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New police chief for Lower Swatara; Vargo will move over from Susquehanna Township department

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 12/19/18

Lower Swatara Township is set to hire a new police chief today.

The board of commissioners is scheduled to vote on Jeffrey Vargo, who is the Susquehanna Township’s deputy chief of police, …

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New police chief for Lower Swatara; Vargo will move over from Susquehanna Township department

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Lower Swatara Township is set to hire a new police chief today.

The board of commissioners is scheduled to vote on Jeffrey Vargo, who is the Susquehanna Township’s deputy chief of police, at its 7 p.m. meeting.

“I’m excited to work with them and start a new chapter in my life and build on my predecessors’ work,” Vargo said.

For nearly 22 years, Vargo has served the Susquehanna Township Police Department in a number of roles, including patrol officer, K9 officer and sergeant. He was promoted to deputy chief in 2009.

Lower Swatara police officers have a reputation of being very professional and distinguished, Vargo said.

He plans to build on the work of his predecessors, he said. Some of his first projects and goals include increasing community engagement, working with the schools, improving their social media presence and making sure the officers have equipment, training and leadership to succeed.

Vargo said his upbringing and sense of duty led him to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps after high school. Following his five years of service, including during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he joined the Lebanon City Police Department. In 1996, Vargo worked as a patrol officer at the Lower Swatara Police Department for two months.

“It’s in my blood,” Vargo said. Law enforcement is a calling, he added.

Vargo said he enjoyed being involved in the community, meeting new people and helping others — whether it’s changing a tire on the side of the road or making sure crime victims get the needed assistance.

Vargo said he was planning on retiring from the Susquehanna department. However, he saw the listing for the Lower Swatara position on the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association website. He said the job appealed to him in part because he could stay in the area where his family lives.

At Susquehanna, Vargo serves as the physical fitness coordinator and is the department recruiter. He is a founding member of the Dauphin County Ceremonial Unit, or honor guard.

“We thought he was very qualified and had the right type of demeanor,” Board President Jon Wilt said.

Chief Richard Brandt retired in July 2016, and the township changed the structure of the department so that it was led by a public safety director. It is a civilian position responsible for administrative and operational functions for the police department, a liaison to the fire department and contracted emergency management services and the coordinator for all emergency preparedness.

The township hired Frank Williamson Jr. as the public safety director and assistant township manager in August 2016, and Williamson became township manager in May 2017.

Williamson resigned several months later, and Sgt. Scott Young was selected by the board as officer-in-charge.

Wilt said they decided to move from a public safety director back to a police chief position because they had trouble finding a qualified candidate for public safety director.

Candidates were interviewed more than a month ago. According to the agenda, Vargo’s first day would be Jan. 2.

Gartland leaves Lower Swatara police force

Lower Swatara Detective Ryan Gartland is leaving the police department.

His resignation is on the agenda for today’s Lower Swatara Board of Commissioner’s meeting and would be effective Jan. 6.

Gartland said he had been with the police department for 10 years — five as a patrol officer and the last five as detective. He said he plans to join the Swatara Police Department.

Gartland is listed as one of two detectives in the department on its website.

He is also listed on the five-person Police Pension Advisory Board.

In May, two new police officers joined the department, bringing the number of officers to 14. At its peak, there were 17 officers.