With a new commanding officer and a new executive board in place, the 8th Police District Advisory Council is adopting a new way of doing business.
It looks a lot like the old way.
During the group’s monthly meeting on March 7, leaders said they will re-commit themselves to the original mission and bylaws of PDAC, as a citywide organization.
There are PDACs in each of the city’s 21 patrol districts, but all fall under the umbrella and bylaws of a citywide advisory group. Some district-level PDACs interpret the bylaws more liberally than others. In recent months, citywide PDAC board members have been reviewing the bylaws for possible updating.
“We really got off track of what the PDAC was founded for,” said 8th PDAC chairman Harry Sonntag. “[By reorganizing,] we’re actually ahead of the game from where the rest of the city is.”
According to community relations officer Rudy Muller, who is the primary liaison between the civilian board and the police district, the push to reorganize began when a new PDAC executive board took office in January.
Then last month, the district got a new commanding officer, Capt. Leonard Ditchkofsky, who replaced longtime commander Deborah Kelly. Kelly has retired from the police department.
A the start of 2012, the PDAC had almost 70 members listed on its rolls, although dozens hadn’t actually completed the membership requirements dictated by the bylaws, Muller said. Prospective members must fill out an application form, be approved by the PDAC and pass a background check administered by the police department.
“What I found was some that were on the membership rolls who were never officially members,” Muller said. “Some wanted to be involved only in [certain] district events. Some moved away from the district. Some were deceased. And some were ineligible due to political office.”
In recent years, the 8th PDAC and its officers had co-hosted many community parties and carnival-style events at the district, including annual fall and spring festivals designed for children. The new PDAC will have other priorities.
“This advisory council is supposed to give me advice. We’re supposed to come up with solutions to problems,” Ditchkofsky said. “We’re going to be out of the event business. I don’t see that as productive to police work. It’s not that those [events] aren’t good things. If somebody wants to have something like that, I’ll show up and support it. But I need the cops we have here to be concentrating on crime.”
Likewise, the PDAC will be smaller and more focused.
The new membership list has about 38 names, Muller said. Ideally, the group should include one representative from each of the 14 civic associations and Town Watch groups in the district, as well as business leaders, clergy and others who represent community organizations.
Meetings are not meant to be open to the public because of the potentially sensitive crime information that may be discussed.
“That’s the direction I would like to see this go,” Ditchkofsky said.
Residents of the district should understand that PDAC is not an open forum. Rather, the monthly Town Hall meetings hosted by the captain serve that purpose, as do the three monthly Police Service Area meetings in the district, where residents can meet the lieutenants in charge of their specific neighborhoods.
The next Town Hall meeting will be on Wednesday, March 28, at 6 p.m., at the 8th district station, Academy and Red Lion roads.
PSA-1, essentially the southern third of the district, will meet on the same night at 7 p.m. at Immaculate Mary Home, 2990 Holme Ave. PSA-2, the central third of the district, will meet on Wednesday, March 21, at 7 p.m., at Christ the King School library, 3252 Chesterfield Road. PSA-3, the northern third of the district, will meet on Friday, March 23, at 7 p.m., at Norcom Community Center, 10980 Norcom Road.
Residents may visit the Web page www.phillypolice.com for an interactive map of the district and the PSAs. By clicking on the “8th district homepage” link, visitors can read a full schedule of Town Hall and PSA meetings, along with other information about the district.
Sonntag and the board have also changed the seating arrangement at PDAC meetings. They now sit in a circle, much like commanders do at the police department’s weekly CompStat meetings.
“It’s a roundtable discussion to talk about issues in the district as community leaders and business owners, to come up with some ideas and work with the officers to fix problems,” Sonntag said. “The people who serve on the council will all bring something to the table.” ••EndFragment