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Chester County Press

Editorial: Expanding human life, integrity, justice and duty

06/11/2019 12:29PM ● By Richard Gaw
On June 4 at the Avondale Fire Department, several members of the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department (SCCRPD) introduced themselves to residents of the Avondale Borough. It was for a good reason; in late April, the SCCRPD Public Safety Commissioners and the Avondale Borough Council secured an 18-month, $90,000 contract with the regional police to provide full-time coverage to the borough's 1,400 residents starting July 1.

Avondale is less than a month away from becoming the third municipality under the regional police department's watch, joining New Garden Township and its 12,000 residents, and West Grove Borough, which has 2,900 residents. All told, that's a police coverage area of close to 18 square miles and nearly 17,000 residents. It's an accomplishment that has been measured not just by numbers by a commitment to safety and vision, one made even grander considering that when Police Chief Gerald Simpson first conceived of establishing a regional police department in 2014, several naysayers thought the idea would never work.

“Simpson's Folly,” many called it. A few local police departments took an early interest in the concept but eventually left the fold.

Backed by the support of the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors, the SCCRPD Public Safety Commissioners, West Grove Borough leaders and a dedicated roll call of officers, detectives and administrators, Simpson pressed on. His continuing mantra, heard in nearly every interview and at nearly every presentation, was “We are better together than we are apart.”

On Jan. 1, 2017, the SCCRPD went live, becoming the area's first regional police department.

Since then, Simpson, Deputy Chief Michael King and Lieutenant Joseph Greenwalt have established goals for the department's executive, patrol, investigative and special operations units.

Together, the department has established a Best Practice Policing policies in compliance with accreditation standards.

In 2018, the department increased the number of DUI arrests in their jurisdiction by a whopping 65 percent.

As of March, 30 training orders have been issued to the department's officers, in order to sharpen skills in the use of technology; investigation of child abuse; DUI detection; crisis intervention; and crime watch enforcement.  

They are establishing a 7-week Citizens' Police Academy, to give residents a better understanding of their role in law enforcement.

Joined by his colleagues, Officer Mario Raimato has spearheaded the department's community outreach initiatives in schools and at public events, and in the process has become one of the most visible police officers in southern Chester County.

If there is any remaining doubt about whether “Simpson's Folly” has defied its critics, consider the commitment by the New Garden Township Supervisors to approve the construction of a $4.3 million headquarters at 8934 Gap Newport Pike, that is scheduled to begin operations in the fall.

With expanded police coverage and a new home on the way, it is incumbent upon the SCCRPD to adapt to a new municipality and new surroundings. However, we ask that they eventually return to the map of southern Chester County and draw a re-imagined design of coverage that links it to a wider area that includes neighboring municipalities, perhaps London Britain and Franklin townships.

In no way does this newspaper endorse this potential initiative as a criticism of the coverage currently provided to these two municipalities by the State Police in Avondale. The men and women of the State Police have protected – and continue to protect – the residents of several boroughs and townships in southern Chester County with the dedication of a small army, and we support their unwavering and superb commitment to safety.

Our recommendation here is merely a down-the-road initiative that could further stabilize and enhance the workings of a regional department who has been retro-fitted for reasonable and eventual expansion from its beginning.

The Southern Chester County Regional Police Department is guided by four core values –  human life, integrity, justice and duty. We have seen these principles create the foundation of an effective regional police department, and on July 1, they will apply themselves to the Avondale Borough and perhaps, years from now, they will be applied elsewhere in a larger, contiguous swath of protection and service.