Macungie council approves mayor's request for GPS in police vehicles [The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)]
(Morning Call (Allentown, PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 08--Macungie Borough Council has decided to buy global positioning systems that will be placed in police department's vehicles.
Council, by a 4-1 vote Monday night, approved Mayor Rick Hoffman's recommendation to ink a one-year contract with Advanced Tracking Technologies for the GPS units and software.
The $1,408 cost for the one-year arrangement will be paid for by donations collected by Hoffman, who said he received $1,000 from Walmart.
The move to add GPS in the department's three vehicles comes nearly nine months after council, by a 4 to 3 vote, rejected a similar request by Hoffman.
Council members Linn Walker, Greg Hutchison, Chris Becker and Jean Nagle voted in favor of the measure Monday night. Councilwoman Debra Cope cast the lone dissenting vote. Councilmen David Boyko and Joseph Sikorski did not attend the meeting.
Police Chief Edward Harry Jr. has said similar GPS units already are in the cruisers, with all information directed to the Lehigh County Communications Center. The communications center can locate all police cars throughout the county that contain the units.
Hoffman has argued that GPS units and tracking software would allow him to trace police cars from his home computer or smart phone in "real time," allowing him to respond quickly to complaints.
Both the mayor and police chief would have access to the GPS data.
Hoffman said Advanced Tracking Technologies had an end of year sale that allowed him to afford the purchase.
He said the technology can be used as a managerial tool. He said that if an officer on duty can't be contacted, he could find the officer's vehicle immediately using the technology.
The mayor said that if he gets a complaint that an officer was speeding or out of the borough, he can use the GPS data to investigate the complaint.
Last year when the GPS proposal came up, an attorney representing the police officers union wrote to Borough Council, questioning what Hoffman would do with data collected from GPS units and suggesting that state labor relations law requires the use of GPS be negotiated.
The police department and Hoffman have had a contentious relationship since Hoffman took office in 2010. Hoffman, for much of his time in office, has been involved in a legal battle over his access to the police department and its records.
State Commonwealth Court last week released on opinion upholding a series of decisions by Lehigh County Judge Michele A. Varricchio, who ruled that Hoffman is Macungie's chief law enforcement officer and is entitled to access to the police station and its files.
State police and departments in cities like Allentown and Bethlehem, as well as some smaller suburban communities, have been using the technology for years as a safety measure for officers and a way to speed up response times to emergencies and crimes in progress.
It's also used to determine whether some neighborhoods are getting more police attention than others and to verify whether a police force responded to a call for assistance.
Hoffman said it will be up to his successor in the mayor's office to decide whether to continue using GPS in police cruisers. Hoffman, whose four-year term expires at the end of the year, said he will not be seeking re-election in the upcoming election.
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