July 12, 2008

Dickson City Force Still Five Short

By Charles Schillinger, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.

Jul. 12--DICKSON CITY -- Scarred by lawsuit after lawsuit, the borough is struggling to overcome legal issues with hiring new police officers.

The borough initiated civil service testing in May 2007 to hire two additional officers and bring the number of full-time officers to nine.

More than a year later, the borough has just four full-time officers, including the temporary loss of Chief William Stadnitski, who will be on leave through at least August due to a work-related injury.

The process stalled after concerns with a physical agility portion of the test late last year. The borough hired a law firm in December to review the civil service ordinance.

While work to modify the ordinance for testing police candidates now appears complete, candidates will have to retake the entire test or at least part of it before the borough can hire any officers.

Councilman Stanley Prushinski said he wants to restart the entire process as soon as possible, no matter what further concerns there might be from the legal advisers.

"We're so gun-shy. We say something and the lawyers say we need to do this or that," said Mr. Prushinski, who is also a member of the borough Civil Service Commission.

But the borough has reason to be wary. In the last two years, it settled about six lawsuits for almost $500,000, ranging from wrongful termination to sexual harassment in the workplace.

The borough has also recently been sued by five people related to a gun-carrying incident at Old Country Buffet in May.

But at a council meeting last week, resident Thomas Logan raised concerns about having so few full-time officers on duty.

"You've been sitting on this test since November. What's it going to take, a death?" he asked.

The commission is expected to meet at the end of the month to come up with a plan.

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