Police chief's role: Law, order & more

| Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Kittanning Mayor Kirk Atwood is appropriately concerned that borough council disregarded early money-saving plans and decided to hire a full-time police chief.

Council members in a 7-0 vote approved a new contract with Chief Bruce Mathews last week that pays him about $65,000 a year. They say things are looking up financially as the new budget-writing season begins.

The role of police chief is vital in towns like Kittanning and similar locales. It's especially necessary when so many towns rely on part-time officers to provide nearly 'round-the-clock coverage.

But there is more.

A police chief becomes a local, recognizable figure in a town, and that's important when the political leadership changes often and police protection is one of the most vital functions a borough or township provides.

The chief is the person citizens go to when they're concerned about break-ins, disturbances, nuisance locations, etc. And the chief sets the emphasis and direction for the department.

A chief therein becomes the main public relations person for local government — more so than elected officials.

And the chief typically works with neighboring communities and with state police.

There may come a time when discussions with neighboring towns about joint police coverage will take place, and the police chief will be a key figure in such talks.

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