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Chief's Corner

John R. Phoennik
Chief of Police
patchBlog is winner of 2019 international MarCom Award

Mar 31

Police department to start body-worn camera program

Posted on March 31, 2020 at 10:16 AM by Andrea Iglar

There is a trend nationally for law enforcement agencies to use body-worn cameras for a variety of good reasons. Police officers wear body cameras as a way to record the video and audio of events that occur when they are on the job. The goal is to capture evidence of the circumstances that occur rather than relying on potentially conflicting reports. Although the cameras don’t guarantee that every situation will be fully accounted for, they can provide valuable evidence about interactions between officers and citizens.

The South Fayette Township Police Department plans to start a body-worn camera program within the next year, thanks to a matching federal grant of $25,000 to purchase body cameras for each of our police officers. The grant, administered through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, is from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance Body-Worn Camera Policy and Implementation Program.

Body-worn camera technology can improve how both police officers and citizens behave. Research has shown that both officers and citizens alike behave better when they know there is some level of accountability for their actions. From a law enforcement standpoint, body camera footage can be used as a training tool to assist officers in correcting their mistakes and observing positive encounters. In the same way that athletes study video of themselves to improve their sports performance, police officers can view footage to help enhance the performance of their duties. The end result is a more transparent agency.

A recent study found that body-worn cameras had reduced the number of public complaints against officers by as much as 90 percent. It also has been reported that use-of-force incidents dropped by 60 percent due to the use of body cameras. With fewer issues to investigate, there is less taxpayer money spent on fighting civil lawsuits and internal investigations, which means there is more money to serve and protect the people. As of 2013, approximately one-third of municipal police departments had implemented body cameras.

Most people like the idea of having another layer of accountability for police officers. Most officers are open to and support the use of body cameras because they improve citizen and officer behavior. For me, as your police chief, body-worn cameras provide safety for both my officers and the citizens they encounter. It also enhances my efforts to create accountability and transparency, which in turn helps us provide the best possible service to South Fayette Township.

This effort will help us continue to develop positive relationships between the police department and the community of South Fayette, keeping both officers and citizens safer.

We will be communicating more information about the body-worn camera program in the coming months. If you have any initial questions or concerns, please feel free to email me call me at 412-221-2170.

Professionally,

John R. Phoennik
Chief of Police
South Fayette Township
Nov 05

Residents encouraged to call 911 for school bus safety issues

Posted on November 5, 2019 at 8:46 AM by Andrea Iglar

We as officers of the South Fayette Township Police Department work very hard on a daily basis to make sure our motorists are as safe as possible.

I have recently viewed social media comments that police aren’t doing enough to stop the issue of vehicles passing stopped school buses.

Our department wants to catch these violators as much as anyone. Police stopped more than 1,500 cars in 2018 alone and have cited drivers this year for passing school buses. However, we can’t be everywhere all the time, so we need your help.

If at any time somebody sees a traffic violation—especially a driver passing a school bus—please call 911 immediately to have an officer respond. Please attempt to provide as much information as possible about the vehicle description, and police officers will follow up from there.

Our department receives many complaints on traffic issues throughout our 21 square miles of township roads. It is imperative that residents call the police to address potentially unsafe situations.

Our police department will continue to do the best we can to monitor and enforce any traffic violations that we see. Again, the residents can assist us by being our eyes and ears when we are not in the area.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Professionally,

John R. Phoennik
Chief of Police
South Fayette Township
Sep 13

Mutual understanding key for police and citizens of diverse backgrounds

Posted on September 13, 2019 at 12:26 PM by Andrea Iglar

South Fayette Township is a microcosm of our ever-changing world. Citizens and law enforcement officers both must recognize that today we live in a more global world than a decade ago, especially with the Internet and social media at our fingertips for instant communication. People are interacting with one another more frequently than ever, which means it is of the upmost importance that we understand each other’s culture and way of life.

As your Chief of Police, I am looking into various ways that we as law enforcement officers can meet this challenge head-on by understanding the backgrounds of people who live and work in South Fayette Township. Communication is the key to understanding each other. Not only do we want to help increase police officers’ understanding of citizens, but we also want to assist people from different cultures with understanding local laws and customs.

In the near future, I would like to coordinate a forum for residents of various cultural backgrounds to come together in one setting to discuss any questions or concerns that people may have about our community and how our police department conducts its day-to-day operations. My hope is that this meeting will help our police department better understand our citizens and help ensure a safe community in which we all can live and prosper.

Professionally,
John R. Phoennik