Town Bars Police Athletic League from Using Local Facilities over Background Check Oversights

By Michael Klazema on 2/21/2014

A branch of the National Police Athletic League based in Phillipsburg, New Jersey has come under fire for insufficient background checks. The Police Athletic League (or PAL) is an organization that allows members of police departments all over the country to mentor youth boys and girls, whether by coaching sports teams or helping out with homework or other school-related activities. The goal of Police Athletic Leagues, regardless of the towns in which they are based, is to bring about positive youth enrichment and to keep young kids from turning to drugs and/or other negative influences

Such was the goal of the Phillipsburg Police Athletic League as well. However, after it was alleged that some members of the organization had not undergone background checks, the future of the Phillipsburg Police Athletic League is a bit questionable. Town officials, including Phillipsburg mayor Harry Wyant, were upset enough about the background check oversight that they recently went as far as to strip the local PAL chapter of a wide range of privileges. For instance, members of the league will no longer be protected under the town's liability insurance policy. Even worse for the Police Athletic League, volunteers from the organization will no longer be permitted to utilize local facilities to coach sports teams or otherwise work with local youths.

According to Mayor Wyant, Phillipsburg has an ordinance designed specifically to enforce background checks of coaches and other town volunteers who work with teenagers and young kids. By allowing several volunteers to be a part of PAL without background checks, the Police Athletic League has infringed upon the trust of the town and will be punished accordingly. In addition to the loss of privileges, the leaders of the Phillipsburg PAL chapter have been asked to resign from their positions to quell local outrage.

Tom Carlson, The president of the organization, told local newspaper The Express-Times that he resigned from his post with PAL a month ago for reasons unrelated to the current background check controversy. The vice president, on the other hand, a man named Wayne Lobb, is not ready to give up the fight. Lobb says that he ran background checks on every member of the organization - himself included - and never put any local youths in harm's way. Town officials have still not given names of PAL volunteers who coached without background checks. Lobb did mention to The Express-Times that he had allowed a local resident to help set up for an event despite the man's history of child abuse. However, the PAL vice president maintained that the resident in question was neither put in close contact with local youths nor given any type of coaching responsibilities.

The town of Phillipsburg is working toward a resolution in this matter. For his part, Mayor Wyant wants to work out a solution where kids are still allowed to participate in sporting activities. Whether that solution would involve PAL or another set of local volunteers will remain to be seen.


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