[June 08, 2006]

Shoemakersville votes to dissolve its police force: Council disbands the 82-year-old department after an arbitrator awards an ex-chief a financial settlement. The mayor resigns in protest.

(Reading Eagle (PA) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jun. 8--For the first time in 82 years, Shoemakersville does not have a police force. Borough council has voted unanimously to disband the department after an arbitrator ruled in favor of former Police Chief Ronald L. Yocum, who council fired more than a year ago. Yocum was granted full reinstatement, compensation for loss of benefits and full back pay with the exception of 60 days, according to the ruling obtained by the Reading Eagle. "The money it would have cost for the settlement would have drained the police budget for this town," Councilman Jonathan Yeager said Wednesday of council's decision. It is unclear if the borough will be off the hook for all or some of the settlement. Mayor Ronald B. Anthony, who was in charge of the police, resigned in protest after the vote at Tuesday night's council meeting. He could not be reached Wednesday for comment. The Shoemakersville Police Department was established in July 1924.

Before Tuesday's vote, the force consisted of six part-time police officers, and council had plans to hire five more. The department had operated without a full-time officer for more than a year.

Council notified the state police on Wednesday that the borough force was dissolved. Troopers from the Hamburg station will respond to calls.

Council fired Yocum in February 2005 after a borough investigation concluded that he took vacation time from 2002 to 2004 to which he was not entitled.

Yocum said Wednesday that he was vindicated and that he received everything he wanted in the arbitration ruling.

"The truth has finally come out," he said.

Several business owners in the borough of about 2,100 residents were shocked and disappointed to lose local police coverage.

Clifford J. Ulrich, 67, has run Ulrich's Sandwich Shop on Main Street since 1981. He said there has been a police department in Shoemakersville as long as he could remember. He's concerned with an increase in crime. "I know the kind of town this is, and I know we need a police force," Ulrich said. "It takes too long for the state cops to get here." Other business owners said they were concerned about vehicles speeding and vandalism stemming from youths who use the borough's skateboard park. Shoemakersville's 2006 police budget was about $97,000, or about 7 percent of the $1.4 million total budget. Borough Secretary Melissa Wagner said most of the displaced patrolmen have full-time jobs with other local departments. Karen M. Barlan, who owns Precious Paws Pet Supplies on Main Street, said residents would have turned out to support the police force if they had known council was going to disband it. "That place would have been mobbed if people knew," she said of Tuesday's meeting.

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