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Armstrong welcomes challenges as new Plum police chief

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 9:48 p.m.
Lillian DeDomenic | For Trib Total Media
Jeff Armstrong, new Plum Borough Chief of Police, the first day on the job as chief.

Jeff Armstrong in recent years has been at the helm of the Plum police department in short stints.

As of last Saturday Armstrong, 46, a 20-year veteran of the department, was able to call the position his own.

Plum Council on Jan. 14 voted to appoint Armstrong, of Springdale Borough, chief of the 25-man department upon the retirement of Frank Monaco, chief since 2007. The police department's annual budget is nearly $4.6 million. Armstrong, the department's administrative lieutenant since 2005, received a 5-year contract and will be paid $113,632 a year. Mayor Richard Hrivnak administered the oath of office to Armstrong on Jan. 16.

“I appreciate council's show of faith in me to serve the people of Plum,” said Armstrong, who was a police officer in Oil City prior to joining the Plum department. “I will do my best not to disappoint them.”

The new chief said his first priority is completing some of the projects begun under Monaco.

The most noteworthy of the projects, Armstrong said, is continuing the work to achieve accreditation of the police department through the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association.

More than 80 law enforcement agencies across the state have been accredited since the program began in 2001, according to the association's website. Armstrong said achieving accreditation is “proof you are doing things the right way.”

The three-step process is: application; self-assessment, which includes comparing how current department policies comply with the program's 132 standards; and a formal assessment that determines if a department complies with the standards, according to the website.

Armstrong said accreditation has its benefits. A borough's insurance rate could be lowered, and a police department is less likely to be sued.

Armstrong also plans to replace computers in the squad cars, and there is money in the budget to make the purchases. The current computers were installed in 2007.

The new chief also looks forward to working with neighboring police departments and, in particular, said he welcomes the return of Doug Cole, who last week was reinstated as Monroeville's police chief.

“He is a great guy, and we have a good working relationship,” Armstrong said. “I am glad he is back.”

Armstrong also welcomes the anticipated return of the Monroeville police department to the East Hills DUI Task Force, which currently consists of Plum, Forest Hills, North Versailles, Oakmont, Penn Hills, White Oak and Wilkins.

Armstrong said Monroeville last year dropped out of the task force after Cole was removed as chief.

Also, in the next couple of weeks, Armstrong said, he plans to speak one-on-one with each officer.

“I want to go over what my vision of the department is, what I want to achieve and what I expect of them,” Armstrong said.

The new chief also wants feedback from the officers on how they would like to see their work environment improved.

“I want to make sure I am aware of the issues that affect them and give them the opportunity to provide feedback,” Armstrong said.

Plum Councilman Dave Vento credited Armstrong with participating in the modernization of the police department under Monaco and former police Chief Robert Payne.

“I look forward to what the new chief will accomplish as the new man,” Vento said.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8753, or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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