Archive for December, 2008

Woman Arrested For Stalking State Trooper

December 31, 2008
Fairchance woman arrested for allegedly stalking state trooper
Updated 12/31/2008 08:27:36 AM EST
A Fairchance woman is behind bars for allegedly stalking the commander of the state police barracks in Uniontown and his wife.
Trooper Charles M. Morrison said Roseanne Abbott, 31, of 159 Old Wynn Road was charged Dec. 23 before Magisterial District Judge Dwight K. Shaner with a felony count of stalking as well as a misdemeanor count of providing false information to law enforcement and a summary charge of harassment.

Morrison said Tuesday that the charges were filed against Abbott after she repeatedly stalked Lt. Charles L. Depp, 46, and his wife, Angela Depp, 42, both of Fairchance, during a period of several months beginning in September.

Morrison said Trooper Scott Krofcheck filed a misdemeanor stalking charge earlier this month against Abbott for allegedly following Charles Depp to work and stalking him and his wife at their home. She was charged with harassment at that time.

After those charges were filed, Morrison said Krofcheck warned Abbott that she would have to call the state police barracks if she had a problem in the future and could no longer “simply show up.”


However, on Dec. 19, Morrison said Abbott arrived at the police barracks in North Union Township unannounced and told an employee at the front desk that she had information about a man who pointed a gun at her.

Morrison said that he and Trooper James A. Pierce interviewed Abbott about the alleged incident and that her story was unclear and appeared to be fabricated.

Morrison said that following the interview, troopers continued to investigate Abbott’s claim and contacted other people Abbott said were in the area when the alleged threat occurred. Morrison said no one corroborated Abbott’s claims.

Morrison noted that she also mentioned Charles Depp and his children during the interview.

“I believe that she invented a crime so that she could come to the barracks,” Morrison said.

Morrison said after investigating the incident, he consulted Fayette County District Attorney Nancy D. Vernon before filing the charges.

Abbott was placed in the Fayette County Prison on $10,000 straight cash bond following her arraignment.

A preliminary hearing is set for today before Magisterial District Judge Wendy D. Dennis.


Blood From Mosquito Traps Finnish Suspect

December 30, 2008
AFP Blood from mosquito traps Finnish suspect AFP/OFF/FIle – Police in Finland believe they have caught a car-thief thanks to a DNA sample taken from a sample of …

HELSINKI (AFP) – Police in Finland believe they have caught a car-thief thanks to a DNA sample taken from a sample of his blood found inside a mosquito.

Last June a car was stolen in Lapua, some 380 kilometres (235 miles) north of Helsinki. It was soon found near a railway station in Seinaejoki, about 25 kilometres from where it was stolen.

“A police patrol carried out an inspection of the car and they noticed a mosquito that had sucked blood. It was sent to the laboratory for testing, which showed the blood belonged to a man who was in the police registers,” inspector Sakari Palomaeki told AFP.

The suspect, who has been interrogated, has insisted he did not steal the car, saying he had hitchhiked and was given a lift by a man driving the car.

Palomaeki said a prosecutor would decide if the evidence was solid enough for charges to be pressed.

Finnish police said it was rare for them to use insects to solve crimes, although they are interested in everything found at a crime scene.

“It is not usual to use mosquitoes. In training we were not told to keep an eye on mosquitoes at crime scenes,” Palomaeki said, laughing.

“It is not easy to find a small mosquito in a car, this just shows how thorough the crime scene investigation was,” he added.


Police Officer Deaths Drop in ’08

December 29, 2008

WASHINGTON – Fewer police officers died in the line of duty in 2008 compared to last year, reflecting better training and tactics, two law enforcement support groups reported Sunday.

The findings reversed the trend for 2007 when there was a spike in police deaths, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and another group, Concerns of Police Survivors.

The groups reported fatalities through Sunday.

Officer deaths this year totaled 140, compared to 181 in 2007.

Gunfire deaths dropped to 41 officers this year, compared to 68 in 2007. The 2008 number represented the lowest total since 1956 — when there were 35 — and was far below the peak of 156 officers killed by gunfire in 1973.

Traffic-related deaths also declined, with 71 officers killed this year, compared to 83 in 2007. It was the 11th consecutive year that more officers were killed in traffic incidents than from any other cause.

