Streeter Discusses Gettysburg Police, Confederate Monuments, and Local Government in “On Target” Interview
By Kate Delaney, Contributing Writer
In the sixth episode of The Gettysburgian‘s podcast, “On Target,” Gettysburg Borough Mayor Ted Streeter sat down with editors, Benjamin Pontz and Jamie Welch, to discuss his role in local government.
Streeter was appointed mayor in June of 2016 when his predecessor, William Troxell, retired from the position due to health issues. Prior to his role as mayor, Streeter served on the Borough Council for fourteen years, eight of which were spent as president. He has also acted as chair of the Gettysburg Municipal Authority, chair of the Adams County Transportation Organization, and served on the Central Pennsylvania Transportation Board.
This fall, Streeter will be up for his first (and last, as he revealed during the interview) time on the ballot for the mayor position, and he is currently running unopposed.
He granted a wide-ranging interview including subjects such as criminal justice reform, the relationship between the Gettysburg Borough and the college, DACA, and monuments in Gettysburg.
Criminal Justice and the Gettysburg Borough Police
A primary responsibility of Gettysburg’s mayor is to oversee the local police department. Streeter noted that the local police department was in “pretty bad shape” when he first took over and was facing three lawsuits. However, Streeter said that he and Joe Dougherty, Chief of Police, work together very well, and they have revised policies and installed new leadership over the past year. Streeter believes the borough is “well on [its] way to having a very good police department.”
One of the lawsuits brought against the police department stemmed from an incident in which the tasering of a man was captured on body camera footage. That case reached a $225,000 settlement earlier this year.
Pontz asked if the officers still wear these cameras, to which Streeter responded that “it was part of a trial program, and… the sole officer who volunteered to be a part of the trial, happened to be involved in the taser incident. Since then, they were immediately withdrawn, and have not been reissued.”
Further, the body cameras will not be reissued, unless the Adams County District Attorney writes a policy regarding their use. That said, Streeter said, “I really favor the body cameras…it holds the police accountable [and] provides them a story for what happened.”
Streeter was also asked about how Gettysburg Borough fits into the national conversation on criminal justice reform, and his own goals with the police department. He responded that the Gettysburg department has an excellent ride-along program, which promotes community relations and shows the people of Gettysburg the stress involved in daily police duties, and hosts “Coffee with a Cop,” where Gettysburg citizens can sit down with a police officer.
“Community relations is the primary direction the police should go.” Streeter said, noting that the 21st century calls for a “new kind of police officer” that can handle the social aspects of being involved in criminal justice as well as the physical.
Relationship between Gettysburg College and the Borough of Gettysburg
Welch asked Streeter about the evolution of the relationship between Gettysburg College and the borough of Gettysburg.
“There has always been a good relationship with the College,” Streeter said.
He also stated that the College is much more involved than people think, as Gettysburg College is the largest taxpayer, even though it is not required to keep its properties on the tax roll. He joked that there are occasionally some “rowdy college kids,” but that the College has always had a good relationship with the borough, and under President Janet Morgan Riggs’ leadership, the relationship has only flourished, with no major disputes that he can recall.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
Welch then asked Streeter about whether the borough has any plans to offer support to persons residing in the area who are currently protected under the DACA program, which the Trump administration has signaled will end in March, at least in its current form.
Streeter emphasized that he strives to keep the Office of the Mayor apolitical, preferring not to take stances on too many issues to avoid upsetting any constituencies and keep himself receptive to the needs of the people.
He went on to say that there are no plans to support DACA recipients or declare Gettysburg a “sanctuary city” as far as he knows, though he ultimately deferred to Borough Council, noting that Gettysburg operates under a “weak mayor system” that vests most power in the council. He was not aware of any plans Borough Council has to support DACA recipients.
With respect to Confederate monuments in Gettysburg Borough, specifically a memorial in Unity Park, one of the few that is actually in the borough as opposed to the National Park, Streeter said he “understands those who oppose Confederate monuments…but…you can’t deny that Robert E. Lee was here…it is a fact of history, and to suppress that fact … really probably harms the national psyche more than it helps it.”
Goals in the Next Term
“[There is] still some work to do with the police department,” Streeter said, but other than that he plans “to meet the crises as they come.”
Involvement in Local Government
Asked about the importance of young people getting involved in local government, Streeter responded, “Democracy depends on everyone being involved…many of the problems we face now on the national and state level come from lack of citizen involvement.”
Streeter hopes that the present administration will cause people “to realize the necessity of being involved in government.”