Township Police to add 14th officer

January 05, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

The Washington Township (Pa.) Police Department will be getting an additional officer not long after its chief celebrates his 20th anniversary with the department.

The township supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the hiring of Matthew Schmidt.

A June 2005 graduate of the Montgomery County (Pa.) Community College Municipal Police Academy, Schmidt is expected to start sometime in the next few weeks.

"He had gone through a testing process with the police department. He came across as extremely competent," said Carroll Sturm, who recently was appointed chairman of the supervisors.


Friday marks Police Chief Barry Keller's 20th year as an officer in the township.

About half of the officers there have more than a dozen years experience, while the other half are newer to police service, Keller said.

The veteran officers have trained continually to keep up to date on new types of crimes and technology, Keller said. He said officers recently completed state-mandated training for identity theft and computer-based crimes.

"We have been busier and, of course, we're seeing different types of crimes. That's not just us. That's every police department," said Keller.

Schmidt's hiring will bring Washington Township police to a full authorized complement of 14 officers.

Keller requested two additional officers in October 2005, but the supervisors denied that request and later budgeted one additional officer in the 2006 budget.

Sturm said the supervisors likely will stick with 14, unless they receive information that encourages them to re-examine that choice.

Keller said information released by the U.S. Department of Justice says that for cities with populations between 10,000 and 24,999 people, there were 1.9 officers on the police force for every thousand residents in 2004.

The population of Washington Township is about 13,000.

It is the only township in Franklin County, Pa., with its own police force, Keller said.

The most significant aspect of the recent hire is that it affords the department greater flexibility in scheduling, according to Keller.

The chief said he has only one officer on active duty 14 percent of the time. Others are training, have days off or are in court, he said.

"It takes five people to cover a 24/7 shift," Sturm said.

Schmidt, 32, of Quakertown, Pa., currently works part time as an officer in Dublin Borough in Bucks County.

Keller, 48, wa hired as sergeant of the Washington Township Police Department when there were only five or six officers on the force.

He served as acting chief from the summer of 1997 to the summer of 1999, when he was made the official chief of police. Keller previously worked in Blair and Centre counties.

He and his wife of 26 years, Valerie, have two daughters and live in Washington Township.

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