SOUTH PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP – The state police criminal investigation into the South Pymatuning Police Department is complete, and no charges will be filed, the county’s district attorney says.
Mercer County DA Peter C. Acker said the police department has not been disbanded, but that there are currently no employees working there. The Pennsylvania State Police has assumed coverage of the area.
Acker and county Detective Mike Kokoski met with state police representatives to discuss the potential suspension of the police department.
“During that meeting I was apprised by PSP that the federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms had completed its investigation into the automatic weapons issue, that all such automatic weapons had been accounted for and secured and that ATF had closed its file on the matter,” Acker said. “I was also apprised by PSP that the organized crime unit had completed its investigation into the police radio issue, did not believe further action was warranted and had closed its file on that matter.”
Acker then met with South Pymatuning Township supervisors and their solicitor, Charlie Steele, about the developments.
Supervisors have previously disclosed that there has been an ongoing internal investigation led by two private investigators, Keri Bozich and Howard Wiley.
“I advised Solicitor Steele and the supervisors that if there is any information they desire to provide to me arising out of that internal investigation, I would be happy to review it to determine if our file should be reopened,” Acker said, adding that, for now, the station is under the control of the district attorney’s office.
The reason Acker said he is providing information on the now-closed investigation is out of fairness to the officers of the department and the department as a whole.
South Pymatuning Township supervisor Rose Lyons said the department was staffed with two full-time and six part-time police officers. Three officers have been off on medical leave. Two part-time officers and one full-time officer resigned and the other two officers have full-time jobs at other departments and were not working many hours in South Pymatuning.
“Nobody’s really without a job,” Lyons said. “State police have been very helpful. If we had a chief start tomorrow, they said he can start working and they will assist us in other coverage.”
Lyons said the township has no intention of having the police coverage contracted out to a neighboring department either.
“The board reviewed costs and decided we don’t want somebody else taking over,” Lyons said. “We are going to have our own police department up and running by June 1.”
In addition to the weapons violations and missing radios reported by the private investigators, Wiley said that he was “shocked” by the overall state of the department and its standard operating procedures.
But on Friday, Acker and Kokoski, determined to help the township clean up some of its problems, met at the South Pymatuning police department with representatives of PSP Mercer and Butler, township supervisors and the solicitor to examine and to secure the automatic weapons and evidence locker, Acker said.
“Appropriate warrants and case files were secured. A full and complete inventory of the station will be conducted by Detective Kokoski and members of PSP, hopefully this coming week,” the district attorney said. “In the interim, the station is locked down and under the control of Detective Kokoski. PSP Mercer has already assumed patrol responsibilities for South Pymatuning Township, just as it provides for a number of municipalities in Mercer County who do not have a full-time police force.”
With state police assistance, Acker gathered a stack of warrants and took them to Magisterial District Judge Brian R. Arthur’s court. They reviewed the warrants and Acker signed withdrawals and terminations of various traffic, non-traffic and criminal charges, most of which were very old and stale, he said.
“While at South Pymatuning Township, we had frank and constructive discussions between the supervisors, their solicitors, PSP, Detective Kokoski and myself regarding township plans to reopen the department by June 1, 2019, with discussions as to ways to facilitate that process,” Acker said, adding that the first step recommended by state police is that supervisors hire a police chief.
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