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Lower Swatara Police Department plans to hire three officers

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 3/7/18

Lower Swatara is searching for new three police officers to join the police department.

The township was initially searching for two officers. During a meeting Feb. 7, the board unanimously …

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Lower Swatara Police Department plans to hire three officers

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Lower Swatara is searching for new three police officers to join the police department.

The township was initially searching for two officers. During a meeting Feb. 7, the board unanimously accepted the resignation of Officer Scott Flowers, whose resignation was effective Jan. 19, raising the search number from two to three.

Lower Swatara Police Department Acting Police Chief Scott Young said that Flowers had served with the department since 2008 as a patrol officer.

Hiring three officers will put the number of officers in the department up to 15, and Young said he hoped to hire additional officers next year.

“When we were at the heaviest, there were 17 officers including the chief of police,” Young said.

There are challenges to not being at full force, Young said, particularly if there are numerous calls or if someone is sick or on vacation. Officers work extra shifts to cover the lack of manpower, Young said.

Having a full staff, he said, would reduce the number of overtime shifts which will ultimately save Lower Swatara money.

“We’re always going to have overtime, but we don’t want to have it where it’s a financial strain on the township,” Board President Jon Wilt said.

How does the township select its police force? In December, Young told the Board of Commissioners that 44 letters were sent out to people who met the requirements of Act 120, which requires that any person employed as a municipal police offer to have completed a police work course. Young said that they received 11 applications back.

According to Lower Swatara Interim Manager Frank Lynch, the Civil Service Commission reviews resumes and issues disqualification letters if the candidate is not a fit. During this search process, one of the commission members, Edward Mentzer, passed away in January 2017.

An alternate was brought in to make up a quorum of the commission, and in January 2018, the board unanimously appointed a new member to fill Mentzer’s position and an additional alternate.

Interviews for the six candidates were scheduled over two weeks. Then, Young said, the detectives will conduct background checks, rank the candidates and send the contenders to be interviewed by the Board of Commissioners.

On Feb. 21, Young told the board that one interview was complete and other interviews were set up.

The  process was expected to take three to four weeks in total.

The township is also still searching for a public safety director.

The position has been vacant since former manager Frank Williamson resigned in July 2017 after serving as manager for three months.

Public safety director is in charge of the administrative and operational duties for the police department, coordinates Lower Swatara’s emergency preparedness and acts as a liaison to the volunteer fire department and EMS.

Williamson was Lower Swatara’s assistant township manager and public safety director since August 2016. After becoming manager, Williamson continued to act as public safety director until a new administrator was hired.

Wilt said that the board was still actively searching and doing its due diligence, adding that there were several things in flux at the moment.

“No one wants to make a rash decision,” he said in February.

Board approves protective equipment

The board unanimously approved nine protective vests for police officers.

The vests will be outfitted with a radio holder, a pouch to hold two rifle magazines and a tourniquet pouch. The vests, accessories and reimbursement for two already-purchased vests would cost approximately $4,400.

According to Young, everyday police gear weighs approximately 27 pounds and has a five-year warranty.

“There aren’t too many of us who don’t have lower back problems,” he said.

The new vests contain ceramic plates, which Young said would be able to stop a riffle round — something the current vests are unable to do. Young recently saw a demonstration of the vests’ durability. The plates were able to withstand five armor-piercing rounds and up to 22 rounds from an assault rifle.

The vests would be placed in 10 squad cars and one at Middletown Area High School for the school resource officer.