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Editor's Voice: The vote for police chief includes a touch of class

Perhaps the most striking thing about Middletown Borough Council’s hiring of Pennsylvania State Police captain John Bey as the borough’s next police chief is that the decision was unanimous.

No matter what you think about the move by two councilors on a committee that screened and interviewed candidates for the job to vote on recommending Bey without a third member and Mayor James H. Curry III present, you should be glad that politics did not get in the way of hiring such a qualified person to such an important job.

The unanimous, 9-0 vote for Bey at a council meeting on Monday, Aug. 18 – and the standing ovation given to him by all members of council – was a classy move that gave the occasion an even more optimistic glow.

Bey still must undergo a Civil Service Commission examination and a polygraph test, and needs to be certified by the state as a municipal police officer and gain his honorable discharge from the state police to officially retire from the force. He could be on the job in Middletown within a month.

His law enforcement experience – 25 years as a state trooper – and his military experience (he’s a senior master sergeant in the Air Force Reserve) is impressive.

His willingness to talk to the public during the interview process was encouraging. And the fact that he has offered to work in Middletown for no benefits – just a salary that will not be more than $72,500 – is incredible. Middletown is lucky.

The only issue that some might find with the hiring is that Bey, who has recently built a house in Susquehanna Twp., is not a borough resident. Under borough ordinances, council can waive a borough requirement that Bey live in Middletown for 15 months, and grant extensions if it chooses. At least one councilor has expressed a desire to reconsider that requirement. Certainly 15 months should be ample time for the community to determine if Bey is worthy of a pass on that requirement.

We imagine that council and the mayor will handle disagreements about the process – was the committee vote a political end-around to assure a desired result? – among themselves. The vote by the committee was taken with Councilor Scott Sites and Curry, a participant in the interviews, absent, guaranteeing that there would be no public deliberation among those responsible for recommending a candidate for the post. That  is disappointing.

But it did not hurt the borough’s chances of getting a great candidate, and residents should be happy with the hiring.

It’s also worth noting that Steelton Borough Council hired a longtime borough police officer, Sgt. John King, as its next police chief on Monday, Aug. 18 by a 4-0 vote. A 24-year veteran of the Steelton force, King had been serving as acting chief while council conducted a search for a chief.

Council member Brian Proctor called him “an asset to the community since he started here.’’

Good luck to both new chiefs.