor. The Officer was Jerry Provard and the AAA School Safety Patrol captain was Frank Ervin. He probably filled a prescription or two for you over the years at Carl’s Drug Store. At the time, Piney Goetz was the chief of police until 1965 when Officer Provard would be appointed to that position.

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The Motor Club of Chicago began the school safety patrol in 1920 with the white belts and shoulder straps that displayed a badge after the school students received safety training. Student patrols were stationed at several intersections in Greencastle to assist younger students in crossing. Just remember, in 1962, there was no Interstate 81 and traffic was much less than it is today. The school safety patrol is still prominent today in the United States and 30 other countries. In my Mayor’s Report on WRGG, Dr. Greg Hoover advised that he was a school safety patrol lieutenant. I would imagine his duty intersection in the mid-1960s was on South Washington Street. As traffic increased in Greencastle the town employed several adult school crossing guards who faithfully performed their duties at various intersections in all kinds of weather.

So, let’s proceed from past to present law enforcement in Greencastle. I began my career over 40 years ago. Police headquarters was in one half of the borough office with municipal offices on the south side of the building that previously served as a fire station prior to 1948. The mayor and council met upstairs from a separate entrance on East Madison Street in a partitioned room in the former library. We had two manual typewriters that were well used as all reports had to be typewritten. History has repeated itself with computers. Also in the station were two lockups or jail cells with running water and bathroom facilities. That came in handy with the number of public drunks experienced back then. The annex or addition to the borough office was built in 1982 using the last of Federal Revenue Sharing funds that paid for the addition. The former fire station’s first floor was then converted to a new police headquarters. The remodeling required removal of the two lockups due to insurance regulations. Very unfortunate as a single holding cell was placed in the remodeled headquarters with no restroom facilities. The front, steel grid lockup and door used today was actually fabricated from one of the old jail cells.

There was no 911 emergency call system. The emergency number (597-2161) had a phone in police headquarters and a phone in the police chief’s home to receive calls. Eventually, an extension to the local phone number was placed at the Franklin County Civil Defense Office, where one or maybe two dispatchers were on duty. You can still call the 2161 number for non-emergencies with the 911 system available 24 hours a day.

Can you pick out the Greencastle police officers in this photo and figure out where it was taken?

Technology eventually retired the manual typewriters as we began using IBM electric typewriters before converting to computers that are now an integral part of police work. Over 40 years ago, Pennsylvania required mandatory police recruit basic training known as Pa. Act 120. All Greencastle police officers are Pa. Act 120 trained and must undergo annual updates and specialized training. Prior to academy training officers were instructed locally. In the accompanying photo can you pick out the Greencastle police officers and the location the photo was taken? Today’s computer system is linked to the Pennsylvania law enforcement system and court system, along with the judicial and county court systems. Criminal arrests include an affidavit of probable cause and criminal complaint. The suspect must also be fingerprinted and processed. Computers are in the police vehicles. Traffic citations and motor vehicle crash reports may be processed in these vehicles or at headquarters. A Pennsylvania motor vehicle crash report may be up to nine pages to process.

Over a 40-year period we went from low-band FM radio communications to VHF analogue repeater radio systems to today’s 400 Mhz. UHF digital communications system that is encrypted. There are multiple tactical, mutual aid, and special events radio channels our officers use. The department utilizes digital camera systems around the community that display public areas for traffic monitoring, safety, and investigative purposes. A police pickup truck is utilized for patrol. Many police agencies are using pickup trucks for the safety and investigative equipment that can be carried, all-wheel drive capabilities, prisoner transports, and the ability to haul debris from streets in lieu of calling in a public works employee and vehicle.

Even with all this technology municipal police are still not permitted to use radar or lidar to detect speeding vehicles. Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that does not permit this. Speeding is a huge safety issue, especially today, with distracted and aggressive drivers. Municipal police officers must rely on old technology and place themselves in unsafe conditions while enforcing speeding laws. Writing a traffic citation is not a money maker for municipalities. Most of the fine money goes to the Commonwealth General Fund or transportation trust fund. If you write a manual citation today you need a calculator with the fine, costs, EMS fund fee, JCP fee, and MCARE surcharge. Bottom line, traffic citations are expensive in Pennsylvania. It’s easy to avoid getting one. Slow down, obey traffic laws of Greencastle and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and be safe.

Meanwhile, I’m going to have some more iced tea and consider some back yard sittin’ this evening. Enjoy what’s left of spring and bring on the summer and Old Home Week. We are so blessed.