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Chief's Corner

John R. Phoennik
Chief of Police
patchBlog is winner of 2019 international MarCom Award

Mar 29

I-79 tolls would burden community

Posted on March 29, 2021 at 10:37 AM by Andrea Iglar

As Chief of Police and a 30-year resident of South Fayette Township, I feel compelled to reach out to the community to share my thoughts regarding the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s proposed toll on Interstate 79.

My top priority is to protect the safety and interests of our citizens, and I do not believe the toll is in the community’s best interest.

Professionally and personally, I have many concerns about the proposed toll, which would fund a project at the Bridgeville/South Fayette interchange that could start as soon as 2023.

A toll would significantly increase traffic in an area that already is heavily congested. Our police department, township staff and elected township commissioners have worked tirelessly to alleviate and improve existing traffic problems within the I-79/Washington Pike corridor, while also working to increase and support commercial and residential growth.

The toll would cause many motorists to exit the highway seeking alternate routes to avoid the toll, worsening congestion, impacting safety and causing additional wear-and-tear on our local roads.

Additionally, a toll would place an unfair burden on local taxpayers, forcing local residents, businesses and employees to pay more than their fair share for access to a highway area traversed by at least 87,000 vehicles a day—12 percent of them trucks.

Charging a toll also could discourage businesses and residents who are looking to move here, despite the great schools, parks, neighborhoods and other community amenities.

PennDOT has chosen nine locations throughout the state to place tolls. The I-79 Bridgeville/South Fayette location is the only toll proposed in Allegheny County and the only toll on the entire length of I-79. Why was our community chosen to shoulder this additional cost? Is it because South Fayette Township is one of the fastest growing areas in the state? Is it because this area has had an uptick in vehicular traffic and would therefore generate more revenue?

We must think about these serious questions and demand answers.

The time for residents to speak out is now.

Here’s how to share your opinion with PennDOT about the proposed I-79 toll:
  • Website (scroll to bottom of page for feedback form)
  • Email
  • Phone:412-297-4088
  • Mail: I-79 Widening, Bridges and Bridgeville Interchange Reconfiguration Project, 301 Grant St Floor 17, Pittsburgh, PA 15219

John R. Phoennik
Oct 14

Body-worn cameras now in use to protect citizens and police

Posted on October 14, 2020 at 8:26 AM by Andrea Iglar

This week, the South Fayette Township Police Department is beginning the use of body-worn cameras.

Each of our 20 police officers will be wearing a camera to provide an audiovisual record of interactions between citizens and officers.

There are many reasons I felt it necessary and beneficial to implement this program for our community.

Having our officers record their actions with the public not only ensures transparency but also protects everyone involved from undue scrutiny. Even though video recordings don’t always show the entire incident, they often can assist by showing the majority of an event in a fair, balanced manner.

National statistics have found that when officers and citizens know they are being recorded, both parties generally behave more politely and courteously. Also, serious incidents may deescalate when body-worn cameras are in use. This helps protect both citizens and police from any unnecessary injury or legal issues.

Officers normally will advise anyone they interact with that they are being recorded. Each of our officers has been trained to remain sensitive to the dignity of all individuals being recorded and to exercise discretion when privacy outweighs any legitimate law enforcement interests in recording.

It is the department’s intent to be transparent and accountable for our officers’ actions at all times. Our body-worn camera policy is designed to ensure that these objectives are met and followed by all members of the police department.

We obtained the body-worn camera equipment through a $19,000 matching grant from the federal Bureau of Justice, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. The grant paid for half of the $38,000 program cost, which includes 25 cameras, officer training, a new server and other equipment.

We as a community must invest and work together to make South Fayette the best and safest community that we can be. This body-worn camera program is another step toward ensuring our township continues to grow in the right direction.


John R. Phoennik
Chief of Police
South Fayette Township
Jun 03

Police value transparency and respect for all citizens

Posted on June 3, 2020 at 11:43 AM by Andrea Iglar

Recently I have received several inquiries from residents about the South Fayette Township Police Department’s philosophy regarding training, transparency and accountability in light of serious issues facing communities across the country such as excessive use of force and racial discrimination.

South Fayette Township believes in hiring and training law enforcement professionals who uphold the values of community policing, transparency and respect for all citizens.

I believe it all starts with recruiting and hiring the proper people to serve as police officers. Candidate vetting includes an in-depth background check, polygraph exam, medical and psychological testing, and written and oral exams. Our department also reviews applicants’ social media posts and comments.

The nature of law enforcement requires continual adjustment to a myriad of ever-changing challenges, threats and obstacles. But one thing remains constant at all times, regardless of how difficult things become: We always strive to follow the South Fayette Police Department’s mission of serving the community and stay true to our oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and protect the people we serve.

Since becoming police chief in August 2014, I have made it my mission to serve the community of South Fayette and create a culture that is transparent and community oriented. I have implemented programs like Coffee with the Chief and Cup with a Cop, along with many other community-based programs that foster positive interactions between citizens and officers. We aren’t just faces in a patrol car; we care for this community.

To continue our culture of transparency, our department will be begin the use of body-worn cameras later this year. Along with our in-car cameras, body-worn cameras assist the police administration with monitoring officer and civilian behavior, which in turn helps determine how we need to improve or what type of training we should emphasize moving forward.

Our department also monitors and records any use-of-force incidents and works to ensure officers follow our policies that govern appropriate levels of force. After any critical incident, officers conduct a debrief that is documented and made available to all officers to review. This again assists us with learning what was done right and what we need to improve upon.

These are turbulent times. Through it all, I would like to ensure all South Fayette residents that our police department will continue to serve and protect its residents and will always be adapting to ever-changing challenges.

For more information about our mission and community programs, please visit the South Fayette police webpage.


John R. Phoennik
Chief of Police
South Fayette Township