By Mary Spicer
The question of who will succeed Meadville Police Chief Dave Stefanucci when he retires in July has been answered.
City Manager Joe Chriest has selected Det. Sgt. Eric Young, 46, a 17-year veteran of the department, to serve as its next chief. The City of Meadville operates under the Optional Charter Plan of Pennsylvania’s Third Class City Code. According to the code, the city manager is responsible for appointing and removing all department heads and reporting those appointments or removals to city council at its next meeting.
During a press conference Wednesday afternoon announcing the appointment, Chriest stressed that all five applicants for the position, which had to be filled from within in accordance with state law, were highly qualified. “Any one of those people would have done a really good job,” Chriest said. The announcement was made to council during its monthly meeting hours later.
A Saegertown native and graduate of Saegertown Junior-Senior High School, Young spent four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before graduating from Mercyhurst Municipal Training Academy and beginning his career as a patrol officer with Meadville’s police department.
Young’s father, Scott, a city policeman for more than 20 years before retiring in 1990, is one of several members of his family that have had careers as police officers.
For four years, Young served as a bicycle patrol officer, an experience he recalls as giving him a valuable opportunity to get to know the city in a way that just isn’t possible from the seat of a cruiser.
In 2002, Young became what Chriest believes to be the first officer in the history of the department to make the transition directly from patrolman to detective sergeant based on his performance on the detective-sergeant exam. “During his 11 years as a detective sergeant, he’s handled a lot of crime,” Chriest said.
One of the department’s two detective sergeants, Young has been the lead investigator in all major crime cases and has been responsible for overseeing and supervising the criminal investigations conducted by patrol officers.
Young has taught numerous classes in physical conditioning and the application of force at both Mercyhurst and Thiel colleges, is a certified taser instructor and has defensive tactics instructor certification from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Because departures and retirements in recent years have left the city with a police force with a majority of officers with less than six years service, one of Young’s big challenges will be to mold young officers into long-term members of the department, Chriest said.
According to Chriest, all the logistics still haven’t been worked out. However, because Assistant Chief Tom Liscinski retires two months after Stefanucci steps aside, the transition won’t be complete until early fall.
Once Stefanucci leaves on July 12, Chriest said he is considering making Liscinski the acting chief and Young the acting assistant chief until Liscinski’s departure in mid-September. That, Chriest explained, would give Young an opportunity to get acquainted with the duties of assistant chief — and to appoint someone from within the department to that position.
In the meantime, Sgt. Mike Stefanucci, the top scorer on a recently-administered detective-sergeant exam, will replace Young, Chriest said, noting that the younger Stefanucci, son of the retiring chief, is already attending classes to prepare for his new position.
“Nos. 1 and 2 on the detective sergeant list have been going to training,” Chriest said. “As Eric is starting to train with Dave, the detective work doesn’t go away, but we don’t have a provision in the union contract to pay anyone out of class — and Mike also has a shift to run as sergeant.”
Because of internal transfers, replacements will be hired as entry-level patrol officers. However, the hiring probably won’t take place any time soon.
Although they won’t be coming to the office after mid-July and mid-September respectively, Stefanucci and Liscinski will both receive pay for unused sick and vacation days through the end of December. As a result, savings on their salaries won’t be available to offset the pay of replacements until January 2014.
Even though their retirement plans were set almost three years ago, additional funding to cover the cost of replacements was not included in the city’s 2013 budget, even though Stefanucci strongly urged putting such funding into place during council’s 2013 budget discussions. At the time, Stefanucci insisted that the transition would go infinitely smoother if the training of both new patrolmen was complete before senior officers started to move into their new positions. Prior to 2009, the department had a complement of 22 officers; since 2009, that number has been reduced to 21. The department also has five civilian employees.
“Funding was not built into the budget (for the replacement patrolmen) because we were very limited as to what could go into the budget,” Chriest said Wednesday. Although he and the city’s finance director, Tim Groves, are starting to analyze where they are budget-wise, Chriest added, “I won’t say when we’ll be replacing two officers.”
Although Chriest said he and Young haven’t gotten down to discussing salary details, he estimated that Young’s salary would probably be in the low $70,000 range.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.