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Chester County Press

Capacity crowd helps usher in new regional police department

01/17/2017 11:29AM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

If the last two years served as the time needed to launch the new Southern Chester County Regional Police Department and Jan. 1 became the department's first day of operations, then the events that took place on Jan. 12 served as the department's official coronation.
Before an audience of more than 250 – made up of lawmakers, dignitaries, friends, family and fellow law enforcement officers – the department's inauguration ceremony was a celebration highlighted by recognitions and messages that served as an hour-long good luck letter to a department that has become Chester County's first regional police unit.
The event was a well-choreographed celebration from its start, as every officer filed into the gymnasium in single file, dressed in the department's new uniforms, followed by the presentation of colors by Chester County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard.
In a brief address, New Garden Township Supervisor Randy Geouque – who serves on the Regional Police Commission along with fellow supervisor Steve Allaband and West Grove Mayor Stephen Black – said that the benefits of regional policing include continued delivery of high-quality public safety services; the ability to attract and retain highly-qualified individuals; career advancement opportunities; pro-active community outreach programs; and more stable costs.
“The need for quality public safety organizations is at an all-time high,” Geouque said. “Even as West Grove and New Garden Township have grown, so has our need for governmental services, specifically that of public safety. Just in the past couple of years, New Garden has grown to the point where we needed 24-hour policing, and West Grove has considered 24-hour policing, as well. The cost of maintaining a quality public safety organization continues to increase each year, to the point where it is the biggest expense for most municipalities, and most difficult to manage.”
Magisterial Judge Matthew Seavey then swore in 19 officers, each of whom received their official departmental pin from the person of their choice.
Those sworn in included officers Justin F. Busam, Matthew T. Cordone, Eric S. Shallis, Joseph Fetko, Christoper Connelly, Richard N. Townsend, Stephen M. Madonna, Benjamin Brown, Jeremy A. O'Neill and Ryan Kushner; as well as first class officers Justin T. Fonock, Jason L. Ward, Mario M. Raimato, Jr., Joseph Cooper and Gerard Lindenlauf.
In addition, officers John M. Gibson, II and Joseph P. Versagli, III were sworn in as corporals; Joseph F. Greenwalt was promoted to the office of sergeant; while Michael King and Gerald Simpson were sworn in as the department's deputy chief of police and police chief, respectively.
Special proclamations were awarded to the West Grove Borough Council, the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors, Capt. Michael A. Terranova and Hogan, for their contributions to the new department. 
Chester County Commissioner Michele Kichline and State Sen. Andy Dinniman also made presentations to the department.
“As everyone is running from the scene, there are some people who are running to the scene, and that's our emergency responders, our police, our firefighters,” Dinniman said. “We should thank God that we have people like these who are willing to protected us, who are willing to put their lives on the line. When we see the families come up here to wish them well and pin those badges on them, it means that each and every one of us in the community needs to be supportive of the men and women who protect us, twenty-four seven.”
In his keynote address, Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan said that the initiative that began the regional department was developed by persistence, common sense and courage.
"You don't want to be the first," Hogan said. "You want to be the second or the third. You want someone else to do the hard stuff, to take the bumps and the bruises, to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, because that's what happens to the first.
"But somebody has to be the first. Somebody must do that job."
In addition to crediting the leadership of Simpson, King and Greenwalt, Hogan also praised the West Grove Borough Council and the New Garden Township Supervisors for supporting the regional force, in order to protect the citizens of the region. 
"Just by the people who are gathered here tonight, it is so evident that the Southern Chester County Police Department has the courage to be first, and to succeed," Hogan said. "Southern Chester County Regional Police Department and the people who are protected by them, the eyes of Chester County are upon you. You have the common sense, the persistence and the courage to be first, and to succeed."
The recipient of the largest applause of the evening – as well as the most accolades – was Simpson, whom many point to as the tireless architect of the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department, who continued to press for a regional unit even after several other municipalities in the area balked at joining.
After being pinned by his son, New Castle County Officer Kyle L. Simpson, Simpson received a surprise tribute – an Eagle-shaped gold statuette, presented to him by Gibson and Greenwalt. 
“We would like to take a moment to pay tribute to Chief Simpson's hard work throughout the process of making all of this possible,” Greenwalt said. “In my opinion, every good leader wants to know that his men stand behind him. I can tell you, Chief, 'Yes, we do.' We want to let you know that we are equally committed to the success of this newly-formed department.”
Quoting a decades-old comment spoken in New Garden Township that forecasted that regional policing in the area "would happen sooner or later," Simpson praised elected officials for their willingness to protect their citizens. 
"To the elected officials who supported this effort, you should feel proud of your accomplishment," he said. "You acted with courage by buying into a solution and a belief that your two communities -- for your residents --are better together than apart."
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail [email protected]