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Two new police officers hired in Lower Swatara as Vargo is sworn in as chief

Posted 1/9/19

With one hand on the Bible, Jeffrey Vargo was sworn in as the new Lower Swatara chief of police by Magisterial District Judge Michael Smith on Jan. 2.

“I’d like the officers of Lower …

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Two new police officers hired in Lower Swatara as Vargo is sworn in as chief

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With one hand on the Bible, Jeffrey Vargo was sworn in as the new Lower Swatara chief of police by Magisterial District Judge Michael Smith on Jan. 2.

“I’d like the officers of Lower Swatara Township to know that I’m honored to be their chief of police,” Vargo said. “I look forward to continuing to move the agency in a positive direction while reducing crime, ensuring the safety of our citizens and building community trust through transparent actions and positive engagement.”

Vargo’s first day was Jan. 2. He told the Press & Journal that he had been looking to become chief of police, and knew of Lower Swatara’s police department’s reputation of being professional and distinguished, in part because he had worked as a patrol officer at Lower Swatara for several months early on in his career.

Vargo said he wanted to stay in Dauphin County and was comfortable with other agencies in the county.

“The timing was perfect,” he said.

Smith said he’s known Vargo for more than 20 years while Vargo served at the Susquehanna Township Police Department in a number of roles, including deputy chief most recently.

“You’re getting a very good man here for chief of police,” Smith said.

He said as a township resident, he was interested in how the department runs.

Working with Lower Swatara police, Smith said, has shown him that the department has good officers.

Commissioners hired Vargo, who is originally from Erie, on  Dec. 20. Township Manager Betsy McBride told the Press & Journal that his salary will be $90,000.

Vargo said he was honored to be appointed chief of police. Changes in leadership are significant for any police department, and people want to be involved in any changes, Vargo said, adding he would listen to recommendations.

“I understand the level of responsibility that it comes with. I assure you that I will do my best to live up to the level of confidence you’ve shown in me, and I will represent you, the citizens and the officers of the department with honor and integrity,” Vargo said.

Everyone has a vested interest in the police department’s success, Vargo said.

He said police would work with the community, be visible in the schools and continue to improve their services.

He thanked his family for their support of his career as well as his colleagues.

After Chief Richard Brandt retired from the Lower Swatara Police Department in 2016, the township restructured the department so that it was led by a public safety director, Frank Williamson Jr., who left in 2017.

On Jan. 2, The board also hired two new police officers, Derek Weinoldt and Timothy Shea, bringing the number of officers to 16.

According to Vargo, both Weinoldt and Shea graduated from the police academy in 2018. They will join the department as patrol officers.

Vargo said this is their first police position. Weinoldt is from East Petersburg and graduated from Hempfield High School. Shea is from Hummelstown and was homeschooled.

Both of them are working on completing their associate’s degree, Vargo said.

The township had budgeted for one of the police officer positions and the other will replace Detective Ryan Gartland, who resigned effective Jan. 6. Gartland told the Press & Journal that he was leaving to join the Swatara Police Department.

Board President Jon Wilt recently told the Press & Journal that a new detective likely would be chosen from within the department once Vargo started.

In November, Commissioner Michael Davies said the budget, which was approved by the board in December, included funds for a new officer in 2019. However, Wilt said that hiring new personnel wasn’t a given just because it was in the budget.

Vargo said he didn’t anticipate a new officer coming on in the foreseeable future because he wanted to collect data to examine the number of officers needed.

Additionally, the board hired Jennifer Mott, who Vargo said is from Mechanicsburg, as the new police department administrative assistant, replacing Kendra Riley, who resigned in September.

All three new employees started Jan. 7.

McBride said Mott’s salary will be $36,000, and Weinoldt and Shea will make $24.42 an hour.