Springfield Township applauds police while grappling with Thin Blue Line symbol

by Betsy Wallace
Posted 11/17/21

New Police hires and promotions; Preliminary presentation - 1110 Willow Grove Avenue development; Proposed Haws Lane Development; 2022 Budget Presentation; Mermaid park tree planting; and Holiday lights competition.

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Springfield Township applauds police while grappling with Thin Blue Line symbol


New Police hires and promotions

The Commissioners  and Springfield Township Chief of Police started the board’s November Business meeting with the long-awaited public recognition of new hires and promotions of existing officers that were delayed by COVID. Those honored were 2020-2021 new hires, Yelidsa Torres, the department’s first bilingual officer; Michael Fanty, the son of former Deputy Police chief, Donald Fanty; Andrew Seltzer and Jennifer Litwinowicz , and current officers who were promoted in 2020, Lieutenant Mersky, Sergeant Nelson Whitney III and Corporal Christopher Calhoun.

Police Chief Michael Pitkow highlighted each officer’s accomplishments and noted that all of the department’s officers have completed de-escalation and communication and anti-bias training and many have also completed basic and advanced crisis intervention training.

Springfield Township Police Benevolent Association and its thin blue line logo.

The source of the Board of Commissioners concerns about The Springfield Township Police Benevolent Association (“PBA”) at its November Workshop meeting stemmed from the negative connotations for the community of the BPA’s Thin Blue Line/Blue Lives Matter flag logo that it adopted in 2020.

At the board’s November workshop meeting, Commissioner Graham demanded that the Board address the issue, stating that the flag has become associated increasingly with white supremacy, a sensitive issue for all township residents and especially for residents of color, who make up about 10% of the Township’s population. He noted that the results of the recent police and community relations survey showed that close to 7% of township residents who completed the survey feared retaliation. Graham asserted that the board would not hesitate to take a stand against the use of a symbol as controversial as the Thin Blue Line flag if it hurt any other disenfranchised group.

Township Manager Mike Taylor reported that the PBA is aware of the issue. In a subsequent telephone interview, Taylor said that the commissioners are currently in the process of finalizing a meeting date with PBA members to discuss the matter before the board’s December meetings.

According to its website, the Springfield Township Police Benevolent Association (“PBA”) is a nonprofit charitable organization created in 2020 to replace its predecessor, the Springfield Township Police Association.  The PBA states that its purpose is “to enhance the mutual interests of both the members of the Springfield Township PBA and the citizens we are sworn to protect and serve. PBA members are the Patrol Officers, Detectives, Corporals and Sergeants of the Springfield Township Police Department.” The PBA sponsors community events, community groups and fundraisers including, in 2021, a shredding event, a car show, a golf outing and supporting the township’s little league organization.

  But other groups have transformed the flag’s symbolism to one that counters law enforcement’s core principles and has become increasingly divisive. While law enforcement views the flag as a sign of solidarity, the symbol conveys a different message to the public, namely an ‘us versus them’ mentality where the community is viewed as a potential enemy or a threat.

Preliminary presentation - 1110 Willow Grove Avenue development.

Jay Overcash, developer of the mixed-use condo/retail building on the 900 block of Willow Grove Avenue, presented a preliminary development proposal for 14 townhomes on the 1.2-acre property located at 1110 Willow Grove Ave., which originally housed a private school. He intends to ask for three variances (use, density, and front yard setback) via a zoning board hearing but wanted to know how he should meet with the neighbors. Commissioner Jeff Harbison suggested that Overcash hold a neighbor meeting at the firehouse, after which the Planning Commission would schedule an informal presentation.

Proposed Haws Lane Development

Board President Baird Standish reported at the Workshop meeting that the Township received a map from Mr. Halligan on November 4, with one building superimposed on the Haws Lane property entitled, “Behavioral Health facility.” Halligan asked for time to make an informal presentation at the Planning Commission’s meeting on December 16. Taylor noted that notifications for the meeting were sent out to Haws Lane neighbors on November 5.

2022 Budget Presentation

Commissioner Harbison gave a summary of the 2022 proposed budget for $18 million. There will be no increase in property taxes and a slight decrease in the refuse service fee. The budget hearing and adoption are both scheduled for Wednesday Dec. 8, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in-person at the Springfield Township Administration Building, 1510 Paper Mill Road, Wyndmoor. Masks are required.

Other business

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has approved a 15 mph School Zone light at Papermill Road and Montgomery Avenue.

Mermaid park tree planting: Springfield Township partnered with the Environmental Advisory Commission and Delaware River Keepers for a native planting event at Mermaid Park in Wyndmoor, on Saturday Octob 30th. Thirty volunteers from the community joined the planting efforts.  The planting was part of the Mermaid Park Stream and Habitat Restoration Project, funded in part by the Township and TreeVitalize grant.

Holiday lights competition: Springfield Township is hosting its second annual holiday lights competition. This year, residents can submit pictures of their outdoor holiday lights for a chance at winning special prizes from one of many local businesses. Three winners will be chosen at the end of each week between November 29th and December 30th. To enter the competition, simply submit pictures, your name and address to jcorley@springfieldmontco.org.  See the township website for more details.

Township residents can obtain audio recordings of past Board Workshop meetings by contacting Township Manager, Michael Taylor at mtaylor@springfieldmontco.org. You can access all Board Business Meeting Agendas, Minutes, and recordings on the Springfield Township website, Springfieldmontco.org