WILKES-BARRE — A day after three members of the news media were threatened with a trespassing citation, city Police Chief Gerry Dessoye said police do not intend to aggressively enforce signs that prohibit pedestrian traffic in a parking lot behind the police station.
Acknowledging the lot is frequently used by pedestrians crossing from South Washington to State streets, Dessoye said police will continue to use their discretion in deciding whether to issue citations. Unless someone is there at an odd hour or appears to be threatening, the public need not worry about being cited.
Three journalists, including a Times Leader reporter, who were attempting to interview Dessoye on Tuesday were initially told they would be cited for trespassing after they passed through the lot, believing the chief had exited a door on State Street. Police later rescinded the citations in lieu of a warning.
The citation threat was not meant to deter or intimidate the reporters, Dessoye said on Wednesday. The officer was just following the law. After further consideration, the decision was made to issue a warning — given the reporters had no ill intentions in mind, he said.
“They obviously were not there to cause damage to city property,” Dessoye said. “I believe they may have been overzealous, but they were there for a legitimate purpose.” Police put signs up restricting access to the lot to dissuade pedestrians, primarily for safety concerns, he said. The lot is very narrow, requiring officers to park vehicles with the front end facing the building. They sometimes must back out quickly, which could put pedestrians in danger.
A secondary issue is that some police officers park their private vehicles there, said Dessoye, and there is concern someone might seek to damage their cars.
“In our line of work,” he said, “we don’t like people snooping around vehicles.”
That seemingly explains why Forty Fort resident Mark Robbins, who was observed while snapping photos in the parking lot at 3 a.m. Sunday, was cited for trespassing. Robbins on Wednesday questioned why he was cited while the news media members were not. Robbins said he went to the lot to get photos of a Dodge Ram truck purportedly being driven by officer John Majikes as part of his plan to expose how some officers have been loaned vehicles by city towing contractor Leo Glodzik III. The truck still has a specialty plate issued to towing operators.
The circumstances surrounding Robbins and the news media members are entirely different, Dessoye said. “He was there at 3 a.m.,” he said. “Officers were concerned for their vehicles and safety.”