Our View-Gallitizin facing decision

Our view

Gallitzin facing decision

Gallitzin Borough Council’s discussion last week about whether borough police officer Gil Barton should be allowed to work as a member of the Cambria County Specialized Emergency Response Team was important from the standpoint of available local police manpower, as well as what financial obligations the municipality might have to incur in regard to it.

Cambria’s SERT handles high-risk situations.

The council must be careful in what it finally decides.

But it was not the SERT question that was the most relevant police issue brought up at last week’s meeting. Instead, it was the help provided by Gallitzin officers to neighboring police departments when situations in those communities demand additional manpower.

Councilman Phillip Mazzarese was critical of Barton having left Gallitzin to help in an emergency in Cresson; it was his perception that Barton had left Gallitzin without having been formally dispatched.

Mayor Raymond Osmolinski took issue with Mazzarese’s claim, saying that Barton had, in fact, been dispatched to the neighboring town.

Council members need to weigh the possible implications for Gallitzin if they are to limit Gallitzin officers’ help to others.

In the past there have been, and there will be in the future, incidents in Gallitzin requiring more manpower than what’s on duty in the borough at the time. The well-being of local officers shouldn’t be jeopardized by a policy that discourages other municipalities’ officers from helping Gallitzin officers when they are dealing with an incident too big for them alone to handle.

It’s easy to note that state police can be summoned to assist, but there’s not always a state police cruiser in close proximity to Gallitzin. At a time when help might be needed, state police troopers might be on patrol somewhere across Cambria County, or dealing with specific incidents to which they’ve been summoned or assigned.

There’s no guarantee of immediate state police help being available, while help from a neighboring borough or township department might be only a couple of minutes away.

Mazzarese needs to be careful about what he proposes.

Also, it’s the mayor — in Gallitzin’s case, Osmolinski — who’s in charge of the police department, and it’s the mayor who ultimately is accountable regarding the department’s efficient and effective operation.

Council members should consult with the mayor before proposing changes, even though all of the borough’s elected officials share responsibility regarding how well the police department operates.

Whether the question involves SERT participation or help to other communities, Gallitzin council members need to acknowledge the broader aspects of police protection and the challenges that today’s police officers deal with daily.

Those council members need to recognize and acknowledge that an isolationist stance in regard to police protection is too risky.

Adopting policies that unnecessarily could endanger local officers would be an example of irresponsibility of which no municipal official ever should want to be a part.