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Time for a change of Command at the Altoona Police Department

This petition had 179 supporters

Mayor Matthew Pacifico,

According to this excerpt from the 3rd Class City Code you are directly responsible for supervising the police department. This section reads:

Article XX

Section 2007. Supervision by Mayor.--[Policemen] The chief of police
shall obey the orders of the mayor and make report to [him] the mayor,
which report shall be [laid by him before council monthly] presented
monthly by the mayor to council. [The mayor shall exercise a constant
supervision and control over their conduct.]

I am writing this petition on behalf of the residents of this city. We are fed up with the lack of leadership at the Altoona Police Department and the current events that have transpired as a result. Any and all leadership issues ultimately fall directly on Chief Janice Freehling. The department has been riddled with scandals throughout Freehling's tenure, but have become more apparent since the Pellegrine's incident. 

In the past seven years the following officers have been involved in incidents that have led to termination, forced resignations, and one is still currently employed. These officers include but are not limited to: Duane Eichenlaub, Eric Kriner, Jack Kuhn III, Michelle Piscitella, Brian Freiwald, Daniel Noel, Rick Johnston, Tony Panagapolis, Matthew Plummer, Matthew McMurray, and Mark Sprouse. Adding Starr, Kelleher, and Stirk the total comes to 14. 14 out of 75. That means at least 19% of this department has been proven to be corrupt. These are only the one's we are aware of. How much nonsense is going on behind the scenes and being kept hidden from the public?

Act 47 gutted the department and caused many experienced officers to go elsewhere or retire. This purge of leadership and lack of mentoring has left us with a group of poorly trained and unprofessional young officers. Once again, in many ways this falls directly on Chief Freehling. Failure to adapt and provide effective leadership to guide the department through these tough times, has contributed greatly to the issues we have seen in recent weeks.

In the past few weeks and months we have watched Matt Starr's theft by deception scheme unravel. This is one of the most disturbing and costly failures of Freehling's leadership. How did this happen without some serious lack of supervision? Starr, a Sergeant, reported directly to the Chief. This is not standard protocol. However it made it much easier for Starr to execute his scheme over a five year period costing the tax payers over a quarter of a million dollars.

Next we had Patrolman Julie Kelleher blow a red light while driving at an excessive speed en route to a call. Luckily no one was killed in the resulting collision, but Freehling's refusal to release the dashcam footage, which is public record, is also very disturbing. Freehling's misleading quote that there was 'no reason to release the footage,' inferring it did not contain any information the public was not already aware of, was a biligerent lie and attempt to conceal the truth from the public. Is this APD standard procedure under Freehling?

Now we have Officer Erik Stirk awating toxicology results to see how intoxicated he was before he decided to get behind the wheel this past weekend.

These are some very ugly examples of a wayward department in need of a strong leader who will command discipline and accountability, from all officers, at all times. Janice Freehling was never, and certainly is not currently, the correct individual for this position of Chief of the Altoona Police Department.

We, the citizens, hereby petition the Mayor, City Manager, and Council for the City of Altoona to remove Janice Freehling from her position, effective immediately, and to find a suitable replacement from an outside department, preferably a current or former member of the Pennsylvania State Police. 


Christopher W. Irvin


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