More than 61 percent of this year’s fatalities involved accidents and 39 percent resulted from criminal acts.

The only downside was deaths of women officers: 15 in 2008 compared to 6 a year ago. More women officers than before are in harm’s way, the groups said, because they’re taking on the same dangerous assignments as men.

Craig Floyd, chairman of the Memorial Fund, said in an interview that officers are getting better training and equipment.

More than 70 percent of policemen use bullet-resistant vests compared to fewer than half a decade ago, he said.

And officers are making better use of Taser stun guns and other non-lethal weapons that keep them a safe distance from violent offenders, Floyd said.

To avoid traffic deaths, officers are better trained in high-speed and defensive driving techniques. Police vehicles now have better safety equipment, including side air bags and a substance installed near the gas tank to suppress fire when the vehicle is struck.

The states with the most deaths were Texas with 14, followed by California with 12, then Florida and Pennsylvania with eight apiece,

Other factors cited by Floyd for the reduction in police fatalities:

_A record 2.3 million adult criminals behind bars, according to a study released earlier this year by the Pew Center on the States.

_A 2007 violent crime rate that held steady at the 2005 level, according to the Justice Department.

The Memorial Fund honors law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty and is in charge of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington.

Concerns of Police Survivors provides support and counseling to surviving family members of officers killed in the line of duty.


On the Net:

Memorial Fund:

Police Survivors: http://www.nationalcops

PA Legislator Proposes Tax To Pay For State Police Service To Municipalities With No Police Force

December 26, 2008

 According to an article in the September 26, 2008 Herald / Standard newspaper, PA State Representative John Pallone of Westmoreland County has proposed that residents of municipalities with populations of 10,000 or more and no local police force, be required to pay a tax of $100 per head to defray the costs of the PA State Police responding to calls for police assistance in those municipalities.

 Most of our readers from outside of PA do not understand that PA law, unlike many other states, does not require municipal governments in the Commonwealth to operate police departments.

 Amazingly, many of the municipalities that do not operate their own police forces are more than financially able to do so. In Westmoreland County, Hempfield Twp., which has no police force, has well over 40,000 residents making it the most populous municipality in the county & the largest geographically. In Fayette County, tiny Ohiopyle Borough with a population of under 225 residents employs a police officer while the Twp’s. of North Union, with a population in excess of 10,000, & South Union, which has an annual budget in the millions of dollars, do not employ a single police officer.

 Ironically, South Union Twp. did operate a full time police dept. at one time, but abolished it right about the time their Twp. exploded with economic development. S.U. Twp. is now the wealthiest municipality in Fayette County and the PSP Barracks in Fayette (the Uniontown Station) is the busiest in the entire Commonwealth.

 And, also unlike in many other states, Sheriffs in PA are not required by law to answer calls for police assistance when a given municipality does not operate it’s own police force. That responsibility falls to the PA State Police (PSP), an organization that is not well suited to responding to or addressing “local” problems.

 Further complicating the issue is the fact that in the Commonwealth of PA there are no “unincorporated” areas. Every citizen lives within a municipality; a Borough which is basically a mini city governed by an elected council and Mayor, a Township which is a fairly rural area governed by an elected Board of Supervisors or a City which is governed by an elected Council and Mayor.

 The issue came to the fore several years ago with the collapse of the bulk of steel mills & coal mines, the major employers in Southwestern PA. When the mills & mines closed many thousands of people were laid off, bankruptcy filings exploded, home foreclosures rose to previously unseen levels, and the tax bases of many municipal governments, which were predominantly dependent on real estate taxes, shrunk to all time lows causing elected officials to make budget cuts. Almost without fail those cuts were made by laying off police officers and in many municipalities, police departments were abolished altogether.

 Many of the municipalities that abolished their police forces looked to the Sheriffs of their counties for police protection, but county governments in PA are also predominantly reliant upon real estate taxes and were hit just as hard as the municipalities that were now seeking county help; meaning the Sheriffs were unable to provide help due to their own budget shortfalls.

 In addition to the Sheriffs not having the financial means to provide help to the municipalities, PA law does not require Sheriffs’ to act as law enforcement officers, although they can, and many of them were not inclined to get involved with answering calls for police assistance and making arrests as Sheriffs, unlike police officers, must get elected, and in general, an elected official does not gain many votes by arresting potential voters.

 Thusly, the task of providing routine police services to the affected citizenry fell to the Troopers of the PSP. The PSP was never intended to answer routine calls for police services such as neighborhood noise complaints & domestic disputes and they were & are ill prepared to do so.

 Possibly the greatest benefit of a municipality operating a local police force is that the officers that will enforce the laws spend a great deal of time in the community they patrol. They get to know the residents, good & bad, as well as the problems in the community. This allows the officers to apply their knowledge of the community when answering calls and deciding whether or not to make arrests while the PSP Troopers usually know very little about the residents of individual communities and the problems in that area causing them to make “black & white” decisions in a colorful world.

 The issue of funding PSP services to municipalities without their own police forces has been hotly debated and many different proposals to address the issue have been put forth.

 The idea to institute a “head tax” upon the residents of municipalities with 10,000 residents or more and no local police forces, as the latest proposal would do, should not be instituted.

 The PSP is funded by the Legislature which does not collect real estate taxes as  municipalities do. The state collects the bulk of it’s revenue through income and sales taxes, which are paid by most, if not all, Pennsylvanians including those that live in the targeted municipalities.

 Residents that live in municipalities that operate their own police forces pay the same rates of income & sales taxes to the legislature as do the residents of municipalities that do not operate their own police forces, but they do not receive the same amount of services from the PSP because they fund their own officers.

 In essence the residents of municipalities with their own police forces are subsidizing PSP services to the municipalities that choose not to provide their own police forces. This is just plain unfair.

 On the other hand, the residents of the non police municipalities are already paying for the services of the PSP and the legislature cannot charge twice for the same services. However, the legislature can & should provide for a state income tax deduction for residents that live in municipalities that fund their own police forces. This would provide relief to the residents of municipalities with their own police forces that have been subsidizing PSP services to the residents of “non police” municipalities while encouraging the elected officials in the “non police” municipalities to institute their own police forces.

 But, we believe the best way to address this situation is for the legislature, as is within their authority, to simply require that all municipalities provide local police services.  Municipalities that truly do not have the financial means to provide local officers, and there are many such situations, can join or contract with neighboring municipalities to form regional police departments as is already being done in several areas of the Commonwealth.

Flight Upon Seeing Police Does Not Give Officers Probable Cause To Stop, Let Alone Arrest Individuals

December 18, 2008

 Officers from a Borough in Northeastern PA have asked us to help them determine if they can pursue and stop individuals who run away from a street corner upon seeing their police car enter the area.

 The officers report that they have not observed the individuals who flee upon seeing the police car engaging in criminal activity and that their department has not received any reports or tips from the public that the individuals have engaged in criminal acts. In addition the area of the street corner is not known for drug activity.

 We have found several PA cases pertaining to this issue.

 As is always the case, the key issue is Probable Cause (PC). You will recall from your academy training that probable cause has been defined by our courts as a requisite element of a valid arrest, consisting of the existence of facts and circumstances within one’s knowledge and of which one has reasonably trustworthy information, sufficient in themselves to warrant a person of reasonable caution to believe that a crime has been committed (See 267 U.S. 132).  PC can be established in many ways. It may be established on the basis of the cumulative knowledge of the investigating officers (See 380 U.S. 102); However, PC cannot be based on facts which are completely innocent in themselves (See 393 U.S. 410); Furthermore, the fact that the suspect(s) have been previously involved in similar crimes, if any have in fact been committed, is not of important value (See 393 U.S. 410); PC must be based on particular facts and not mere conclusions (See 378 U.S. 108).

 With that being said we will now delve into the cases we have discovered pertaining to the issue of Flight as an element of Probable Cause.

 * Commonwealth v. Biagini, 540 Pa. 22, 655 A. 2d 492 (1995) & In Interest of Barry W., 423 Pa. Super. 549, 621 A. 2d 669 (1993): The mere fact that a person quickens his pace upon being observed by police officers and starts to run when a police officer begins to chase him does not give rise to a reasonable belief that criminal activity is afoot, and is therefore insufficient to justify even a Terry Stop (See Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 88 S. Ct. 1868, (1968), absent some other factor which would give rise to criminal conduct. Thus, the court held that an anonymous tip that a male was selling drugs at a certain location, coupled with the flight of the male upon the approach of the police, without more, did not give rise to probable cause to arrest nor reasonable suspicion to stop and detain the male. The court stated: “We are unwilling, as a matter of law, to hold that an anonymous tip bearing no indication of reliability, and containing no predictions of future behavior, and unsupported by any corroborative observations by an officer, when coupled with flight, justifies a forcible Terry stop.” (See 621 A. 2d at 678).

