NORRISTOWN — Concerns about relationships between the police department and community members dominated much of last week’s Norristown Municipal Council public comment.
“I’m an immigrant daughter to immigrant parents from Mexico,” said Norristown resident Jesenia Sanchez. “I’m here today because I’m scared. I’m scared for myself, my parents and my community.”
Along with Sanchez, fellow resident Fernando Feliciano expressed reservations following the departure of Norristown Police Chief Mark Talbot.
“We live in an era where undocumented residents have been unfairly targeted and victims of violence and discrimination on many levels,” Feliciano said.
Talbot recently stepped down from his post from the municipal department earlier this month to take another job leading the force in Hampton, Virginia.
“We would like to thank him [Talbot] for the hard work and dedication that he has given to the community of Norristown during his tenure,” Feliciano said.
“Throughout the past eight years, we have experienced improved relations between our community and the Norristown Police Department,” he continued. “Chief Talbot’s community policing strategies, open door policy and willingness to listen to our concerns have given the Latino community [a] renewed sense of safety and security.”
Lt. Todd Dillon is serving as interim chief while municipal officials conduct a search for a permanent candidate. Several residents urged local leaders to allow for public input in the hiring process.
“We are thankful to have a local policing body who has stood beside us all these years and we hope it continues into the future of Norristown police department,” Feliciano said. “We want to congratulate the new acting police chief Todd Dillon, and we look forward to continued partnership and collaboration with [the] Norristown Police Department.”
Norristown Police Department Lt. Mike Bishop sought to assure community members, stressing that engagement is paramount.
In an interview with The Times Herald following the July 6 council meeting, he said the law enforcement agency is going to “continue with the strategy we have because it’s worked.”
Feliciano and Sanchez also inquired about the municipality’s status as a Sanctuary City.
While Public Information Officer Kevin Tustin clarified that “Norristown is not a Sanctuary City,” he told The Times Herald that the Norristown “Municipal Council has taken the stance on not participating in the immigration detainer process requested by ICE, and that was implemented with the support of NPD under Chief Mark Talbot’s leadership.”
Bishop added that protocol would remain in place as “we absolutely treat everybody the same.”
“We don’t have any preference or changes in heart if a person’s legal or illegal,” Bishop said. “It doesn’t matter to us.”
“The Norristown Police Department’s relationship with our Hispanic and Latinx residents does not change with the departure of Chief Talbot,” said Municipal Administrator Crandall Jones in a statement to The Times Herald.
“Chief Talbot’s excellence in leading the NPD in establishing a positive relationship with the Hispanic and Latinx community was guided by the council’s commitment [to] embracing and celebrating both our diversity and the cultures of all our residents,” he continued. “Nothing has changed about the council’s commitment and the next Norristown police chief will be charged with continuing positive engagement with our Hispanic and Latinx residents.”
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