New Butler Township police chief ready for duty

| Saturday, March 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The new police chief of Butler Township says he'll step up training for officers to ensure they're ready to respond to incidents such as the shooting at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

He also wants his officers to share their expertise and training with each other.

“I want the whole department to take advantage of the training,” said John Hays, 58, who replaced Gary Garman, 65, after he retired in January.

With his wife, Susan, pinning his badge on him, township commissioners swore Hays into the top post of the department March 18.

Hays, who will earn just under $81,000 annually, spent his entire law enforcement career in the township where he was born. He was promoted to lieutenant, or second in command of the department, in 2006.

He is a 1976 graduate of Penn State University with a bachelor's degree in law enforcement and corrections, and was hired in 1979.

He has also been a member of the Butler County District Attorney's Drug Task Force, and served with child abuse and death review investigative teams.

Hays will oversee a department of nearly two dozen employees with a 2013 budget of $1.967 million. The township has a population of nearly 17,250, and includes the VA Butler Healthcare complex and several large retail developments, including Butler Commons and Moraine Pointe Plaza.

Hays said he'd like his officers to get to know the new Butler Area School District security guards, retired state police officers hired late last year, because township officers respond to calls there, including fights and theft complaints.

Hays added he doesn't plan major departmental changes because it ran well under the former chief.

“There may be some little stuff, but no major changes,” said Hays. “I think we're pretty solid.” He hasn't named his second in command.

Commissioners did not conduct an outside search for a chief. Hays will be on job probation for six months.

“There was no need to look outside the department when you have a person like that already there, who is qualified and has the respect of the commissioners and the officers,” said Ben Simon, commission president.

Township manager Ed Kirkwood said commissioners had an “internal discussion about who is the best qualified” for the chief's post and unanimously chose Hays.

“He brings a wealth of experience, he brings a wealth of enthusiasm, and he brings a wealth of commitment,” Kirkwood said.

The number of service calls dropped in the past five years, according to a 2012 annual report that Hays submitted to the township last month. The largest number of calls — 790 — was for traffic complaints. The department made 1,558 arrests in 2012, down from 1,621 in the previous year, and 1,737 traffic citations or arrests.

“I'm happy for the support (commissioners) have shown me and the confidence to lead us into the future,” Hays said.

Hays enjoys fishing, and he and his wife have three sons and six grandchildren.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or

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