Chris Coverly, the Oxford Borough Police Department’s first full-time detective09/12/2021 10:56PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Police Chief Sam Iacono is beyond happy that the Oxford Borough Police Department finally has a full-time detective among the ranks.
“It’s a great asset,” Iacono said. “Detective (Chris) Coverly has been training for the position for the 20 years he has been on the force. I would be remiss in not mentioning the mentoring he received from Sgt. Thomas McFadden when he was here.”
Iacono added, “Coverly was assigned to the position of detective because he was the most qualified and best trained in that position. He has worked with Chester County Detectives on numerous cases in his career.”
And now that Coverly is a detective, he is quick to thank Sgt. McFadden, police officer Christine Bleiler and many others who supported him along the way. “You don’t get here without the support of many people,” Coverly said.
He is also thankful to the Borough of Oxford for the hours of training he has received since joining the force in 2001. Coverly’s training in the detective field is ongoing. He just recently finished a course in how to work with the media.
During his years as a patrol officer, Coverly was always ready to go the extra mile, assisting in various cases involving drugs, theft, and—the most difficult cases of all—child abuse.
Both Iacono and Mayor Phil Harris are happy to have council’s support in approving the full-time detective position.
“It’s a great asset to have a full-timer. We are able to keep crimes from slipping through the cracks,” Iacono said.
Iacono and Coverly are quick to point out that time is of the essence when dealing with all crimes, but certainly with rape and child abuse cases.
“It takes many hours of surveillance, driving around for hours, and not just in Oxford. Crimes here can take you to other states,” Iacono said. “Having someone who has the time to do that and who can focus on it is a tremendous benefit to our community.”
Oxford has a better closure rate because of the full-time detective position. Before the department could have a number of officers working on different pieces of the case. Now they have someone who can monitor major crimes and keep an eye on all things going forward, knowing who the players are.
Few crimes are worse than those against children, which has long been a concern for Coverly.
“I have always had a desire to be a detective, and a lot of that is because of the crimes I’ve seen against children,” he explained. “Once Christine Bleiler came on board we started pushing toward child abuse. Bleiler was a superstar with building a relationship with children. Many instructors on forensic interviews use her videos today to help train others in the field. When Bleiler worked here she would interview the children and I would interview the bad guys.”
Coverly explained what the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) looks like.
“It actually looks like a doctor’s office and is next to the District Attorney’s office,” he explained. “On one side of the wall is an observation room. If a child discloses abuse to a mandated reporter they will call the child line that will bring them to the CAC. The story is recorded. The social worker and investigator listen in on the recorder.”
Coverly admitted, “It is difficult to handle child abuse. I give it to God. My human self wants to jump out of my skin. I have to leave it with God. There are moments in the past when I’ve gone to Bleiler crying. She would help me get through it.”
Coverly had one case where he had to go through 5,000 horrific photos involving children. During that case, Coverly and Bleiler worked on it together, never getting through all those photos. Coverly admitted that going home after that and having a normal day was not easy.
“You have to do the best job you can and know that,” he explained. “Then you leave it to God. I was saved when I was 11, but I never grew in the Lord. This job has brought me closer to God.”
An increasing challenge now for any detective is technology. It can be utilized to help police solve crimes, but it is also demanding.
“We have to sift through social media, cell phones, thumb drives, computers, laptops, iPads, cameras and more. The technology grows. Businesses and homes have multiple surveillance cameras. It is mind-boggling all the technology out there,” Coverly said.
“Doing the job has its ups and downs. It is risky and demands long hours, but when you can make an arrest and get the bad guy off the street, that is awesome,” Coverly said.
Although Coverly’s 20 years on the force had him working as a Community Relations Officer, working with Town Watch, and numerous other positions, his goal was always to be a detective.
He explained, “Cases aren’t done overnight. The investigations are constantly fluid and changing. The detective has to operate on the fly, but the end result is to build a solid case to bring to the prosecutor to make sure the bad guy is held accountable.”
Coverly has learned from the best working with the Chester County Detectives, the State Police, and the FBI. He has taken training in post-blast investigator, electronics collection, fingerprint processing, and recovering trace evidence from hair, blood and bodily fluids. He also took part in a terrorism awareness and prevention course and later became an instructor.
Coverly remembered doing a week-long investigation in 2004 of sex-related homicide and death investigation.
He continues training now, including learning about how to watch body language in interviews and interrogations and how to detect deception. He admits it is a lot for one detective to do and is amazed at what the Oxford Police Department has accomplished in the past without a full-time detective. And now Detective Coverly is focused on encouraging other officers to become detectives.
“I can’t do it by myself. Younger officers will have to take over and I’d like to encourage them to take the training they will need. I am eligible to retire in five years, not that I will, but the officers here have six years to get the training it took me 20 years to get,” he said.
Coverly said, “My goal is to interact more with the community on social media. We have brainstormed on how to get the community more engaged. We must build a good relationship with the community. I encourage everyone in the community to check us out on Facebook, through Crime Watch on our website or on Twitter. Our handle is @oxfordpolice1.
Coverly emphasized that he depends on the community, and he hopes they feel they can depend on him and the Oxford Police Department.
“We are all in this together,” he said.