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United Way of Lancaster County


City Council completes consolidation of Human Relations Commission, HRC Council; hears public safety update

(Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

City Council on Tuesday gave the go-ahead to merging the Human Relations Commission and the HRC Advisory Council, unanimously passing an ordinance creating a Human Relations Commission with the powers and duties of both organizations.

The Human Relations Commission enforces the city’s human relations ordinance, which broadly bans discrimination in any form. The advisory council had previously been tasked with education and advocacy; with the merger, the commission will now take on that role as well.

As discussed earlier this month, complaints are rarely if ever brought to the commission, leaving it with little or nothing to do. Both entities have struggled to keep their rosters filled.

The commission currently has three members; it will now add the advisory council’s four members, who will serve out their existing terms. Going forward, the commission will have from five to 13 members, a range specified by City Council via an amendment passed just before the ordinance itself.

Police & fire

In other business Tuesday, City Council heard updates on public safety from Lancaster’s police and fire chiefs.

The Bureau of Police is looking forward to securing accreditation from the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association this coming January, Chief Richard Mendez said.

(Source: Pa. Chiefs of Police Association)

Accreditation “sets the standard” for law enforcement, the chief said, ensuring departments are aligned with best practices. Earning it open eligibility for certain grants and can help moderate city insurance costs; should Pennsylvania ever allow municipal police to use radar, it will likely only be for accredited departments, Mendez said.

The city’s effort to achieve accreditation dates to 2020 under Chief John Bey, and is part of a broader array of reforms begun previously.

The state Chiefs of Police Association says that 375 of the more than 1,100 law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania — a group that includes sheriffs and college police as well as municipal departments — are enrolled in its accreditation program and 167 have earned accredited status. In Lancaster County, 14 agencies are listed as enrolled, of which 11 accredited.

Meanwhile, Mendez said the department’s revamping of its physical agility testing for potential recruits appears to be paying off. The department received more than 400 applications in its current hiring round. Of those, 197 out of 226 passed the agility test and 134 passed the written exam. The department is now conducting background checks on 18 finalists.

Police Chief Richard Mendez

“Those are huge numbers for us,” Mendez said.

Currently, the department is roughly three dozen officers shy of its 145 budgeted positions. It is hoping to make 10 to 15 hires, which is about the most it can absorb at one time, Mendez said. That should help it stay on pace or a little ahead of officer retirements, which remain at elevated levels as the large number of police hired in the late 1990s and early 2000s age out.

Statistics indicate there has not been an increase in gun crime in Lancaster, Mendez said. However, police are seeing more “ghost guns” and more instances of young people carrying guns, both of which Mendez said are causes for concern. The department is hoping the initiative it and Bench Mark Program are developing can help stem youth firearm possession, he said.

City Councilwoman Janet Diaz asked Mendez how many immigrants city police have detained. The department doesn’t track immigration status, so that number isn’t available, Mendez said.

Fire Chief Todd Hutchinson said four new firefighters will be graduating next Friday from the fire academy at Harrisburg Area Community College. Meanwhile, his department is looking forward in late June to the delivery of its Pierce Enforcer fire truck. It is a demo model on which the department is saving around $150,000, and will replace a fire truck that is more than two decades old.