Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS Harry C. McMann Jr., left, director of law enforcement training in Bucks County, talks about police training with, from left, Joe Fittos, chief of police in Summit Hill; Kenneth Barnes, chief of police in Mahoning Township; and Marie Johns, news anchor on Blue Ridge Communications TV-13. McMann and Johns spoke during the weekly meeting of the Adult Citizens Police Academy of Carbon County, a project of the Carbon County Police Chiefs Association. Barnes is the coordinator of the group.
When Mahoning Township Chief of Police Ken Barnes first became an officer around 1970, police weren't required to have any formal training - and many of them didn't.
Joseph Fittos, Summit Hill chief, who began his career at about the same time, remembers it well.
"Our training consisted of showing us the boundaries of the town and giving us the keys to the cars," said Fittos.
Both mentioned how that has changed drastically. Barnes said he had academy training even before it was required and both told the important role a good education plays in being a policeman.
They spoke on the history of municipal police departments during the second weekly gathering of the Adult Citizens Police Academy of Carbon County, a program staged by the Pa. Police Chiefs Association. The meeting of the 21 adult students, ranging in age from the 20s to senior citizens, was held in Jim Thorpe Memorial Hall.
The main speakers were Harry C. McCann Jr., director of law enforcement training in Bucks County, and Marie Johns, news anchor for Blue Ridge Communications TV-13.
McCann said it wasn't until 1976 that police officers in Pennsylvania were required to attend academy training. It wasn't until 1990 that police officers were required to get annual updated training.
Citing an FBI statistic, the speaker, who has 21 years experience in the criminal justice system, told the gathering that of 100 crimes committed only 12 are seen or reported to police. Of these 12, only nine make it to the magistrate level. Of those nine, five make it to court. Three of the five make it to corrections.
In summary, he noted, only three of 100 crimes committed make it to the corrections, which is generally, probation, parole, a fine, or imprisonment.
Most crimes, he said, are committed by repeat offenders.
The least repeat offenders on probation or parole are murderers, he said, because "most murders are a crime of passion."
"Every cop has to understand the criminal justice system and every step along the way," McCann noted, emphasizing the need for being educated in police work.
He told of the rigorous qualifications involved in completing the police academy, including physical requirements.
Johns mentioned how the police and news media often rely on each other for keeping the public informed. She said although most police departments are very cooperative with the media, there are some officers who look at the media unfavorably.
She said there are a few police departments which, when contacted, always decline to report anything.
Barnes praised the work of the local media, specifically Blue Ridge Communications TV-13 and the TIMES NEWS. He said he uses faxes to convey information to the media, and tries to make himself available for clarifications or additional information.
Johns said TV-13 tries hard to keep its stories fair by getting both sides of issues and asking difficult questions.
The Adult Citizens Police Academy Class meets weekly and discusses various police related topics.
Upcoming discussions will involve overview of the crimes code, police dispatching, and juvenile justice.
A graduation exercise of the class will be held on Nov. 16.