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Pa. examines Indiana County officials' handling of out-of-control St. Patrick's Day parties

| Saturday, March 29, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

It will take at least a few months for the state to examine the response of Indiana officials to wild St. Patrick's Day parties in the borough earlier this month that resulted in criminal charges and numerous citations.

Ruth Miller, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, said letters were sent to stakeholders on Friday seeking their perspectives on the March 8 student-planned “IUPatty's” revelry that taxed emergency systems.

“It will take some time,” Miller said.

Indiana County Commissioner Rodney Ruddock and Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Michael Driscoll asked the state agency to assist in evaluating the actions before, during and after the events on borough streets and on campus.

Agencies involved in the response, including business leaders and law enforcement, are asked in the letters from PEMA to share their perspectives about what worked and what didn't, Miller said.

“(Reviews) are something we routinely do at the state level following significant incidents,” agency Director Glenn Cannon said.

Officials in the agency's Western Area office will meet with campus and borough officials for a review that will help responders be “better equipped to prepare for and handle a situation like this in the future,” Cannon said.

When hundreds of college-age people, including IUP students and others, took to the streets on March 8, state, borough and university police responded to dozens of incidents, including a large brawl that was videotaped and uploaded to YouTube. One borough officer sustained a broken hand during the weekend.

A group of about 400 on South Seventh Street antagonized police who were trying to disperse the crowd, forcing officers to use pepper spray on some revelers.

Borough police used social media to identify and arrest four men and one juvenile in connection with the videotaped fist-fight on South Seventh Street. Three of those facing felony riot charges are IUP students. The two others are from Aliquippa.

Officials have said many of those who caused problems were not IUP students. Those students who were charged by police face the IUP disciplinary process, according to university officials.

In anticipation of the weekend partying, IUP officials had advised students to behave responsibly. About 350 students helped to clean up the town the next morning.

“I'm thankful for PEMA's willingness to help the entire community work together to collaboratively identify ways to better prepare and address this sort of activity,” Driscoll said in the release.

The results will be shared with stakeholders after its completion.

Ruddock said in the release that revisiting the response plan will enable officials to better protect county residents.

Renatta Signorini is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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