Springdale Borough, PA Police Political Battle Rages

From The Tribune-Review by Brian C. Rittmeyer, March 15, 2014

Joe Naviglia had a hard time finding the right words on Friday to describe what it felt like to be working again as a police officer in Springdale.

“Odd” and “weird” weren’t quite the right way for the former police chief to describe being back in uniform and on the street about nine months after retiring. He still had a uniform, but he had to get a badge from the borough.

“My understanding is they were in a jam for an officer, so the new mayor called me and asked me if I would work,” Naviglia said. “I said yes, I would give them a hand and make sure the town was protected.”

Naviglia worked a 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift on Friday because no Springdale officers were available, after a night that had no borough police officers on duty.

Instead, the borough relied on help from neighbors Cheswick and Springdale Township.

While Councilmen John Molnar and Gene Polsinelli faulted Mayor Ken Lloyd and police Chief Julio Medeiros for the staffing problem, Lloyd blamed council.

“They put us in this situation,” Mayor Lloyd said. “It’s politically motivated because Molnar’s not the mayor, and (Polsinelli’s) not the chief. That’s what it is. You can put any perfume you want on it, but it stinks.”

Lloyd has argued for hiring more full-time officers. Council removed funding for hiring a full-time officer in budget cuts earlier this year.

“I’m going to fix this, and the people are behind us,” Lloyd said. “That’s why I was elected mayor and Molnar wasn’t. People are sick of the old ways of doing things.”

Molnar was on path to be elected mayor in November before Lloyd staged a successful write-in campaign. Molnar said he thought it was “a shame” that no one was patrolling the streets in Springdale on Thursday night into Friday morning.

“My point is simple: the town’s not protected,” Molnar said Thursday night. “There’s no one to work. There’s no contingency plan.”

Polsinelli, a former borough police officer, said he applied for police chief but is over not getting the job.

“Our new chief and new mayor didn’t have anybody working last night,” Polsinelli said on Friday. “They couldn’t fill the shift. For as long as I can remember, the police department has never been closed until last night.”

Medeiros on Wednesday was absolved of charges of conduct unbecoming an officer and intemperance, stemming from an incident in January when borough office staff said they heard offensive language coming from his office across the borough building.

Medeiros left on Thursday to testify in a court case in South Dakota, where he worked before coming to Springdale, Councilman Jason Friday said. He is expected back early next week.

Lloyd said the full-time officer who was supposed to work from 10 p.m. Thursday to 6 a.m. Friday and 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday called off sick. No other officers, full-time or part-time, were available.

For the midnight shift, Lloyd said, the only option was to rely on help from Cheswick and Springdale Township. Another full-time borough officer, who had just worked for 12 hours, was on call.

Lloyd said he was not aware of any problems overnight.

Cheswick Chief Bob Scott said his officers were not called into the borough Thursday night or early Friday.

Springdale Township police Chief Mike Naviglia said he was on patrol and had one call in Springdale during the shift.

“It was for a suspicious male at Lampus at 5 a.m.,” he said. “Nothing was found. I made routine patrols through the area after that.”

To cover the daylight shift on Friday, the borough turned to Naviglia of Lower Burrell, who was chief for 17 years. He works part-time for East Deer, and is qualified to work in Springdale, officials said.

He is not expected back for any other shifts. Officials said there are no uncovered shifts in the borough’s police schedule going forward.

Naviglia said his work on Friday included responding to a call about a suspicious smell at Springdale Manor.

“They were happy to see me coming into the high-rise,” he said. “I told them I was helping the borough out for the day.”

Naviglia said he is willing to work in Springdale again if needed, but his obligations in East Deer take priority.

Fry said the borough is reviewing applications for part-time police officers. Council could hire two to four part-timers when it meets on Tuesday.

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