Plum Police Chief Jeff Armstrong to retire at month’s end
Plum Police Chief Jeff Armstrong plans to call it a career after three decades in law enforcement.
Council approved his retirement earlier this month. His last day is expected to be Sept. 30.
“I’m excited to move on to the next chapter,” Armstrong said recalling his time in the borough. “I’m not sure what it’s going to be, but I’m going to be open minded about it. I feel like I’m still young and there’s something out there for me. I just got to find it.”
Council approved Lt. Lanny Conley as the next police chief. He’s been with the borough’s force the past 26 years.
Borough Manager Michael Thomas said Conley’s contract and salary are expected to be finalized and voted on in October.
Thomas said the police force leadership change is “bittersweet” and praised both Conley and Armstrong’s professionalism.
“I’ve very happy to have Lanny taking over the reins,” he said. “I’m happy that (Armstrong) is getting to move on. This is what he wants to do on his terms. I’ve enjoyed working with him for 15 years. He’s been great to work with, a huge asset to the borough and a personal friend to me.”
Thomas said there was a national search for a new police chief, and more internally once Conley expressed interest in the job.
Armstrong, 52, of Springdale was hired by Plum as a full-time patrolman in 1994. He was promoted to sergeant in 2000, made lieutenant in 2005 and named chief in January 2014.
He succeeded Frank Monaco, who was Plum’s chief from 2007 through 2013.
“It was a nice, comfortable progression for me as far as my career because I got into a department that was a little bigger than I came from,” Armstrong said. “There were advancement opportunities. I liked the type of policing I would have been doing in Plum, love the size of the community and department.”
Armstrong, a 1985 Springdale High School graduate, served in Oil City, Venango County, five years prior to coming to the borough.
“It was a great place to learn to be a police officer because of all the different experiences,” Armstrong said. “It was the sort of environment where everyone came around the city to do things. Being from Allegheny County, I wanted to move back home to be with family.”
Armstrong was instrumental in the modernization of the Plum department.
Police vehicles were equipped with computers and cameras, and switched from a paper to computerized scheduling process.
The more efficient department was able to launch a traffic division in 2016 with Officer Mike DeMarco.
“I think it made the police department better, and it made the police department provide a higher level of service to the community, which is really what it’s about,” Armstrong said of the changes.
He said some of the disappointments in his Plum tenure include the closing of the borough dispatch center in 2010 and loss of a K-9 program in 2017.
“Those are specialized skill sets that a department our size was able to provide our community without having to rely on a larger entity,” Armstrong said. “Seeing those programs go dormant, just seeing they weren’t able to continue under my watch is disappointing.”
Armstrong said the department will be left in good hands.
“I know the department’s going to be in good hands, and that puts me at ease,” he said. “It’s always good to see people advance from within,” he said. “You want your patrolmen to move up to sergeant. You want your sergeants to become lieutenants, to be come chief. I tell my guys all the time there are advantages and drawbacks to every position … I’m appreciative of what I’ve gotten and what I’ve accomplished. I’m going to accept that and realize it’s someone else’s turn. I had my turn.”
Armstrong also served as the East Hills DUI Task Force project director from 2004 to 2014.
The task force consists of Plum, Monroeville, White Oak, North Versailles Township, Oakmont, Penn Hills and Edgewood police departments. Conley is its current director.
Plum’s police department has 27 full-time officers including the chief. There are no part-timers.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .