Manheim Township, PA – Town leaders voted on Monday to disband a police advisory committee created last year because lawmakers felt it was unnecessary and bad for officer morale.
Manheim Township Board of Commissioners President Donna Dimeo said she had attended several meetings of the police advisory committee and that no resident had ever raised any concerns, Lancaster Online reported.
Dimeo said that Manheim Township Police Department (MTPD) was already transparent.
“We have a chief who is willing to talk to anyone,” she said. “And I don’t think that this is a committee that at this time is needed. I think they all worked hard. And I think that they were all surprised and pleased at the transparency, the information that we give on our website.”
The board president said the police department already offered multiple opportunities for members of the community to interact with officers, and cited examples that included commissioner meetings, National Night Out, and “Coffee with a Cop” at local businesses, Lancaster Online reported.
The MTPD police advisory committee was created by a unanimous vote in July of 2020, amidst nationwide anti-police protests following the death of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police.
At the time it was created, the majority of the town’s elected officials were Democrats, Lancaster Online reported.
Eleven board members were appointed in February of 2021 and the committee began meeting two months later.
But in November of 2021, a Republican majority swept in the municipal elections and the tone of the board of commissioners changed, Lancaster Online reported.
The commissioners voted 4-to-1 on Jan. 10 to disband the police advisory committee entirely.
Manheim Township Commissioner Barry Kauffman, the only Democrat left on the board, was the only commissioner who voted to keep the committee, Lancaster Online reported.
Kauffman, who was part of the board that voted to create the police advisory committee, said he thought the police department was excellent but said that fact “doesn’t mean we can’t learn best practices from other places. So I just think this resolution is premature.”
The commissioner said he wanted to see more opportunities for community discussions “because I think that would even further enhance the respect the community has for police once they understand and get to know some of the policeman regular human beings,” Lancaster Online reported.
Dimeo said no committee was needed for that.
Manheim Township Commissioner John Bear said it was more about the negative way the committee had been created, Lancaster Online reported.
Bear said the police chief had been ambushed with the announcement.
“If the prior board was as very serious about having something that was fairly balanced and was done in a methodical manner, it would have not notified the police chief a few minutes before going into a board meeting, telling him, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re creating a police advisory committee,’” he said.
Bear said he thought the former board members owed the police an apology, Lancaster Online reported.
Rabbi Jack Paskoff, who served as chair of the police advisory committee during its brief existence, said the board’s decision to do away with the new entity wasn’t a surprise to him or the other committee members.
“It was clear from the outset that our committee was seen as adversarial by the police, although I don’t think the members of the committee felt that way,” Paskoff said. “The only thing that was left undone was sending a survey to the community. Despite open meetings, we learned of no concerns with the department.”