After ending impasse with officer on leave, city expected to vote Monday on new chief
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
In a continuing effort to resolve problems with morale and litigation in its police department, Coatesville City Council is expected to vote Monday to hire a new police chief – for the second time in less than two months.
The city also recently finalized a retirement agreement with Sgt. Chris McEvoy, a longtime member of the department who had been on paid administrative leave for well over a year.
“The settlement recognizes Sgt. McEvoy’s long and honorable service to the community,” his attorney, Joseph P. Green Jr., said Thursday. Coatesville City Manager Kirby Hudson could not be reached for comment.
The police-chief vote, expected to occur at Monday’s 3 p.m. reorganization meeting, will cap a circuitous search that began this past summer when Hudson accepted the recommendation of a respected search committee and selected State Police Major John “Jack” W. Laufer as his choice for police chief.
Laufer withdrew his name after a contentious City Council meeting that resulted in a 3-1 vote, which failed to approve him because it did not represent a majority of the seven-member group. The search committee reconvened and presented a second well-qualified candidate to Hudson: Stephen T. Johnson, a former deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department.
Johnson was approved by City Council in November and sworn in Dec. 10, a day before he received a medical diagnosis that eventually prompted him to resign, Hudson said.
Hudson said last week that he was “guardedly optimistic” that Laufer would be approved this time and that he anticipated a Jan. 14 swearing-in.
In September, many members of law enforcement expressed frustration when Laufer was not hired, suggesting that the city, in desperate need of strong police leadership, had been fortunate that he applied. They said the city was even luckier that a second candidate with stellar credentials surfaced.
The police-chief vacancy in Coatesville dates back to July when the city’s former chief, Julius M. Canale, ended his day-to-day contract with the city after taking an early-retirement option in May. Since then, the city has generated criticism for its delay in finding a permanent leader for a department that has been plagued with litigation.
One of the suits was filed by Officer Amy W. Nicholl, who was on administrative leave for over a year during an internal investigation into a sexual relationship she had with McEvoy, a relationship both said was consensual.
The internal probe widened into a criminal investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office after Nicholl’s cellphone was seized by Coatesville police and then returned to her without its data card. Nicholl’s attorneys have accused department superiors, including Canale, of deliberately losing the SIM card because it contained incriminating messages from them to Nicholl, who returned to the job in October.
A suit filed in September 2011 by four minority officers alleging racial prejudice in the department settled out of court, but another suit alleging racial discrimination filed in June by Coatesville Cpl. Larry Cooper is still pending. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III rejected the bulk of the city’s argument that the complaint should be dismissed.