 * Commonwealth v. Chase, 394 Pa. Super. 168, 575 A. 2d 574 (1990):  “although flight, in & of itself, does not supply probable cause to arrest, flight in combination with other factors may reasonably indicate that an individual has committed a criminal offense”.

 * In Interest of D.W., 427 Pa. Super. 629, 629 A. 2d 1387 (1993):police observation of a suspicious exchange of cash for a small packet at 2:40 a.m. in a high-crime area, coupled with an anonymous tip of drug dealing and the flight of the suspect’s companions, supported a finding of probable cause to arrest.

 * Commonwealth v. Woodson, 342 Pa. Super. 392, 493 A. 2d 78 (1985): Finding probable cause for arrest of suspect matching description of “young black man wearing a beige sweater or shirt” who evaded police and offered unsubstantiated explanation for his presence near the crime scene.

 * Commonwealth v. Phillips, 338 Pa. Super. 274, 487 A. 2d  962 (1985): Flight of companions on approach of suspect by officer supported a finding of probable cause to arrest.

 * Commonwealth v. Williams, 317 Pa. Super. 456, 464 A. 2d 411 (1983): Finding probable cause for arrest of suspect matching description of “black man with a mustache” seen near time and place of crime, who repeatedly fled upon seeing  police.

 We believe that our fellow officers in the Northeastern PA Borough should not attempt to “pursue & stop” the individuals that flee from the street corner upon seeing their police car enter the area without having some articulable reason to believe that the fleeing individuals are involved in criminal activity at the time they flee upon seeing the police car or that the fleeing individuals match the description of individuals that have been involved in criminal activity.

 However, we also believe that our fellow officers should actively observe the fleeing individuals by following after them to learn the location to which they are fleeing and to simply perform intelligence gathering as there is nothing in our laws to prevent officers from simply patrolling their jurisdictions on foot, observing activities of citizens, and making notes on their observations.

Louisiana Citizen Shoots, Kills Man Attacking Officer

December 17, 2008

From “The New American” magazine page 41, April 3, 2006 by Kurt Williamson

 A Baton Rouge, Louisiana citizen wearing a neck brace and using a cane shot & killed a man who was attacking a police officer who had pulled the man over for a traffic violation.

 Perry Stephens, no age listed, said he heard Officer Brian Harrison yelling for help followed by gunshots. Upon responding to the officer’s calls for help Stephens found the officer on the ground with another man on top of him punching the officer.

 Stephens told the man attacking the officer to “get off” the officer and when the man refused, Stephens shot the man 4 times in the chest, but the man continued attacking the officer causing Stephens to shoot the man in the head killing him.

 The attacker, George Temple, had also been shot in the abdomen by the officer prior to Stephens coming to the officers aide.

 A witness at the scene told WAFB Channel 9 that Stephens “probably saved the officer’s life”, but also said he didn’t hear Stephens tell Temple to get off the officer prompting the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Temple was a negro, while Stephens is white, to claim racial bias in Stephens decision to shoot Temple.

 Temple was not armed, but he was a large, athletic man who competitively boxed, and he was definitely the aggressor in the incident.

 The District Attorney’s office is investigating to determine whether a reasonable person would think it was necessary to shoot someone a fifth time, in the head, after shooting the person 4 times in the chest.

 According to the article, Louisiana law allows the use of deadly force in defense of others to “prevent a violent or forcible felony involving danger to life or great bodily harm.”

 It seems to me that Stephens acted properly if not heroically and should be given an award for his actions. Had George Temple not chosen to feloniously  attack a police officer he may just be alive today.

