Author: Michel Lee

Chester to start new cops soon

In a city struggling to reinvent itself in the face of a decades-long reputation for crime and violence, Chester now has a number of new police officers starting their field training, the Spirit has learned. These officers, according to Chester Police Commissioner Otis Blair, will be paired with senior officers on street patrols in the coming weeks and they are a mixture of veterans with experience from other police forces from urban municipalities that mirror Chester to rookies right out of the Delaware County Community College Municipal Police Academy. “They are already familiar with law enforcement,” Blair said, “so we just have to familiarize them with our procedures.” But he added that the re-acclimation process can be a hang up. Novice officers, unlike their experienced counterparts, are viewed as tabula rasa or Latin for “blank slate,” and void of any recollection of any former departments’ policies and procedure which allows them to easily adapt. The new officers apparently follow the “hiring” of eight officers sworn-in earlier this year and five others announced subsequent to that by Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland in response to community outrage over a spate of shootings and killings. Crime reports show that so far this year, there have been roughly 52 shootings, an estimated 10 homicides, and city records reveal that there are currently 26 vacancies in the Chester Police Department for various positions, despite the...

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Lies or Misprints? Are Chester-area candidates lying about their credentials?

For many years, old-time politicians were quick to tell people that “qualifications don’t matter in politics.” Perhaps they felt that way because most of them lacked formal educational credentials. Frank Rizzo rose to become police commissioner and then mayor of Philadelphia, America’s then-fourth largest city, with just an eighth grade Catholic school education. But times have changed and, through the years, political service has evolved to where credentials “do matter,” according to a majority of voters as determined by national polls. But maybe some folks in Delaware County didn’t get that memo. Those who brand themselves as being “for the people” must prove they have what it takes to serve, which results in many candidates engaging in a chest-beating match to prove their credentials are far superior to their political opponents’. In the quest to knock out their competition, did Chester Township Democratic candidates for auditor, Stanley L. Dike, and Roberta Hartman, for tax collector, falsify their credentials? Is the information that appears on their campaign literature outright lies? Did they fabricate their resumes? According to campaign brochures bearing the Chester City Democratic Committee endorsement seal, Dike is the chief executive officer and president of a small, Southwest Philadelphia-based accounting firm. While Hartman reportedly worked for the IRS some time ago. But one credential that has raised some eyebrows is that both Dike and Hartman reportedly hold bachelors of...

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Youth a no-show at trust-building meeting with police

As a preventive measure to quell urban violence and following a wave of reports on police-involved shootings, some being questionable, throughout the nation, state Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-8) hosted what was supposed to be an open discussion last Saturday morning at Delaware County Technical Schools (DCTS) in Folcroft between local youth and law enforcement to explore ways of bridging a burgeoning gap. But less than two dozen people showed up. The conference was scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. but was declared over by about 11:30 a.m. Nevertheless the conversation continued. “We started a year ago after reports of people of color being shot nationally, knowing full well that the consequences of those events could happen here,” Williams told The Spirit. “And we’re prepared to prevent that from happening.” Delaware County resident Christen Davis said, “It goes back to the parents, so if the parents don’t trust the police, they’re going to teach their children to not trust the police, so it all goes back to mom and dad…so when you talk about having these meetings for the youth, whose parents don’t trust the police, of course they’re not going to come…” The panel of local enforcement officials, mostly from the Eighth Senatorial District, included  Darby Township Police Chief Regina Price, Darby Borough Police Chief Robert Smythe, and Yeadon’s interim-Police Chief Sgt. Tom Reynolds. Darby...

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Political leaders filmed fussin’, cussin’ and threatnin’ on school grounds

Although many municipalities reported low voter turnout for last Tuesday’s primaries, tensions were high on election day in Chester Township. A reporter observed raw, unedited video from the body camera of Joseph Colagreco, a worker at the Toby Farms Elementary School polls that double as the third and fourth voting precincts. The footage captures Township Council President Calvin Bernard, Council candidate Robert Knox and Chester Upland School Board President Anthony Johnson hurling profanities and exhibiting seemingly threatening gestures to Colagreco and a woman identified as Sandra “Misty” Purnsley on school grounds. Stemming from an argument prompted by Knox accusing Colagreco of planting trash bags and loose litter on a councilwoman’s property, the Democratic Council candidate asked Colagreco, who is white, if the reason he was wearing a body camera is because “the township is predominantly Black.” “What does race have to do with it?” Colagreco asked, to which Knox responded, “I’m Indian! What you’re not going to do is be disrespectful, I’m not Calvin…I don’t argue with people.” The exchange turned into a round of “get out of my face!” from both parties. Sources who wish to remain unidentified said the arguments could be heard from inside the polling place. At roughly 3:45 p.m., during school dismissal, Purnsley was heard yelling, “Leave me the f**k alone!” to Bernard, who was shouting back, but his responses were inaudible over Purnsley’s...

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DCIU leads effort to find new CUSD leader; few residents offer input

The hiring process for a school district’s top educator is usually the task of the elected school board members, but with the Chester-Upland School District (CUSD) currently under state receivership, the Delaware County Intermediate Unit (DCIU) is leading the national search for a permanent superintendent to succeed Dr. Juan Baughn, who is set to be relieved from his interim position in July. To keep the CUSD community voices amplified, despite state control, DCIU solicited resident input through focus groups that took place in municipalities within the district, last week. In an open forum, where respondents remained anonymous, residents at length expressed attributes and characteristics of a model superintendent. “You need to be a part of (the community), not up here and looking down here, looking at the Chester community as a poor, minority…drug infested, horrible and worst-in-the-country district. We’re not,” one respondent said at Monday night’s first focus group at Chester High School. Other residents also expressed the need for prospective candidates to have experience in navigating an urban school district, especially the only city district in the county. In the last decade, CUSD has experienced a high turnover rate in superintendents, each racked in a base salary of roughly $250,000 a year. The attractive salary and the district’s prevailing reputation led some residents to suspect that most of the educators only sought employment “to pad their resume.” The...

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