by Jonathan Weaver
Kittanning Borough Police Chief Bruce Mathews was out of the area during the first full week of April, but the knowledge he picked up on at a law enforcement conference in New Orleans will improve the local police force.
The law enforcement conference in New Orleans dealt with domestic violence, policy writing and addressed future trends. The conference was set up with one main topic in the morning before specific breakout sessions – such as about policy or liability – in the afternoon.
“Overall, it was good – it was the first type of conference that I had attended,” Chief Mathews said.
Chief Mathews attended the conference with County Detective Robin Davis.
More than 1,800 officers worldwide attended the annual conference.
“Just as important as the classes and the topics were, (after) 23 years of experience it’s hard to get the new materials sometimes,” Chief Mathews said. “It was well organized and presented. A lot of it was a good refresher and a lot of it really opened your eyes and say ‘OK, that would work.’”
Chief Mathews also stressed the importance of the first-hand interaction with other police agencies. He said many representing agencies were comparable to the full-time Kittanning police force.
“It was nice to sit down with a department from Kansas that served the same population and had the same number of officers to see how they work their schedule, what specialized units (if any) they had so we could tweak things and be more efficient and provide a better service to our communities,” Chief Mathews said. “It was nice to get different ideas, see how different people operate.”
He plans to pass along management and grant advice to the rest of the Kittanning police officers.
“During this day and age, the power is in the knowledge. As knowledgeable as we can make our officers and keep them abreast of things, the better we’re going to be,” Chief Mathews added.
Kittanning Borough assumed the cost of Chief Mathews’ attendance at the conference.
While he was in New Orleans, Chief Mathews was the first contact if officers had any concerns. Otherwise, the senior-most officer on any particular shift assumed responsibility.
The newest officer, Officer Kyle Lewis, (who was sworn in by Mayor Kirk Atwood in February) is also reportedly working well with fellow officers and has started assuming his role as the department “floater” – able to help minimize overtime costs in case of emergency call-offs or vacation.