Coatesville hires Johnson as new police chief

City council votes 6-0 in favor of Philadelphia deputy police commissioner

By Jamie Richard, Staff Writer, The Times

The Coatesville City Council voted unanimously, Tuesday night to hire Stephen T. Johnson (inset) as the city’s new police chief.

COATESVILLE – The city’s long and winding search for a police chief ended last night when city council voted to appoint Deputy Commissioner Stephen Johnson of the Philadelphia Police Department as the city’s new chief.

A motion to appoint Johnson as chief was added to the agenda and approved with a 6-0 vote; Councilperson Jeff LoPrinzi was not in attendance. The vote represented  a smoother process than the failed effort in September to hire State Police Major John “Jack” W. Laufer, which failed when not enough council members were present.

“I think that the stability that he’ll bring is sorely needed,” Council President Dave Collins said after the meeting. “It’ll be a welcome change for the long run.”

City Manager Kirby Hudson stated the council made the decision to appoint Johnson after speaking with him at an executive session held prior to Tuesday’s meeting; Johnson left after the session and was not present during the meeting. Hudson added that both he and the council were impressed with Johnson’s credentials, which includes 35 years of service in the Philadelphia Police Department,

He currently serves as Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Professional Responsibility, the arm of the department that polices itself. Previously, Johnson was Deputy Commissioner for Homeland Security and Domestic Preparedness, supervised the city’s South Division as an inspector, oversaw the Community Affairs Division and commanded the department’s Southwest Division. He plans to retire from his Philadelphia Police Department to assume the Coatesville job. He is both the son and father of Philadelphia Police officers.

“We need someone with that experience to revamp and turn the city around,” said Hudson.

During his job interview — which The Times was allowed to sit in on, on condition of keeping specific details on Johnson private until the hiring process was complete — Johnson was asked why he would be willing to leave such a high position with the Philadelphia Police Department. He indicated that he had run out of room for advancement, but also seemed to suggest he missed more “hands-on” policing, spending much of his time currently as only a manager. He is expected, based on his comments, to be a visible figure in and around Coatesville.

Chief James Bell, who has been serving as the city’s interim chief, said he was happy that the council found a new chief and was willing to help make Johnson’s transition a smooth one.

“I don’t know how long I’ll be here, but I do intend on doing the best I can to help out the new chief,” said Bell.

Both Collins and Hudson admitted that they expected a transitional period for Johnson to familiarize himself with the department.

“I can’t put my hand on a period of time, but normally there is a transition period when we have a different manager or leader coming into a position,” said Collins.

Johnson’s salary is set at $90,000, and he is expected to assume control of the department after approximately 30 days. The council anticipates finalizing his contract prior to the New Year.

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  1. I am so happy that they have hired someone that isn’t related to someone in coatesville. Wish the new chief all the luck in the world.

  2. Matt Baker says:

    Good hire – sad how it played out though. Less drama more sound hirings are needed. This is definitely a good start. Wish the new Chief well.

  3. The vote on Major Laufer failed because Arvilla Hunt allegedly wanted her friend James Bell to remain on as chief.

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