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Editor's Voice: Still a great choice for chief

Posted 8/12/14

John Bey would be a great choice for Middletown’s next police chief. He’s a 25-year veteran of the Pennsylvania State Police, where he served on the force’s Special Emergency Response Team – a kind of uber-SWAT team, with sharpshooters and …

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Editor's Voice: Still a great choice for chief

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John Bey would be a great choice for Middletown’s next police chief. He’s a 25-year veteran of the Pennsylvania State Police, where he served on the force’s Special Emergency Response Team – a kind of uber-SWAT team, with sharpshooters and negotiators – and directed its bureau for training and education.

He’s a military veteran – 28 years in the Air Force Reserves – who seems to have the temperament to deliver the “180-degree’’ turnaround he believes the Middletown police department needs.

So we hope a political end-around by some members of Middletown Borough Council won’t taint his hiring on Monday, Aug. 18, the date that council is scheduled to vote on a new chief. It would appear the job is his if he wants it. His most impressive challenger, Travis Thickstun, a corporal with the Indiana State Excise Police Force, withdrew his name from consideration on Aug. 6, hours after council’s public safety committee, the three-member committee of councilors who interviewed finalists for the position, voted to recommend Bey – with one councilor who had favored Thickstun absent.

Mayor James H. Curry III, who was included in the committee’s work but had no vote, also was absent. The meeting went on as scheduled anyway. The 2-0 vote to recommend Bey was legal, at an advertised public meeting – though perhaps not as gracious and good-willed as the committee’s previous attempts to work around a previous absence of one member of the majority.

Political maneuvering? Perhaps. There’s no absence of petty politics in any small town, or on any level of government. Middletown certainly is no exception.

The process of choosing a new police chief had been going so well. The committee invited Curry to sit in. After private interviews with three finalists – Bey, Thickstun and Steve Mazzaro, a former chief in Sunbury – the Top Three were asked additional questions in a public meeting, then presented to residents for questions. Both Bey and Thickstun were impressive. Mazzaro declined, and his refusal to answer questions from residents and reporters did not inspire enthusiasm for his candidacy on social media.

It’s no wonder, then, that Bey and Thickstun were the front-runners. And when the time came for the committee to deliberate and choose a candidate to recommend to the full council, the process suddenly turned from public relations coup to political gamesmanship.

Believe what you will about the intent, but the committee vote should not tarnish the gleam of Bey’s candidacy. Even with Councilor Scott Sites, the committee member who supported Thickstun, present for the vote, the committee would have recommended Bey anyway. It will be up to the full council to decide ultimately; while the committee’s recommendation might carry some clout with councilors, they ultimately will decide whether or not to give it weight.

 

Bey brings some good ideas – a citizens’ advisory committee and a commitment to work with Penn State Harrisburg, whose students are living in the borough in greater numbers each year. Councilor Robert Louer, one of the two committee members who voted to recommend him, called him “more than qualified,’’ an accurate assessment. After Thickstun’s withdrawal – professional courtesy, we expect, when he didn’t receive the committee’s recommendation – Sites said he would support the nomination of Bey for the job. 

 

Bey doubtless will be undeterred by any controversy the committee vote may invite – he told the public after his interview that he’s kept abreast of the goings-on in the borough through media reports. “I understand that it is a beehive I would be coming into,’’ Bey said after his interview with the committee. “You just have to give me some time.’’

“I’m not from Middletown, I’m not beholden to anybody and I don’t owe anybody favors ... there will be no hidden agendas,’’ he said. We believe him.

    

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