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SCHAUER DISMISSAL CASE. (11/15/60)

November 15, 1960

SCHAUER DISMISSAL CASE.


Appeal, No. 165, March T., 1960, from order of County Court of Allegheny County, No. A 2124 of 1959, in re appeal of Willard Schauer from his dismissal as chief of police of Whitehall Borough. Order affirmed.

COUNSEL

Loyal H. Gregg, with him Gregg and Price, for appellant.

Thomas P. Shearer, with him Peter F. Flaherty, for appellee.

Before Jones, C.j., Musmanno, Jones, Cohen, Bok and Eagen, JJ.

Author: Musmanno

[ 401 Pa. Page 487]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE MUSMANNO

This is an appeal by Whitehall Borough from a decision of the County Court of Allegheny County reversing the action of the Civil Service Commission of Whitehall dismissing Willard Schauer as chief of police of the town. The dismissal of the head of a police department anywhere is a drastic procedure which requires strong evidence of misbehavior to support it. Nothing could more weaken faith in the orderly processes of government than loose tampering with the position of officers pledged to uphold law and order. On the other hand, of course, if a police officer has been proved untrue to his trust, his withdrawal from office is as necessary as the surgical removal of malignancy. The record in this case fails to show anything remotely requiring surgery in the Whitehall Police Department.

Willard Schauer became Chief of Police of Whitehall on November 1, 1953 as the result of a civil service test. He was well qualified for the position, having for 17 years been a member of the Pennsylvania State Police, in which superbly efficient organization he attained the rank of sergeant. He left the Pennsylvania State Police with an honorable and blemishless record behind him. He did equally well with the Whitehall Police Department. For five years his incumbency in Whitehall was regarded with such favor that in the nature of a reward and to further develop him in his chosen work, the Borough in the spring of 1958 sent him to the F.B.I. School in Washington for a three month special course.

During his absence some dissatisfaction sprouted in the police department over the manner in which traffic tags were being handled. When he returned, he made an investigation and after some watchful

[ 401 Pa. Page 488]

    waiting, came to the conclusion that one of the justices of the peace of the town was endeavoring, through the use of gratuities to police officers, to stimulate a more liberal use of traffic tags in order to enhance his returns on the ensuing court costs. Schauer spoke to the Burgess about his apprehensions in this respect. The Burgess did not seem to regard the matter too seriously and later ordered that all tags should be turned over to him.

On April 1, 1959, the chief of police, in accordance with the oral request of several members of the nine man council, presented at a public hearing of the council a written report on the police business of the town. The report made reference to the unrest in the department; it spoke of Schauer's conversations with the Burgess; of differences he had had with the Burgess and much was said about the traffic tag situation.

The Burgess and some members of the council regarded this report as an attack on the Burgess and police, especially in view of the fact that the report was given attention in the press and over radio and television. As a consequence the council ordered and conducted an investigation into the matters reported by Schauer; and then, on May 19, 1960, by a vote of 4 to 3, ordered his dismissal, ...


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