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New state police barrack commander named

March 04, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Lt. Gerald Smith missed the day-to-day excitement of running a police station when he asked for a transfer to the Chambersburg barrack of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Smith has 30 years of experience with the state police under his belt, most recently serving as patrol section commander for Troop H in Harrisburg, Pa., for 14 months.

However, that administrative role took him out of the duties he'd grown accustomed to in his earlier police work, including nine years as station commander at the York, Pa., barrack.

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"I missed being down in the station and said I'd go down to Chambersburg," he said. "I wasn't around the nuts-and-bolts police work."

Smith's transfer to Chambersburg as station commander was effective Feb. 1, and in the last month he said he has learned it is a hardworking station.

"It is busier than York because the station covers more of the county than York," he said.

State police in Franklin County respond to incidents in 14 townships. Only the boroughs and Washington Township have their own police departments.

Smith, 55, said he did not come to the barrack with any particular goals in mind.

"I came in to see if anything needs to be fixed or tweaked," he said. "I don't see how I can improve. These guys do an excellent job."

Smith said, however, he expects things may get bumpy in the second half of the year as Chambersburg is affected by a statewide plan to regionalize dispatch centers.

Each police barrack currently dispatches calls on site, but five years ago the state began a plan to switch to five regional centers that will be up and running by the end of 2004.

Chambersburg's calls will come from the center under construction north of Harrisburg. It is slated to come on line by the end of the year.

"Our training for this will start in July or August," Smith said.

The other dispatch centers will be near Norristown, Pa., Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Greensburg, Pa., and Erie, Pa.

He said it is another piece in the puzzle to streamline communications in the state police system. In the last few years, all troopers have had computers installed in their cars, which allow them to receive information through e-mail rather than over the radio.

Smith entered the police academy after earning a degree in education. His career has taken him from Washington, Pa., to Hazleton, Pa., York and other parts of the state.

"I really enjoy seeing the job get done and cases going to court and prosecuted," he said. "I like to see people get their justice."

Smith said once he's settled in, he will ride along with troopers from time to time to get out in the community, in addition to attending municipal meetings once a month.

Prior to Smith's transfer, Sgt. James Brown served as acting station commander since last summer, when Lt. Lynn Hess was shifted to Harrisburg.

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