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Sitoski, Rohrbach present report

Interim Police Chief Michael Sitoski of Upper Macungie reported during the Aug. 6 supervisors’ meeting, the township police department recently completed reassessment by the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission.

He explained the department was first accredited under the former chief, Edgardo Colon.

Sitoski said assessors reviewed the department’s files, records and reports.

“To make sure we comply with the standards they set forth,” he told the board.

Sitoski said there are 136 standards representing the best practices in policing that the department must meet to be accredited by providing two “proofs of compliance” for each standard per year.

Additionally, Sitoski spoke about recent calls for reform regarding police conduct and use of force.

He explained one benefit of accreditation.

“When we looked at some of those issues they’re calling for, we found we already do this,” Sitoski said. “We met those standards because we have to, to remain accredited,”

He also discussed reform measures such as prohibiting choke holds, banning shooting at moving vehicles, issuing warnings before shooting and performing comprehensive reporting.

“We’re already accomplishing that,” Sitoski said.

In addition, he spoke about having social workers integrated in police responses.

Sitoski said Upper Macungie police already operate a similar system with its HUB program brought to the department two years ago by Lt. Peter Nickischer and Officer William Rohrbach.

Rohrbach then addressed the board.

He compared the HUB to the saying “If something bad is predictable, it’s also preventable.”

Rohrbach explained how HUB brings together community resources, including substance abuse counselors, crisis intervention programs and mental health experts to help community members before a situation becomes a police issue.

He said HUB is based on a Canadian model created as a cost-effective, evidence-based program to help people suffering from issues such as drug misuse or mental illness.

The plan looks at risk factors - multiple police calls (the most common factor), mental health or illness, alcohol/drug use, domestic abuse, parenting issues or suicide for an individual or family - which are used to determine the best services for the situation.

An initiating agency presents a case to the monthly HUB group without identifying the subject.

The group decides whether to directly refer the case to a specific service or agency or, if enough potential risk is present, to identify the person and formulate an intervention strategy which usually rolls out within 72 hours, but can also be implemented immediately.

Rohrbach said HUB is mainly police driven.

“We do about 97 percent of the HUB referrals, and that’s because we’re the ones answering the calls,” he explained.

Since the program started in April 2018, the HUB has had 90 people presented and named for intervention, with an additional five directly referred to other groups.

The program has helped people ranging in age from 7 to 86, with the largest group of service recipients in the 10-19 age range.

Rohrbach added that in April 2020, 75 cases were closed after going through the HUB process and receiving service help.

Before implementing the HUB, these 75 people accounted for 872 calls for police services, with an average 11 per person.

After HUB involvement, the group accounted for 98 calls for police service, with 54 percent requiring no calls for service after HUB treatment.

“You can see the hard work it takes to lessen the calls and get them the service they need, but it’s working,” Rohrbach said.

Rohrbach concluded by noting other Upper Macungie patrol officers speak positively of the HUB program and its services.

The next supervisors’ meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 3.

PRESS PHOTO BY SARIT LASCHINSKY Upper Macungie Police Officer William Rohrbach explains how the HUB program pulls together community resources to provide assistance to individuals in crisis before situations become a criminal justice or police issue.