 For additional information visit these web sites: and

PA Troopers Fire at Vehicle, Nab Bank Robbery Suspect

December 17, 2008
Alleged bank robber nabbed after chase
Updated 12/17/2008 12:23:33 AM EST
State Trooper Tim Knapp secures John Paul Currin, 39, of Youngwood, who was allegedly involved in a robbery of the Parkvale Bank along Matthew Drive in South Union Township Tuesday. (Robert Esquivel/Herald-Standard)
State Trooper Tim Knapp secures John Paul Currin, 39, of Youngwood, who was allegedly involved in a robbery of the Parkvale Bank along Matthew Drive in South Union Township Tuesday. (Robert Esquivel/Herald-Standard)
State police took a Youngwood man into custody Tuesday morning after he allegedly robbed Parkvale Bank on Matthew Drive in South Union Township and then led officers on a dangerous chase into North Union Township.
Trooper John F. Marshall said John Paul Currin, 39, of 712 S. Tenth St., Youngwood, was charged by Magisterial District Judge Joseph M. George Jr. with aggravated assault, robbery, criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, fleeing and eluding police, theft and receiving stolen property.

Police allege Currin robbed the bank while Ashley Lynn Johnston, 22, also of 712 S. Tenth St., Youngwood, and an infant child waited in the car.

Currin, who suffered a gunshot wound to the hand after troopers fired at his vehicle when he was accelerating the pickup truck toward them during the pursuit, was taken by Uniontown Firemen’s Ambulance to Uniontown Hospital for treatment.


His condition was not available as of press time.

He will be formally arraigned on the charges following continued investigation.

Dozens of troopers and other law enforcement personnel converged on a gravel road off of Richmond Street in North Union Township where a state police cruiser rested against the pickup truck Currin was operating after troopers apparently used the car to stop Currin’s escape.

Johnston and the infant were not in the truck Currin used to lead police on a chase and were not injured as a result of the robbery, officials said.

As troopers continued to swarm the area just after the incident occurred, other officers held Currin on the hood of a police cruiser while emergency personnel checked him and then moved him into a nearby ambulance.

According to Marshall, the incident began around 11:25 a.m. when Currin entered the bank, pretended to have a weapon and demanded money.

After receiving more than $800 cash from a teller, Currin fled the bank in a silver Chevrolet Malibu operated by Johnston, Marshall said.

Officials said the child was in a safety seat in the backseat of the car.

Marshall said Johnston was charged with robbery, criminal conspiracy to commit robbery, theft and receiving stolen property.

She also will be formally arraigned following additional investigation.

Currin and Johnston then drove to a nearby location where Currin got into a Chevrolet pickup truck and fled the scene.

Troopers spotted Johnston in the Uniontown Mall parking lot and took her into custody without incident.

Other troopers who were responding to the robbery then spotted Currin traveling north on Route 119.

A brief pursuit ensued and Currin exited the roadway onto Pittsburgh Street and headed toward Uniontown and ending just off of Richmond Street where troopers chasing Currin executed a maneuver to spin the truck around and then attempted to take Currin into custody.

At that point, Marshall said Currin accelerated the pickup truck toward the arresting officers who in turn fired their weapons to stop the oncoming truck.

It was not clear if the troopers were injured in the pursuit.

State police Records and Identification Unit were investigating a burglary at the Home Depot in South Union Township when the bank robbery and pursuit occurred and were able to rapidly respond to the incident.

Ed Kopich, who lives at the corner of Pittsburgh Street and Richmond Street, said he was sitting at his kitchen table writing out a check when he heard sirens approach his home and then spotted the truck and a state police cruiser barreling around the turn and down Richmond.

“The cruiser was trying to run him off the road,” Kopich said.

Kopich said he ran out of his home and was starting down Richmond when he heard gunshots and then saw the cruiser and the truck against a fence along a gravel road near E.W. Bowman Inc.

In addition to state police, Uniontown police and the Fayette County Sheriff’s Department responded to the scene.

California, PA Officers Honored

December 17, 2008
Police officers receive commendation from Pa. Senate
Updated 12/17/2008 12:33:04 AM EST
State Sen. Richard Kasunic, center, presented commendations to California Borough police officers Rob Dorcon (left) and Mark Costello for events in September. (Christine Haines)
State Sen. Richard Kasunic, center, presented commendations to California Borough police officers Rob Dorcon (left) and Mark Costello for events in September. (Christine Haines)
CALIFORNIA – Two California Borough police officers received commendations from the Pennsylvania Senate in recognition of actions that may have saved the lives of two people in September.
Receiving the honors from state Sen. Richard Kasunic, D-Dunbar, were officers Mark Costello and Rob Dorcon. Both men work part-time for the borough and have full-time jobs at state correctional institutions in the area.

