The Springfield Township Board of Commissioners and Police Chief Robert Pitkow came together at a March business meeting to officially commend almost half of the force.
The Springfield Township Board of Commissioners and Police Chief Robert Pitkow came together at a March business meeting to officially commend almost half of the township’s 27 police officers for excellent policing.
The ceremony, held in front of board commissioners and police family members, sparked some controversy because the Springfield Township Police Benevolent Association and the Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police have filed a lawsuit challenging the township’s recent decision to restrict the display of the “thin blue line” flag by township employees on township property.
Commissioner Eddie Graham opposed holding the ceremony while litigation was ongoing and resigned his position in protest.
Board President Jim Lee said that while he and others have disagreed with police on the thin blue line flag issue, “there was a strong consensus among the board to recognize those deserving officers.”
“The right thing to do is honor those individuals and thank them for their exemplary service in the moment when duty called,” Lee said.
“Policing has been very challenging over the past three years” due to COVID restrictions and a disturbing uptick in crime, Pitkow said, especially firearms crimes in Montgomery County and in the township. He added that his officers “have a definitely difficult job lately,” and “are continuing to honor their oaths of office and to serve our township.”
The officers honored for excellence in performing their duties were Cpl. Christopher Calhoun, Sgts. Sean Badolato, Shawn Hart, and Christian Wilbur, Detective Stephen Craig, and officers Matthew Tauscher, Andrew Seltzer, R. Calvin Wiley, Edward Gross, Michael Porrini, Daniel Lopez, and Thomas Sweeney. Officer Wiley was also given the Highway Safety Award.
From February to October 2022, the commended officers were involved in six police actions, five of which were with suspects who were armed or had firearms in their possession. All of the arrests made in these incidents resulted in felony charges and no injuries.
Three township police units received Unit Commendations for their extraordinary teamwork in handling three challenging cases.
Badolato, Craig, Seltzer and Tauscher received commendations for assisting Cheltenham Township Police in processing the scene of a driveway shooting on Cheltenham Avenue, and in pursuing and arresting three of the four males on foot. The backpack worn by one detained suspect contained a firearm that was later determined to be stolen. Four more guns were found in a search for discarded firearms.
Hart, Tauscher and Wiley pursued a suspect wanted for engaging in petty thefts in local grocery stores in the late-night hours of July 2, 2022. They tracked the car until the suspect left it in the Acme parking lot and fled on foot to the Flourtown Swim Club, where he was apprehended.
Calhoun, Wilbur, Sweeney, Lopez, Porrini, and Gross were commended for their teamwork in pursuing and arresting the occupants of a Jeep that had been reported stolen earlier in the evening of October 2, 2022.
Porrini and Gross chased the speeding Jeep from Paper Mill Road and Montgomery Avenue, up Cheltenham Avenue and into Wyndmoor. Calhoun, who was stationed in an unmarked car in Wyndmoor, found the abandoned Jeep on Ardmore Avenue. Wilbur, stationed nearby, watched two males leave the rear yard of a home on Mermaid Lane and get into a car close to the State Department Center for Agricultural Research (the car was later determined to be an Uber pickup).
Wilbur and his officers moved in on the Uber car, arresting the two men. Both suspects, who were juveniles, were carrying firearms with extended magazines. One gun was stolen from Richmond, Va., the other had an obliterated serial number.
Wiley was cited for his excellent police work on two occasions. He acted quickly in calling for back up when a routine car stop for a DUI at the Flourtown Shopping Center turned dangerous as one of the three occupants pulled a black object (later determined to be a gun) from his waistband and slid it under his left leg.
Springfield, Whitemarsh, and Cheltenham Township police responded to Wiley’s call. They found narcotics in the car, and all three men were arrested. One was charged with carrying a firearm without a license and the others were charged with narcotics offenses.
Wiley was also commended for what started out as a routine speeding case on Stenton Avenue. After pulling a car over, he found it had an expired temporary Texas registration, and that the driver was driving under the influence of marijuana. He then got a search warrant and found a loaded .25 caliber gun under the driver’s seat. A background check revealed that the driver was a convicted felon.
Craig was singled out for his extraordinary work investigating the burglary of 93 firearms from the Founding Fathers Outfitters in Lafayette Hill. While working in collaboration with the Philadelphia Police, detectives from Montgomery and Bucks Counties, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the FBI, the state Attorney General’s office, and the Delaware State Police, Craig analyzed cell phone and social media to identify the suspects.
According to both Lee and Township Manager Michael Taylor, the township had not conducted a public award ceremony for exceptional police work in several years due to COVID restrictions.
Township residents can obtain audio recordings of past Board Workshop meetings by contacting Township Manager, Michael Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org. Board Business Meeting agendas, minutes, and recordings are available on the Springfield Township website, Springfieldmontco.org