Pa. chief, sergeants sue township over pressure to issue tickets

The lawsuit alleges township supervisors repeatedly directed the police department to issue more traffic tickets, then attempted to retaliate when the chief pushed back

Patrick Kernan
The Times-Leader

EXETER TWP, Pa. — The police chief of Exeter Township has filed a suit in federal court against the township, claiming he was pressured to illegally force the department to issue more traffic tickets.

The suit comes from Chief William Knowles, Cpl. Charles Neff and Sgt. Scott Viadock, and was filed earlier this month by Pittston-based attorney Cynthia L. Pollick.

According to the suit, Exeter Township Supervisor Daniel Fetch repeatedly directed the police department begin issuing more traffic tickets.

Fetch allegedly also said he wanted to hire more young officers, with the suit’s plaintiffs claiming Fetch made comments that new officers would be more willing to listen to this directive.

According to the officers, the suggestions from Fetch first began on Feb. 22, 2019, with Fetch allegedly telling Knowles that he “wanted police officers to write more tickets.” The suit says this is illegal and official misconduct.

On the same day, Knowles says he told Fetch that he cannot order officers to write more tickets. Knowles contacted other members of township government, including Chairman Robert Kile Sr. and solicitor Gene Molino.

Afterward, Fetch allegedly threatened to transfer Knowles on March 1. On March 14, Kile issued a directive that no one on the board of supervisors could not perform on-the-spot or impromptu disciplinary actions against police officers.

However, the officers in the suit claim this did not stop Fetch, with Fetch allegedly threatening to move Neff off his normal shift should he continue to refuse to issue more tickets.

On April 1, Fetch allegedly stated “he wanted younger cadets since they would have no issue writing a ton of tickets.” The officers went to Exeter Township about Fetch’s conduct on May 6, with Kile saying Fetch was “on his own” should the officers pursue further action.

On July 1, Fetch, continuing this line of dialog, allegedly told Knowles that “if the township hired young kids out of the academy, they would write everyone up for everything related to traffic citations and hit traffic hard.” Knowles took this as an implication that he should be writing more tickets.

In the fall, Fetch told officers that the township would be putting up a new traffic signal and that officers “would be writing a lot more red-light tickets.”

The officers filed the suit in federal court, claiming that Fetch’s alleged threats to transfer officers to other shifts for speaking out amount to a violation of their First Amendment rights.

“Defendants have intimidated Plaintiffs and have affected the way they perform their work duties because of their reporting of official misconduct and corruption,” the suit reads.

The officers are seeking an unspecified amount in damages.

Attempts to reach Exeter Township for comment were not immediately successful Thursday afternoon.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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