The Westtown Board of Supervisors on Monday announced it planned to disband the town's police department because of a long-running dispute over the labor contract with the union representing officers.
The township shares a police department with East Goshen Township, and officials from both Chester County townships announced in a joint statement on Monday that they will take steps to dissolve the department.
The townships and the union have clashed over their officers' contract, which expires at the end of next year. Both sides say they have made concessions during negotiations but were unable to come to an agreement by a final deadline on Sept. 29.
Union representatives say they took issue with language regarding layoffs that, they say, would allow the Westtown board to lay off officers even though they promised they wouldn't do so for the next six years. Township supervisors say they simply want to give future officials the option of laying off officers after six years.
About 150 people packed Westtown's tiny council chambers on Monday night. Several said they worried that the board's decision would affect safety in the community.
"Shame on every one of you," said Anthony Ruggieri, the head of the local Fraternal Order of Police. "You're not transparent - if you were you would have sent out a survey to residents."
Board members stressed that they never wanted to disband the department, but that the current union contract was "unsustainable." The board will eventually vote on the matter, they said; Monday's announcement was simply a preliminary notice of the board's plans.
Union members say they plan to challenge dissolution in court.
Contact Aubrey Whelan at [email protected].
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