August 7, 2019
On July 30, 2019, the Upper Merion Township Police Department was contacted by a reporter from PhillyVoice.com concerning an article that he was writing about offensive social media posts, believed to be made by 22 law enforcement officers in Montgomery County. The reporter advised the department that he believed five of the posts were made by an Upper Merion Township police officer. After a review of the information provided we do believe that based on the name and small profile image that these posts in question were made on the Facebook page of a retired officer of the Upper Merion Township Police Department. The officer in question retired on January 18, 2019. We are currently reviewing the information that was provided in greater detail, but it appears that one post occurred while he was an active officer.
The department became aware of that post when it was forwarded to us by the PhillyVoice.com reporter on July 30, 2019. Had the person been an active officer with the department at the time of posting, we would have been able to conduct an internal investigation based on the post. The remaining four posts were made after the officer had retired and was acting as a private citizen. Regardless, the Upper Merion Board of Supervisors, Upper Merion Police Department, and Upper Merion Township wholly condemn these bigoted and demeaning social media posts.
“I urge our residents and guests not to judge our entire police department by the actions of one officer,” said Greg Waks, chairman of the Upper Merion Township Board of Supervisors. “Our outstanding police department is proud to serve such a diverse community.”
Since 2015, the Upper Merion Township Police Department has taken the initiative to put systems in place to collect data based on race and ethnicity as it pertains to arrests, use of force, and citizen complaints. In recent years, we have substantially increased our outreach through community policing initiatives, such as:
- Expanded our Community Response Unit into a full Community Oriented Policing Division
- Completed an evaluation of a Youth Aid Panel pilot program with the intentions to reduce disproportionate minority arrest rates
- Conduct a yearly Cop Camp for ages 11-13
- The department is a member of the Race for Peace committee
- Conduct UM police and community forums
- Reestablished the Cops & Kids program
- Instituted the Coffee with a Cop program
- The department is member of the Montgomery County Racial Justice Improvement Project Taskforce
The Upper Merion Township Police Department has a social media policy in place for all employees. Furthermore, we regularly conduct training regarding biased-based policing for our officers, and will continue to do so. Opinions made by retired police officers do not reflect those of the department and our active officers.
“The Upper Merion Township Police Department will continue to evaluate our policies, practices and procedures to ensure that they are allowing us to deliver fair and effective policing, while building trust with the community we serve,” said Upper Merion Police Chief Tom Nolan.
The Upper Merion Township Police Department recruits, hires, trains, and retains people who want to do good in the community and are willing to risk their lives to help people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Our officers take that oath on day one and remain committed to it throughout their careers. While the actions of one retired officer cast a negative light on this department, it should not overshadow our commitment to serving our community with integrity and professionalism.
**Social Media Disclaimer: We will allow thoughtful discourse on this subject, but we will remove any reposting of the comments or memes in question, so as not to perpetuate the offensive nature of the posts.