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Chester County Press

Editorial: London Grove Township, the policing you want is forming right next door

11/15/2016 12:39PM ● By Richard Gaw
On the evening of May 21, 2015, in the cafeteria of the Fred S. Engle Middle School, about 100 residents of London Grove Township told their board of supervisors that they were not in favor of entering the township into a planned regional police department which, at the time, also included New Garden Township, Kennett Township, Kennett Borough and West Grove Borough.
The township's price tag, they said, was too much – $830,000 for the first year, according to estimates – and besides, they were receiving adequate enough support from the Pennsylvania State police in nearby Avondale. Finally, they told the supervisors that what would cost $830,000 during its first year would double and triple yearly in amount a few years down the line.
The decree that came down that evening on the supervisors  – who were merely kicking the tires on the concept, and not attempting to jam the idea through – served as a classic lesson in “Me First” short-sightedness. With their vote, this skinny cross-section of residents, comprising a puny percentage of the township's entire population, chose a stance that teetered on the most dangerous kind of myopia, one that only looks into the mirror for answers.
With their vote, these residents left their township without its own police force, and completely neglected to take into consideration what impact their decision would have on future generations. The numbers do not lie: London Grove's Zoning Steering Committee projects the township population to grow from its current 8,500 to more than 15,000 in the next 30 years. That's just one entry in a tabulation that predicts a substantial population increase throughout all of southern Chester County over the next three decades – one that cannot be patrolled and protected by the State Police alone.
With their vote, these residents chose to leave their township out of what is likely to become the model for community policing for decades to come, and the largest possible regret may be that it is taking shape right down the street from London Grove Township.
The formation of the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department, expected to begin operations on Jan. 2, 2017, is a partnership of collaboration between the New Garden Police and the West Grove Borough. Up and down the ranks, the new department, led by Chief Gerald Simpson and Deputy Chief Michael King, is a commitment to modern policing that sees law enforcement as not just as a barracks to hand out tickets and arrest those who break the law, but as a part of a community's identity.
Boosted by a top-notch criminal investigation team led by Detective Sgt. Keith Cowdright, the combined unit will patrol north of Gap-Newport Pike into Toughkenamon, south of Gap-Newport Pike into Landenberg, and the West Grove Borough, with at or near 24-hour coverage, seven days a week.
This editorial is not to suggest that the State Police are not providing efficient service to London Grove. They are an outstanding unit -- one also built on community policing -- but what they do to protect and police the township forms just one chunk of their commitment to many other townships and municipalities.
Lately, London Grove Township has been considering the idea of partnering with the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department on a contractual agreement. Although the idea would help fill in the gaps that the State Police are not able to fill, it may also manifest itself in the form of the visiting consultant, whose willingness to help is overshadowed by the truth that he or she is an outsider, and always will be.
We propose that sometime in the next two years, the township's supervisors lift the cover off of the idea to link the township in the regional policing concept, with a fresh new perspective.
During that time, we suggest that the residents of London Grove Township, together with elected and appointed officials, take the time to look over their collective shoulders during 2017, at what Chief Simpson and his team are building next door -- not just for themselves, but for future generations. There is no more selfless gift to give them than the assurance that they will be protected, for decades to come.

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