Springfield Township partners with local organizations to launch survey on police – community interactions

by Betsy Wallace
Posted 3/18/21

On March 8, 2021, Springfield Township announced the launch of a community wide survey on Police-Community relations and urged all residents to complete it by April 30, 2021.

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Springfield Township partners with local organizations to launch survey on police – community interactions

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On March 8, 2021, Springfield Township announced the launch of a community wide survey on Police-Community relations and urged all residents to complete it by April 30, 2021.

In a statement, the Township and Springfield Township Police Department (STPD) stated they “are committed to engaging in productive dialogue in assessing their policies and procedures to maximize community-police engagement and to identifying strategies to improve the level and quality of protection offered to all residents. The purpose of this survey is to receive community feedback that leads to conversations about how to improve said policies and enrich police-community relations in our Township.”

A team of volunteer researchers, all residents of Wyndmoor, worked for months to develop the Police-Community Relations survey in collaboration with the Township, STPD, the Multicultural Parents Association of Springfield Township School District, the Cheltenham Chapter of the NAACP, and Temple University.  The effort largely grew out of discussions at two virtual Community Town Halls on “Community Policing and Juvenile Criminal Justice Reform,” held in August/September 2020, that were sponsored by the Multicultural Parents Association of Springfield Township School District and the Cheltenham Chapter of the NAACP.

Participation in the survey is anonymous and completely voluntary.  The researchers will present a report of the survey results to the Township but no original (or raw) data will be shared with the Springfield Township Police Department, the Township, or anyone else.

Springfield Township residents who are 18 or older can complete the online survey by going to the Township’s website: springfieldmontco.org/
or by visiting tinyurl.com/STpolicesurvey. The survey deadline is April 30.

Paper Surveys & Public Computers Available at the Free Library

The survey is available in PDF for those who wish to print it out, complete it and hand in the completed survey at the Free Library of Springfield Township. Residents are encouraged to complete the survey online to improve the efficiency of the analysis. If you don’t have a computer, smartphone or tablet, the public computers at the library can be used to complete the survey.

Volunteer Survey developers and Wyndmoor residents, Erin Cassar, Ph.D., a Senior Research Associate with the Philadelphia School District, and He Len Chung, Ph.D., a research professor in Psychology at the College of New Jersey, reached out to all key stakeholders, including STPD, the Township Commissioners (at their public Workshop meetings), and the Multicultural Association of Springfield School District, to obtain feedback on proposed survey questions at numerous times throughout the process.  Rachel Groner, Ph.D, a Professor at Temple University and a Wyndmoor resident, shepherded the final survey through the Temple Institutional Review Board for further scrutiny.

As the Chestnut Hill Local reported in August 2020, about 63 people attended the first virtual Community Town Hall on August 5, 2020, including, by invitation, all of the Township Commissioners and Springfield Township Police Chief Michael Pitkow.  By all accounts, a large portion of the Town Hall was taken up with discussion of an incident in July 2020 in which Springfield Township Police stopped three youths of color (all minors) for questioning concerning a shoplifting at the Walgreens on Bethlehem Pike, the subsequent Facebook posts by township residents about the incident, and a reply post by the Springfield Township Police on its Facebook page that mistakenly identified the youths as residents of the Carson Valley School.  The Township Police later corrected the post.  Residents were concerned that the STPD made a disproportionate number of juvenile arrests of African American children who live at Carson Valley.

Township residents’ Right To Know Law requests to the STPD for juvenile arrest records of children residing at CVCA have been largely unsuccessful.  Section §708(b)(30) of Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law, exempts the names and addresses of juveniles aged 17 or younger, from public disclosure.  According to the 2019 Juvenile Court Annual Report, published by the Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission, however, there is evidence of racial inequities in juvenile arrests and delinquency charges statewide.  “In comparison to the racial/ethnic distribution of all youth in Pennsylvania aged 10-17, the representation of Black Non-Hispanic youth is disproportionate: [they represent] 14.2% of the youth population versus 38.1% of all delinquency allegations.  When excluding Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties, Black Non-Hispanic youth represent 8.4% of the youth population, but 29.3% of all delinquency allegations.”

The Carson Valley School, created in 1906 as a school for orphan girls, has changed course over the years.  In 2008, the school merged with Children’s Aid Society and became Carson Valley Children’s Aid (CVCA), offering behavioral health, out of home care, prevention, intervention and education in Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.  Currently, the children who reside at CVCA are primarily placed there through the Philadelphia Department of Human Services.  The vast majority of them come to CVCA as dependent children with no criminal histories.  Their placement at CVCA is for treatment and rehabilitation for trauma, abuse, and mental health issues.

The Township is engaged in ongoing efforts to improve relations with the CVCA, including a number of productive meetings with the CVCA staff, which Board President Baird Standish, Commissioner Graham, and Police Chief Pitkow attended.  The Board of Commissioners has also publicly denounced as “gross intolerance,” a sign posted on a fence near the Carson Valley School containing inflammatory statements about Commissioner Graham, the only African American elected to serve on the Board of Commissioners.

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