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Penn State Police Officers Seek Leadership Change in Midst of Contract Negotiations

by on October 09, 2018 11:15 AM

Following the Penn State University Police Officer’s Association’s “vote of no confidence” in assistant vice president for Penn State Police and Public Safety Charles Noffsinger, the university and its POA are currently negotiating a new collective bargaining deal.

Noffsinger, who was named to the role in 2016 and oversees all facets of Penn State’s police and public safety operations, has the backing of the university despite its police union’s lack of “confidence and faith in [Noffsinger’s] abilities to lead.”

“Noffsinger is currently playing a crucial leadership role in negotiations for a new contract with the police union,” David Gray, the university’s senior vice president for finance and business, said in a press release.

“We support Noffsinger, and do not feel that consideration of a change in the leadership of University Police and Public Safety is appropriate or called for at this time.”

In the “vote of no confidence” letter dated Sept. 4, 2018 that was written to university officials, the POA alleges Noffsinger’s actions have been a detriment to employee morale and adversely affected the relationship between the officers and the community.

The letter stated that of the union’s 125 members, 106 voted on whether or not they have confidence in Noffsinger’s leadership. Of those 106 who voted, 104 voted “no” and requested that he step down.

The POA, which serves as the police union for University Park officers as well as those that serve Penn State’s Commonwealth campuses, cited changes to the work environment since Noffsinger took on the role — creating a system “filled with fear, hostility, and distrust.”

Changes, according to the letter, include the implementation of eight-hour shifts and mandatory overtime, which in some cases have officers working six-day weeks and 12-14 hours on certain days.

The letter claims officer complaints about the setup were dismissed by Noffsinger, who allegedly said “the morale of the officers is not my concern, if working here no longer fits your or your family’s needs, there is the door, nothing is holding you here.”

The POA also addressed an incident from December 2017 that it says demonstrated Noffsinger’s “little respect for the officers.” Following a murder-suicide at Penn State Beaver, the POA claims that Noffsinger and his staff did not arrive to the scene to lend help. Instead, officers on the scene received support from “outside agencies.”

“Our expectations of AVP Noffsinger’s management team would be to at least care enough to respond to that location within a reasonable timeframe of such an incident to lend their support and expertise,” POA president Juan Castro wrote in the letter.

The letter predates the controversy at the Penn State football tailgate lots prior to the White Out game when a state police helicopter was called in to help disperse a “disorderly crowd.”

The use of the helicopter is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and University Police released a statement saying that it would discontinue use of a helicopter for crowd announcements at football games pending further review.

In response to the letter, Gray stated that the addressed issues will be dealt with in contract negotiations. The university has stressed patience in dealing with the process of forming a new agreement with the POA.

“We also take employees’ expressed concerns seriously. It should be noted, however, that many of the issues identified in communications from the union are the subject of bargaining, and we believe the bargaining process is the proper forum in which to address these issues,” Gray said in the release.

Steve Connelly is a staff writer for Onward State.
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