Editor’s note: The is the first of a four-part series about the Gettysburg Police Department. I thank Chief Robert Glenny and Mayor Rita Frealing for generously spending time talking with me. We value your comments — please leave them below.
To meet its goals of “Trust and Transparency,” the Gettysburg Police Department is acquiring automated record-keeping software that will simplify its reporting.
“Right now we try to share information though our Facebook page,” said Chief Robert Glenny, “but we have a new records system coming in after the first of the year.” Glenny said the system is provided by crimewatch.net and promises to share information directly with citizens and media across multiple platforms and in many languages.
Glenny said the system will simplify record-keeping in many areas and will create a publicly available police blotter that is updated in almost real time. The system automatically determines which information should or should not be shared with the public.
The system will allow the public to report tips through a mobile app that can also broadcast department announcements. It also provides a crimewatch TV station that can be aired in prominent places.
As another part of its transparency efforts the department has recently posted a list of force personnel on the borough’s website as well as a redacted version of its policy manual.
Glenny said anything that could make it easier for criminal activities had been redacted from the public version of the manual. “Issues related to tactics, operational safety, and officer safety are redacted as required by law,” he said. “Examples of redacted information include how officers should respond in emergencies and where firearms are stored in police vehicles. Sharing of that information would make the public less safe, and could be very detrimental to citizens.”
Glenny said the goal of the department was to be as transparent as possible, but that sharing information could sometimes create a difference between actual public safety and perceived public safety. “If the public feels they are super safe but they really are not, then that’s not good,” he said. “It might give you peace of mind, but it’s not good. On the other hand, the public might actually be very safe, but not feel safe. That’s also an inaccuracy,” he said.
Glenny said he is a strong proponent of ideas about policing developed by Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850), who is credited with creating the first modern British police force.
Peel’s approach is based on the idea that police should spend their time preventing crime rather than catching criminals. An effective police department doesn’t have high arrest stats; its community has low crime rates.
Peel believed it was essential for a police force to earn public support by respecting community principles, enforcing laws impartially, hiring officers who represent and understand the community, and using force only as a last resort.
According to Peel, every community member should share in the responsibility of preventing crime, but this can only happen if the community supports and trusts the police.
Glenny encouraged people to contact the police with information and questions but said there were appropriate channels to follow. “People think they can come down to the station and find a police officer. But people often aren’t here. Don’t come down to the station. Talk to the dispatcher,” he said.
Instead Glenny encouraged people who had non-emergency needs to call the police non-emergency dispatch number, 717.334.8101. This line is monitored 24/7 and can dispatch officers. Glenny said that in emergencies, people should call 911 but call the 717 number for non-emergencies.
Glenny said the borough office receives many calls about events that are not in occurring in the borough and thus not part of Gettysburg Police jurisdiction. “Probably every third call we get at the station is referred to the the 711 number because the occurrence is not in the borough,” he said.
Glenny said he was hoping to start a weekly press briefing but that staffing constraints made it difficult.
“We’re always struggling to figure out what we can do to make this the safest possible community,” he said.
Gettysburg Police Dept. Contact Information:
Emergency phone number: 911
Non-emergency phone number (dispatcher) 717.334.8101.