Sheriff’s office gets $122K in riot gear, equipment
Commissioners wary of possible Nazi march on city streets later this month
Lycoming County commissioners debated the need for emergency gear for law enforcement agencies during their meeting Tuesday.
A long discussion regarding the need for a strong police presence for a controversial event that may possibly take place later this month preceded the 2-1 vote by commissioners to pass the resolution for the equipment purchase.
The neo-Nazi group, National Socialist Movement, may possibly march in Williamsport July 18. City officials have not confirmed claims regarding the group’s plans.
Commissioner Rick Mirabito questioned the resolution.
He noted that it did not say how much equipment would cost and said it included wording that seemed to target a specific event.
He questioned whether law enforcement agencies such as the sheriff’s department, adult probation, and local municipal police departments have training in crowd control and civil unrest.
“Why would we expose all of our local communities to legal liability for incidents that occur during the event?” he asked.
Lycoming County Sheriff Mark Lusk said law enforcement needs to be prepared.
“This equipment is to protect us,” he said. “We need law and order and to protect citizens.”
The cost of the equipment, to include riot gear, was listed by county officials as $122,000.
Lusk said the purchase is needed to replace old and worn-out equipment.
Mirabito said buying equipment by merely “giving a blank check is not a prudent practice.”
The resolution stated that in cases of the existence of an emergency declared by commissioners such as the upcoming event, the usual bidding process contained in the county code need not be followed.
Mirabito argued that the event is one that should be handled by trained state police officers.
He questioned whether the presence of police in riot gear will have a negative effect on the gathering.
“I certainly want to protect our police, but I’m not sure the path we are going down is the most prudent one,” he said.
Lusk said state police will be there if needed.
All law enforcement must be prepared, he added.
Commissioner Tony Mussare agreed that situations can get out of control, and police should be ready.
However, he said he could understand Mirabito’s concerns with the resolution not specifically stating a cost for the equipment.
Commissioner Scott Metzger stated, “It’s better to be prepared and hope for the best.”
At one point, Mussare offered to amend the resolution to include a specific purchase cost.
“I don’t think anyone wants to see a 2 to 1 vote on this. This is the time for unity,” he said.
Mirabito said he would have liked more time to consider the resolution before voting against it.
Mussare and Metzger voted in favor.