Mount Joy Borough officials lifted restrictions on police overtime and approved the hiring of a new police chief on Monday, March 3, after hearing discussions on recent staffing issues within the department.
Council members agreed to hire Kevin Girling, a Lieutenant with the York City Police Department, as chief of the Mount Joy Borough Police Department at a salary of $85,000 following a mid-meeting executive session to discuss the matter.
Girling, who is still working in York, will need to sign an employment agreement before officially joining the Mount Joy department , no later than April 1.
"Thank you to everybody who helped with the process," council member William Hall said. "We put a lot of hours in, a lot of meetings, a lot of feedback from the public, and I'm very confident that this is going to work out."
Girling served in the York City Police Department for more than 29 years as lieutenant in several divisions, including the investigative services division, training and administration division, and most recently the field operation division.
Girling has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from York College, and a master’s degree in homeland security from the American Military University.
The Mount Joy Borough Police Department has been operating without a chief for almost 19 months, after borough council placed former Police Chief John O'Connell on leave to investigate undisclosed allegations made against him.
O'Connell rejoined the force six months later after being demoted to sergeant. He has since retired.
"There has been a fairly rapid transition of leadership over the last 10 years which affected morale," Mayor Tim Bradley said in a phone interview Sunday, March 9.
"What Mount Joy is really looking for is long-term stability and guidance,” he said. “Having a person in that position will help move the department forward and help the department heal from incidents that adversely impacted morale.”
Bradley said the new hire might also help to alleviate staffing issues that have recently plagued the police department.
In December 2013, when the borough faced a $400,000 budget gap, council made significant cuts to the police department, including downsizing the officer complement from 10 patrol officers and two detectives to nine patrol officers and one detective.
The detective, Joseph Goody, also ran the department as Officer In Charge while the department was without a chief.
At the March 3 meeting, members of the public, mayor Bradley, and OIC Goody raised concerns about police safety during shifts where only one officer was on duty.
"Officers are in danger at current staffing levels," Goody said in an interview after the meeting. "If it was up to me, I would never have less than two on a shift."
Bradley said that officers expressed to him that they wanted at least two officers on shift over the weekend because they were concerned about safety.
Although most weekends there are at least two officers on shift, Valentines Day weekend last month had only one officer on duty.
In December, council also reduced the police overtime budget from Goody's recommended $56,000 to $35,000, along with a directive that restricts the use of police overtime to court cases, standby for court cases, callout, and events authorized by the Mayor.
That directive came under fire at the March 3 meeting, when Bradley told council that the directive was too restrictive and could have resulted in police shifts going uncovered.
Bradley told council that there were five 12-hour shifts in February that would have had no police coverage if he hadn't authorized the use of overtime.
Those shifts were after two separate incidents left three officers injured and unavailable for work. One incident involved Officer Jason Smith, who was struck by a car while directing traffic.
"What I believe that most of the citizens expect, and what they believe we're getting, is 24-hour police protection for the tax dollars that they're paying," Bradley said at the meeting. "If we're not systemically putting that into place, then I think we have an obligation to tell the citizens that that's not what they're getting."
Bradley urged council to reconsider their policy on police overtime to avoid having shifts go uncovered.
"I think that putting the restriction on (overtime), probably isn't the best thing," council member Hall said. "We've got to let the mayor be the mayor…. and the police chief be the police chief. We control the purse strings of the police department, but controlling the management was probably not the intent of the borough code."
Council ultimately voted to reverse December's motion to restrict overtime usage, but asked for monthly police staffing reports to gather data for next year's budget.
Bradley told council that he is looking at finding cost-effective ways to manage the department and that gathering data would ensure appropriate management.
"I'm committed to that this year and ensuring that happens," Bradley said at the meeting. "So that there are no personalities involved, it just comes down to the numbers."