Coatesville’s new police chief eager to get started

He will begin new post day after he retires from state police

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times

The Coatesville Police Department has been without a permanent leader since former Chief Julius M. Canale retired last spring.

Buoyed by “unilateral support” of the entire City Council, Coatesville’s new police chief says he doesn’t want to waste any time in getting started.

State Police Major John “Jack” W. Laufer, who was approved 7-0 by City Council at its Monday afternoon reorganization meeting, said he plans to begin working on Jan. 19, the day after he retires from the state police.

“The city and the Police Department have been without a chief long enough; it is time to move forward,” he said.

The unanimous vote to hire Laufer came after a vote to accept the resignation of Stephen T. Johnson, a former deputy commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department who was hired less than two months ago but was unable to perform the job for health reasons.

The vote marked a dramatic difference from the contentious meeting in September when Laufer was presented to City Council as the top candidate. He withdrew his name after a divisive, 3 ½-hour meeting that resulted in a 3-1 tally, which failed to approve him because it did not represent a majority of the seven-member group.

A search committee reconvened and identified Johnson as another well-qualified candidate.  He was approved by City Council in November and sworn in Dec. 10 but has not been on the job.

City Manager Kirby Hudson said Tuesday that Laufer will be sworn in at the Jan. 14 City Council meeting, will complete his last week with the state police, and will report to Coatesville on Jan. 19, a Saturday, to set up his office and begin getting acclimated.

Hudson said Laufer’s readiness “to roll up his sleeves” bodes well for returning pride and professionalism to the department, which has been plagued by litigation and understaffing. “It’s a great attitude,” said Hudson. “I have all the confidence that he’s going to be a perfect fit for that job.”

Hudson said several area municipalities had expressed interest in hiring Laufer. He said when it appeared that Johnson would not be able to keep the job, Hudson reached out to Laufer over the holidays. “I’m glad my instincts led me down the right path,” Hudson said. “We are very fortunate to get someone of his calibre … very fortunate.”

Laufer, who has had a distinguished career with the station police, headed  the Lancaster state police barracks the day that Charles Roberts bound 10 young girls at the West Nichol Mines School and then opened fire, killing five.Laufer was widely praised for his handling of the tragedy. Most recently, he has directed the state police Bureau of Training and Education, overseeing new recruits.


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  1. James Dockett says:

    I’m not sure how much expierence Mr. Lauffer has working in an urban environment. There is a far cry from Omish Country to the city. I wish him the best of luck. Transitioning from a predominately rural area to the city in itself will be a challenge, I hope we don’t expect results immediately.

  2. mike says:

    I am so happy that we have a man with high caliber as chief of police. Maybe we can start cleaning up the town and getting back to business. Welcome aboard Chief Laufer.

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