Police procedure called into question

Russ Aikman, head of security at Wingate Village Apartments, attended the Aug. 21 Franklin Township Trustees meeting to discuss township police procedures.

Aikman described incidents on Aug. 16 and Aug. 18 that Franklin Township Police responded to that left both he and his staff with questions.

According to Aikman, on Aug. 16, he accompanied a township officer to an apartment in Wingate Village on a domestic violence call when a man and woman had been fighting for ten minutes prior to answering the door.

“When they did, he’s bleeding, he’s cut. She’s got fingernails that are covered in blood. He (the police officer) comes up there and says ‘Is everybody alright up there, nobody’s dead? Anybody want to do anything?’ He didn’t separate them, didn’t do anything else,” said Aikman.  

Aikman says the officer asked the wounded man what happened, and his response was that he fell.

“He cancelled the other car and he walked away,” said Aikman.

Franklin Township Police Chief Mike Castle said the officer in question would have been following department procedure.

“He did, that’s mandatory. You separate the people and talk to them individually. You don’t ask them questions at the same time. This officer is very effective, never had problem in 18 years. I assure you in domestic violence, if he had probable cause, he would’ve done it,” said Castle. “These guys aren’t going to jeopardize their jobs by not taking action.”

Aikman said on Aug. 18, an individual jumped on the tow truck during a repossession in an attempt to retrieve his vehicle. The man threw a rock at Aikman and his partner and busted out the window of their cruiser in front of several witnesses, but none of that was reflected in the officer’s report and the suspect was not arrested when the officer arrived.

“There’s one sentence in the narrative and the (Franklin County) prosecutor says we have to do some research, it’s not an adequate report,” said Aikman.

Castle said the prosecutor is not correct in this case.

“The reports are fine. We do what we have to do and the prosecutor knows all this stuff. We can’t put too much information on the cover sheet and if we do, it becomes public record. We have a procedure we have to follow. All the information the prosecutor needed and the individual needed was put on the reports,” said Castle.

Castle said in this case, the security officers had their own video of the incident and had taken witness statements themselves, so they need to take that to the prosecutor.

“I’m just getting information. We’re trying to get Wingate Village cleaned up but its just frustrating because everybody knows that the police aren’t going to arrest you unless there’s a felony,” said Aikman.

House Bill 50 helps out

In other board news, Nick Soulas, the lead Prosecuting Attorney for the Civil Division of the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office said House Bill 50, which was passed in March, will give the trustees a quicker remedy in dealing with homes that have overgrown vegetation, refuse or junk cars on their property.

According to Soulas, the township sends a notice to the property owner by certified mail notifying them there will be a hearing and that it has been determined they have a junk motor vehicle, vegetation out of control, refuse or weeds. They will then have 14 days to clean it up. If they fail to do so, the township can remedy the problem as they see fit.

Chairperson Tim Guyton praised House Bill 50.

“Right now it can take months to get a resolution to a problem. While using House Bill 50, it will reduce the turnaround time on a problem down to 30 days or less,” said Guyton.

The downside of this bill, according to Soulas, is that the township has to front the money to get the work done if the owner refuses to do so, but whatever amount is spent can be applied to that individual’s tax bill.

Guyton said the amount for clearing yards is nominal, which is the main aspect of the bill the township is concerned with.

“The costs include labor costs plus benefits, around $27 an hour, and equipment costs which are billed at $60 an hour, per piece of equipment used,” said Guyton.

Soulas said House Bill 50 is a lot quicker process than using the zoning resolution but unlike the zoning resolution, it is not a permanent order for the owner to keep in compliance.

To get a permanent order is really good, is really strong, but it’s going to take some time. You guys can go out and take care of the most significant issues,” said Soulas.

Guyton emphasized this bill is a great solution to a difficult problem in the township.

“Obviously with the housing market being what it is, it’s worse now than it was before. The same habitual people do it year in, year out. They just won’t cut their grass,” said Guyton.

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