Suspensions won't hinder California police force
California borough police Chief Rick Encapera said Sunday his department will not be shorthanded despite two full-time officers serving one-month suspensions.
California council on Thursday suspended officers Justin Schultz and Terry Childs without pay after the two returned an unmarked vehicle to Washington, Pa., May 3 during a Friday night shift.
Their action left the borough with just one available officer. The trip was not authorized, Encapera said.
While Schultz and Childs were away, a fight erupted outside Sigz Bistro on Second Street.
That incident required outside assistance. Police from Centerville, Charleroi Regional, Donora and East Bethlehem responded, Encapera said. At least three people were cited in the brawl, he added.
Encapera said that although the borough is down to three full-time officers and about 10 part-timers, he was able to fill Childs' and Schultz's shifts – which total 480 hours.
“The other guys are stepping up,” he said. “I talked to the officers yesterday, and they were all penciled in for the shifts.”
It was not clear if the suspended officers will face further disciplinary action.
Mayor Casey Durdines did not return a phone message seeking comment Sunday. Councilman Phil Difilippo said he had “nothing to add” about the situation.
According to WPXI, news partner of The Valley Independent, outraged students and business owners packed a council meeting Thursday night when the suspensions were imposed.
Residents accused Schultz and Childs of unprofessional conduct and using excessive force, according to WPXI.
“That's what everyone is alleging, but I have not yet gotten any formal complaints against either officer,” Encapera said. “I have not seen anything in writing.”
While Encapera declined to say whether he thought the suspensions were fair or unfair, he said the officers were guilty of “bad timing” and “poor discretion” for leaving on a shift that's ripe for alcohol-related incidents.
Sigz Bistro is one of several businesses bordering the California University of Pennsylvania campus.
“It's a spring weekend and only a couple more weeks before school was out, and the weather was nice,” Encapera said of May 3. “There were other times in the schedule that those guys could have returned the vehicle … They picked the wrong time.”
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.