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Middletown council appoints Mouchette as permanent chief, promotes sergeants

By Dan Miller, danmiller@pressandjournal.com
Posted 8/7/17

Middletown Borough Council by 6-1 vote during its Aug. 7 meeting appointed George Mouchette as the borough’s new permanent police chief at a salary of $96,000 a year.

Mouchette, a retired New …

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Middletown council appoints Mouchette as permanent chief, promotes sergeants

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Middletown Borough Council by 6-1 vote during its Aug. 7 meeting appointed George Mouchette as the borough’s new permanent police chief at a salary of $96,000 a year.

Mouchette, a retired New York City police detective who has been interim chief since January, will receive no benefits, Council President Damon Suglia said. “It’s just straight salary.”

The borough has been paying Mouchette $60,000 a year with no benefits and no 401(k) since Mouchette was appointed as interim chief by Mayor James H. Curry III to replace the last permanent chief, John Bey, who resigned in late December.

Councilor Diana McGlone cast the lone dissenting vote, saying that she objected to the salary that Mouchette would be paid, not to Mouchette himself.

Council also promoted to sergeant two current Middletown Police Department patrol officers, Scott Yoder and Dennis Morris. Council also approved making Tyler Zehring a full-time permanent patrol officer, following Zehring having successfully completed a one-year probation.

The votes for Yoder and Zehring were unanimous. McGlone abstained on the vote promoting Morris to sergeant.

Suglia said that the borough looked at salaries being paid to police chiefs by other municipalities in the region.

“We came to the conclusion that this would be a fair salary for both the borough and the chief,” Suglia said.

Including Mouchette, the borough has had six acting, interim or “permanent” police chiefs since February 2012, when Keith Reismiller resigned after a 15-year stint as top cop.

Bey served in the post for two years and almost three months - a relatively lengthy stint compared to the track record since Reismiller’s departure.

“We are tired of the revolving door of the chief of police here in Middletown,” Suglia said. “Chief Mouchette has proved himself a worthy candidate who is perfectly capable of doing the job. All of us here in Middletown put our trust in him, and we feel good about our decision and the salary that we offered him.”

Curry noted that the borough was paying Reismiller $97,448 back in January 2012.

“Paying Chief Mouchette $96,000 is reasonable, it’s fair, it’s what a man of his talent deserves,” Curry said. “You were paying somebody that years ago. The cost of living goes up, the price of talent goes up, I’m fully comfortable giving him that salary. You get what you pay for, or you lose what you don’t pay for.”

Yoder and Morris were among three full-time patrol officers who had scored high enough in written and oral exams to be certified as eligible to be promoted to sergeant by the borough civil service commission.

The third officer who was eligible, Patrolman James Bennett, scored higher than Morris. Yoder scored the highest of the three.

Council’s decision to promote Yoder and Morris to the two sergeant positions currently available was based upon the recommendations of Mouchette and Curry, Suglia said.

Bennett, a Middletown police officer since 2006, had been a sergeant and was acting chief in 2014 from when Steven Wheeler resigned as chief in April until Bey took over in October.

Bennett was suspended and demoted to patrolman after being charged with summary disorderly conduct and public drunkenness during an off-duty party in the borough on Dec. 24, 2015.

Bennett successfully completed ARD in Dauphin County Court and returned to duty in 2016.

The borough fired Morris in 2014, but an arbitrator ruled in May 2015 that the borough had no grounds to fire Morris. Council voted to reinstate Morris to the force in November 2015, after a Dauphin County judge rejected the borough’s petition to set aside the arbitrator’s decision.

Besides back pay, Morris was awarded an additional $52,000 by the borough to settle a federal lawsuit that Morris had brought against the borough regarding his firing in 2014.

Following council’s action promoting Yoder and Morris to sergeant, Curry praised Morris as “a workhorse.”

“That’s the type of person that we want overseeing everybody else on the force, so I’m excited to have him as sergeant,” Curry said of Morris.

Regarding Yoder, Curry said that he has been “quite impressed” with Yoder’s development since Curry became mayor in January 2014.

“He is going to make an excellent sergeant, and this is the type of opportunity that he needed and deserves. I have the utmost faith that he will do an excellent job,” Curry said.

Promoting officers to sergeants is something that both former Chief Bey and Mouchette have long said is needed to bring supervision and accountability to the department, the mayor noted.

Yoder, already the department armorer, will be placed in charge of logistics; which will also include responsibility for supply and for maintaining department vehicles and bicycles.

Morris will head operations, which will include patrol functions, the investigative arm of patrol, and the department's computer systems.

Each sergeant will also have two shift supervisors, meaning that every single shift will have a supervisor present at all times, Mouchette has said.

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