Sheriff's proposal to aid Jeannette cops rejected as illegal
Because of legal issues, Jeannette officials said, “Thanks, but no thanks,” to Westmoreland County Sheriff Jonathan Held's plan to use his deputies to back up city police officers.
In a letter to Held on Friday, city solicitor Scott Avolio said deputies are not considered police officers under state law, and any police-related work in the city will be handled “exclusively” by Jeannette police.
“Your office cannot lawfully provide any service which may be construed as police work. As I am sure you are aware, the Sheriff's Department may not participate in patrolling and/or investigating criminal matters that may occur within the City of Jeannette,” Avolio wrote.
“The presence of your department in no way will be considered by the city in calculating what shifts are given to police officers, nor the amount of officers employed by the city,” he added.
Mayor Richard Jacobelli said he met with Held on Monday to discuss the sheriff's offer to have deputies act as police officers in the city.
“The first issue we discussed was that deputies are not law enforcement officers,” Jacobelli said.
When a police officer candidate completes training, the Municipal Police Officers' Education and Training Commission assigns a certification number for each one in the state. Deputies are not certified by the commission. Although deputies and police officers both undergo basic training courses, the training for municipal officers is more extensive. Deputies undergo 160 hours of training, while police officers receive 520 hours.
Jacobelli said there is no formal agreement between the city and sheriff's office.
Held doesn't need the city's permission to have deputies in Jeannette, since they act primarily as officers of the court serving warrants for people who have failed to appear in court or skipped bond.
Held contends a state Supreme Court decision in 2006 allows deputies to make felony arrests and enforce the motor vehicle code for violations that they observe.
“Am I supposed to risk officer safety and public safety?” Held said. “If (Jeannette police) call us, they have a reason. An officer is in distress. Am I supposed to ignore officer safety and public safety?”
When Jeannette police officers respond to serious calls, they rely on neighboring police forces for backup, including Penn Township and Manor. They can request state police for help as well.
A series of court decisions have ruled that deputy sheriffs are not police officers, including a 1974 ruling in Allegheny County. Another decision in 1989 found there is “an historic and fundamental difference” between a deputy and a police officer.
The state constitution does not define “sheriff” or list the powers of that office.
Richard Gazarik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Juvenile status hearing, trial delayed in Franklin Regional stabbings
- Greensburg train station earns honor from Pittsburgh foundation
- Burglars strike 3 businesses in Hempfield plaza
- North Huntingdon man injured, dog dies in house fire
- Lawyers standing by to help needy in Westmoreland County
- Latrobe top cop questions testing for police promotions
- Proposed Mt. Pleasant budget plan includes deficit, tax hike
- 9 miles of roads to be paved in Hempfield
- Ligonier Township K-9 officer home to recover from deadly collision
- Tenant charged in fire that destroyed Latrobe apartment house
- Ex-Delmont man found dead in Florida