“Mark saved a young man from choking,” Kasunic said. “Rob went into a burning building and saved a life.”

Kasunic said both men exemplify what citizens should be.

Mayor Casey Durdines said Costello was responding to a routine call about a loud party when he noticed a man unresponsive on a couch as he was clearing the house.


“He cleared his airway and provided medical assistance until paramedics arrived,” Durdines said.

Just a few weeks later, Dorcon helped a handicapped women get out of her burning home, then went back in to get her power wheelchair.

“It takes a lot of guts,” Kasunic said. “There’s a lot of flame; it’s a burning building. You have to think, would you put your life on the line?”

California Police Chief Rick Encapera said he’s not surprised that his officers put others first.

“Every day I get compliments from the townspeople about all the things my guys do,” Encapera said. “Not to make light of what they did, any one of my men would do that. When you do this job, it’s because you like it. It’s not for the money or the fringes.”

Kasunic offered his on-going support to the community.

“It goes without saying, any time I’m able to assist the borough here or the police department, I will,” Kasunic said. 

Updated 12/17/2008 12:33:04 AM EST

Fed’s Are Not Police Officers

December 11, 2008

 There has been some confusion pertaining to the arrest authority of Federal law enforcement officers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

 Federal officers, or agents as they are sometimes referred to, are not general police officers and do not possess the authority to to affect warrantless arrests for traffic offenses or for misdemeanor crimes.

 In the case of Commonwealth v. Price, 543 Pa. 403, 672, A. 2d 280 (1996) the court held, citing Section 3052 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code (18 U.S.C. 3052), that Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are not authorized under either State or Federal law nor under common law to make warrantless arrests for traffic offenses or for misdemeanor crimes. Federal Agents are “authorized to make warrantless arrests only where they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person  has committed or is committing any felony cognizable under the laws of the United States (federal law).

Pennsylvania Constables Have Significant Arrest Authority

December 11, 2008

By Brian K. Lutes of Uniontown, PA, December 11, 2008

This article delves into the authority of Pennsylvania Constables to affect warrantless arrests for crimes committed in their presence. In future articles we will explore the Constables activities in the areas of Process service, Court Security, Training, Vehicle Code Enforcement, and the display of emergency lighting on Constables vehicles as well as other topics.

Contrary to the beliefs of most citizens, law enforcement officers, and even many Constables themselves, Pennsylvania Constables have full authority to make warrantless arrests for crimes in the Commonwealth.

I stress “warrantless arrests” due to the common belief that the only function of Constables, due mostly to ignorance of the laws and court decisions pertaining to Constables, is serving arrest warrants and other documents issued by the courts.

Most often this belief is expressed by, how should I say, the miscreants of our society? Well, however you say it, the bad guys. Usually they express this belief when they are out & about engaging in their less than honorable pursuits and observe someone in a uniform with a badge. The miscreants will stop what they are doing and look closely at the uniform in an effort to determine if the officer may be able to arrest them. Almost without fail when they determine the officer is a Constable, they say to each other “It’s just a Constable” and they go back to their misdeeds without concern.

This perception of Constables must be corrected as sooner or later a Constable who is on his game is going come across a bad guy who honestly believes a Constable cannot arrest him without a warrant and will resist the Constable when told he is under arrest creating a very dangerous situation for the Constable & the suspect.

In addition, Constables can be a very positive factor in law enforcement’s ever increasingly difficult job of getting the bad guys off the street; if they know and understand the authority they can exercise.

The PA Supreme Court has noted in the case of In Re Act 147 of 1990, 528 PA 460,463 (1991) “Constables are Peace Officers charged with the conservation of the peace, and whose job it is to arrest those who have violated it; It is the Constables job to enforce the law and carry it out, just as the same is the job of District Attorneys, Sheriffs, and the police generally”.

