Armed state constables patrolling the area of the latest pipeline sinkhole in West Whiteland flashed their badges to county detectives, according to District Attorney Tom Hogan.
"Very disturbing to have hired muscle showing up in Chester County to threaten and bully our citizens," Hogan said. "We had prior complaints from the homeowners that the constables were keeping the homeowners off their own property."
The guards admitted they're being paid as private security by the pipeline operator, Hogan said. Not only that — in Pennsylvania, constables are elected or appointed to serve in a county, and these weren't local.
"A constable from Northumberland County has absolutely no legal authority in Chester County," he said, which is in central Pennsylvania, "and no basis to be flashing a badge at anybody. He just happened to get caught because we sent a detective out."
An official with the constables association said it's legal for one of these uniformed law officers to be hired privately as peacekeepers anywhere in the commonwealth, as long as they're protecting the rights of all parties — in this case, Energy Transfer Partners and the homeowners.
He added that the constables told county detectives they would no longer be acting in an official capacity. Hogan is speaking with his counterpart in Northumberland County about what happened.
Sunoco's parent company, Energy Transfer Partners, said in a statement the residents requested the security to deal with privacy and trespassing concerns.
"We have engaged security on Lisa Drive at the request of the impacted homeowners to restrict access to their property as they were concerned not only with protecting their privacy, but the possibility of people trespassing on their property," said spokesperson Lisa Dillinger. "I will decline to discuss any further details of our security efforts, beyond that we do use security on our projects as needed to ensure the safety of our employees, our assets and those who live in the area."