Police-chief search group set to interview candidate

Coatesville’s interim police chief expresses interest in keeping job

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

Coatesville Interim Police Chief James Bell said he plans to seek the permanent position.

A meeting between Coatesville’s police-chief search committee and a top candidate will be held next week, City Manager Kirby A. Hudson said Monday night.

Speaking after the City Council session, Hudson said the meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 31, and open to the media, will enable the candidate to interact with the entire search committee. Hudson said the candidate’s name surfaced during discussions with the law-enforcement members of the committee, who are essentially serving as recruiters.

Interviewed before Monday night’s meeting, Interim Police Chief James Bell said  that he plans to apply for the permanent position. Bell, a former director of public safety at Cheyney University, has been the acting chief since August. The vacancy was created when the city’s former chief, Julius M. Canale, took an early-retirement option.

“I want to keep doing the job I was hired to do,” Bell said.

Hudson said he reached out a couple of weeks ago to Greg Cary, the regional external affairs manager for PECO Energy and a former Caln Township police supervisor, who assembled a respected search committee in August.  The group’s highly recommended candidate, State Police Maj. John “Jack” W. Laufer III, withdrew his name after a divided City Council failed to garner a majority vote to approve him.

Cary said last week that he conferred with the other three law-enforcement members of the committee – Eugene Dooley, police chief in East Whiteland Township; Tyree C. Blocker, a retired state police major; and Keith Sadler, Lancaster City’s police chief – about the best way to proceed. Cary said the group agreed to act as executive head-hunters, resulting in the candidate who will be interviewed on Oct. 31.

Hudson said he will not hesitate to recommend that candidate to City Council if the entire committee shares the positive view its law-enforcement segment has expressed. If any snags occur, the recruiting efforts will continue, Hudson said.

The other members of the search committee include Marc Hanlan, a longtime consultant and author who specializes in change management; Harry Lewis Jr., board chairman of the Brandywine Health Foundation; Rev. Randall Harris of Tabernacle Baptist Church; William Lambert, the president of the Coatesville NAACP; and Jack Crans,  Chester County Prison’s chaplain and the founder of two area missions. Council members Joseph Hamrick and C. Arvilla Hunt are non-voting members.

Hunt has been a vocal supporter of Bell, a longtime family friend. Although she has not publicly recommended him for the permanent chief’s position, she has declined comment on whether  she advocates a supervisory role for him under a new chief. Two  council members have stated that she has made that recommendation in executive session.

Shortly after assuming the interim post, Bell elicited a no-confidence vote from the union. It cited Bell’s failure to meet the advertised position’s qualifications: Act 120 certification, which qualifies officers to make an arrest and carry a gun; command experience in a municipality at least as large as Coatesville’s 13,100 residents, or as a supervisor in a department serving at least 30,000; and a bachelor’s degree.

Hudson did not return telephone or email messages about the implications of Bell’s interest in the permanent job.


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