The arrest authority of PA Constables is defined generally in PA law in Title 13 of  the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated, commonly referred to as Purdon’s Statutes (P.S.), 45 et seq. which states: “Constables of the Commonwealth, in addition to the powers already conferred upon them, shall and may, without warrant and upon view, arrest and commit for hearing any and all persons guilty of  a breach of the peace, vagrancy, riotous and disorderly conduct or drunkenness,or who may be engaged in the commission of an unlawful act tending to imperil the personal security or endanger the property of the citizens, or violating municipal ordinances, for the violation of which a fine or penalty is imposed. Any person arrested with or without a warrant, shall be entitled to trial.”

   In The case of Commonwealth v. Frombach, 420 Pa Super. 498 (1992) the PA Superior Court determined that the PA Legislature by 13 P.S. 45 et seq. (above), “Conferred on Constables the power to without warrant and upon view, arrest and commit for hearing any and all persons guilty of a breach of the peace.

A breach of the peace has been defined generally as any of “a great variety of conduct destroying or menacing public order and tranquility. It includes not only violent acts but acts and words likely to produce violence in others” (see 310 U.S. 296, 308) In its broadest sense the term refers to any criminal offense, or at least any indictable offense (see 207 U.S. 425). Breaches of the peace have been defined by state courts as “disturbances of the public peace violative of order and decency or decorum (see 147 N.W. 2d 886,892). And as “any violation of any law enacted to preserve peace and good order” and “signifies disorderly, dangerous conduct disruptive of public peace (see 261 A. 2d 731, 739).

In the case of Commonwealth v. Taylor, 450 Pa. Super. 583, 677 A. 2d 846 (1996)the Superior Court, citing the Constables authority to affect warrantless arrests for breaches of the peace, determined that Constables have the authority make arrests for possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. (see also Commonwealth v. Corley, 507 Pa. 540,491 A.2d 829 (1985)) where the court held that a private citizen can affect an arrest when a felony has been committed and the citizen reasonably believes that the person he arrests has committed the felony.

In further exploration of the authority of PA Constables it must be noted that in the case of Commonwealth v. McGavin, 305 Pa. Super. 528, 534, 451 A. 2d 773 (1982)the Superior Court held that the statute authorizing  Constables to make warrantless arrests, 13 P.S. 45 et seq. (above),requires that the offense for which the warrantless arrest is made be an offense that (1) is committed within view of the Constable, and (2) constitutes a breach of the peace (described above).

In a real world scenario this seems to indicate that should a Constable observe 2 men fighting in the street, the Constable has authority to make arrests for disorderly conduct, etc., but should a Constable observe a man sitting on a sidewalk bleeding from his nose and upon investigation learns that the man was assaulted by an identified individual, the Constable should secure the scene & protect the victim from further harm and then would need to contact the law enforcement agency for the jurisdiction so that they could make the arrest on information received from the victim since the Constable did not witness the breach of the peace.

Also, in the bloody nosed victim example above, if the victim or a witness  were to point out the person(s) with whom the victim was fighting, it seems  the Constable would be authorized to detain,  not arrest, the individual(s) for investigative purposes. If the Constable decides to detain, not arrest, the accused individual(s), he would be justified in performing a pat down frisk of the individual(s) in an effort to be certain the individual(s) does  not possess dangerous weapons and he may even place the individual(s) in handcuffs while waiting for the arrival of the jurisdictions law enforcement agency (see Commonwealth v. Leet, 537 Pa. 89, 641 A. 2d 299 (1994); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 26, 88 S. Ct. 1868 (1968); Ornelas v. United States, 517 U.S. 690, 116 S. Ct. 1657 (1996); United States v. Cortez, 449 U.S. 411, 101 S. Ct. 690 (1981).

In short, based on the court’s language in the McGavin case above, it seems that a Constable has authority to make arrests for crimes in progress that he sees taking place.

However, recall that in the Corley case the court held that “even a private citizen can effect an arrest when a felony has been committed and the citizen reasonably believes that the person he arrests has committed the felony”. Note that the court did not say that the citizen must actually observe the felony being committed. Rather, the court said the citizen can affect an arrest for a felony when the citizen reasonably believes that the person he arrests has committed the felony.

 In summation, Pennsylvania Constables are authorized to affect warrantless arrests for breaches of the peace committed in their presence and may detain for investigative purposes individuals they reasonably believe to be engaged in criminal activity.

In addition, Constables, the same as private citizens, may affect an arrest for a felony if he reasonably believes that a felony has been committed and that the person he has arrested committed the felony.