North Huntingdon official suggests disbanding cycle unit
North Huntingdon commissioners declined to vote on a request to disband the municipality's three-vehicle motorcycle unit based on an assertion that the bikes aren't being properly utilized and pose a danger to officers.
“I know there's a gentleman from North Versailles who's a police officer, and he was just involved in an motorcycle accident,” said Commissioner David Herold, who suggested eliminating the motorcycle unit at last week's board meeting. “I just don't believe we're using them how we should be using them.”
Because the motion wasn't discussed in detail at the previous week's meeting, Commission Chairman Richard Gray called for discussion by board members and public comment.
Resident Duane Kucera and Herold engaged in a pointed exchange after Kucera challenged the commissioner's comment.
“Mr. Herold just said he knew the officer that was injured from North Versailles,” Kucera said. “He was on his own motorcycle. A motorcycle doing a wheelie coming out of a driveway struck him.”
Herold fired back that the officer “was still in an accident.”
A North Versailles police receptionist confirmed that an off-duty officer who was riding a motorcycle was struck by another motorcyclist earlier this month.
Herold also suggested that the motorcycle units fail to conduct regular patrols in the municipality.
“I never see them in the housing plans,” Herold said. “I never see them in my housing plan.”
Police Chief Andrew Lisiecki responded that “just because you don't see a police car doesn't mean they're not there.”
Lisiecki said the motorcycle units have the same duties as other officers.
“They are assigned to sectors. They have to patrol the housing plans, Route 30, do school checks, do business checks. So they are out in the housing plans. They are doing their jobs.”
Lisiecki said the fuel-efficient motorcycles are useful during public functions such as events in the parks or when heavy traffic makes it difficult for a larger police vehicle to maneuver.
“They provide a valuable service and we should keep them,” the chief said.
Manager John Shepherd said the questions raised about where and when the motorcycle units are patrolling have prompted discussions about the possibility of installing GPS units in municipal vehicles to track their locations.
“They (GPS units) might be valuable to us,” he said.
“It's not to keep an eye on them (employees),” Shepherd said. “We get a lot complaints in the winter from people who say, ‘The salt truck hasn't been down my road in two days.' They (GPS units) may be valuable to help us at least tell people what we know.”
However, Martino said, “keeping an eye on them” is precisely how a GPS system should be used.
“People who don't have GPS right now can do whatever they want out there,” said Martino, who then referenced a 1970s TV show about California motorcycle police. “Whether it's public works or the police. Whether it's the bikes in the housing plans or running up and down (Route) 30 side by side ‘cause they think they're CHiPs.
“You put a GPS on them, maybe they'll actually do their job,” he said. “And you'll know where they're at,” he said.
Commissioners voted 4-2 to delay a vote on the matter, with Herold and Donald Austin opposed.