OLD FORGE, PA – Stickers on the back of police cars bearing the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association’s seal of approval are in the process of being removed, borough administrator MaryLynn Bartoletti said, because the borough police department’s accreditation has been suspended.
Joseph Blackburn, accreditation project coordinator with the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, said the suspension comes after allegations that reports were deleted from the department system and that evidence was allegedly tampered with during May’s investigation into Police Chief Lawrence A. Semenza, 48, and Capt. Jamie Krenitsky, 34, who are awaiting trial on felony charges of sexual assaulting a 15-year-old girl, now 23, from 2004 to 2007.
“These are things that specifically are in violation of accreditation standards,” Blackburn said. “We don’t know if they’re true or not as of yet but are continuing our investigation.”
The association’s executive board will complete another on-site assessment of the department once things “settle down,” he added.
However, in a letter he mailed to the Borough of Old Forge, dated July 23, after the decision was reached July 7, Blackburn states that the borough can no longer refer to themselves as accredited while in a state of suspension.
Officer-in-Charge Kim Buggey said that suspension or not, the Old Forge Police Department is still going to operate under the standards that awarded them accreditation in 2009 and re-accreditation in January.
“We’re following our policies and procedures like we’ve always done,” she said. “We’re doing what we have to do.”
Until its suspension, the Old Forge Police Department was the only department in Lackawanna County to be accredited by the police chief’s association, having passed an arduous checklist involving roughly 300 good policing standards.
Mayor Michele Avvisato said she is “deeply disappointed” over the accreditation suspension.
“It’s really upsetting,” Avvisato said. “I know Officer Buggy and the rest of the department take their work very seriously.”
Bartoletti said the suspension does not affect the department’s liability insurance premiums, as the department’s insurance provider does not take advantage of benefits afforded by accreditation. She would not say which provider covers the department.
Efforts to reach council President Brian Rinaldi were unsuccessful Wednesday night.
Efforts to obtain a copy of the letter were also unsuccessful.