No Word From Council on New Chief of Police as Deadline Approaches

Norristown Police Chief Russel Bono is set to retire on Feb. 28, 2013, and Norristown Municipal Council seems no closer to finding a successor.

As previously reported by Norristown Patch, Norristown Municipal Council is faced with replacing its two top cops when they retire next year and while the deadline is fast approaching, council members have yet to publicly announce plans to fill either position.

Both Police Chief Russell J. Bono and Deputy Chief Captain Willie Richet are scheduled to step down at the same time next year, and council is now tasked with filling not one, but two senior leadership roles in the Norristown Police Department by March 2013. The process has been discussed and debated by council in executive session, but as the deadline looms, disagreements on the best way to proceed have reportedly mired the process.


One option is to immediately hire a search firm to begin looking for a new chief of police. Professional services are available from groups like the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association (PCPA) that can spearhead the process for a nominal fee ($3,500 plus expenses for the PCPA).

Another option being discussed is to rehire Capt. Richet for an undetermined period of time as interim chief, giving council time to hold public forums and get community input on the process. 

"We just think it would be a good fit for a period of time," said Simpson. "It gives us a chance to really sit back and discuss with the community what they are looking for in a police chief."

No decisions have been made, but both of these options (and possibly others) are reportedly on the table. 


Several factors stand in the way of installing Capt. Richet as chief after both he and Chief Bono retire. Both men are retiring under the Deferred Retirement Option Program, or "DROP," and rehiring Capt. Richet after he completes his DROP could ignite a controversy similar to one seen in Philadelphia several years ago when high-ranking department heads and elected officials used the program to collect lump-sum payments and then return to their jobs.

The program was created in 1999 by the Rendell administration reportedly to help city officials plan better for personnel issues. The program allows employees to choose a retirement date years in the future, at which time pension benefits are frozen and payments go immediately into an interest-bearing account. The employee then collects a lump sum payment of their saved pension moneys from the last few years and continues to receive a pension in their retirement.

Not all municipal employees are eligible for the program. According to Municipal Manager Dave Forrest, both Chief Bono and Capt. Richet won the benefit in 2008 during a contract dispute arbitration. Some council members had reportedly been exploring options for dealing with the DROP issue, but the process is complex. 

In addition to issues with the DROP program, Capt. Richet's reported lack of additional training, qualifications and degree have become a sticking point for some council members, according to sources.

A job description released in July of 2012 by the municipality's human resources department lists the required experience and education sought for the Police Chief position as:

  • 10 years of increasingly responsible experience in a police department;
  • Graduation from the FBI National Academy;
  • Municipal Police Officers' Education and Training Commission certification;
  • National Incident Management System certifications;
  • Bachelor's Degree; or
  • Any equivalent combination of education and experience.


While Capt. Richet is reportedly lacking several of the listed credentials, his supporters maintain that his strong ties to the community and his years fo service have garnered him the respect needed, both in the community and in the department, to succeed in the role. Others maintain that a public search of law enforcement executives like the one that would be conducted by the PCPA is essential to ensuring Norristown gets the candidate it needs to combat its many issues.

Advice from the County

It is just that sort of public search that Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Ferman recommended council undertake before making a decision.

Both Ferman and Montgomery County Sheriff reportedly consulted with council members regarding the search for a police chief. Both officials noted that they work closely with Norristown Police and designate significant resources to the Norristown community, giving them a significant stake in the process. According to Ferman, she encouraged council members to conduct the public search.

"The selection of a police chief in a community with the current challenges facing Norristown is one of the most important decisions its elected officials will ever have to make," Ferman wrote in an email to Norristown Patch. "My advice was they should undertake a broad search to identify the strongest possible candidates, to engage in rigorous assessments to test their skill, competence, judgment and decision-making, and only then make a selection of the most qualified candidate."

While Ferman recommended a public search, she made a point of noting that search would not necessarily discount Capt. Richet from consideration.

"Whether the future chief came from within the ranks of the current department or from the outside was not an element of the conversation..." wrote Ferman. "I have worked alongside of Captain Willie Richet for many years and I am quite fond of him. His work with young people at Norristown PAL is very important in the community. If the Municipality undertakes an objective chief selection process and Capt. Richet is deemed to be the most qualified candidate, I would look forward to working with him for many years to come."

Sheriff Behr agreed with the need for a public search and noted that she had experience with the process.

"An open and objective process to review all possible qualified applicants brings credibility to the process, may improve morale for the whole department, and provides for community involvement," Sheriff Behr wrote in an email to Norristown Patch. "My experience has shown that when a government provides opportunity for all officers and community involvement, the community will embrace the new Chief. What is critical is that the process used hold all candidates to the same standards and gives all equal opportunity to earn the executive position."

While Behr also expressed support and respect for Capt. Richet, she warned that appointing an interim chief would come with its own pitfalls.

"I was troubled by a suggestion that Norristown might choose a temporary or 'interim' chief and delay choosing a permanent chief for several years," wrote Sheriff Behr. "With the major problems facing Norristown today, failing to select a permanent chief could have a devastating effect on the community."

"Twice while an officer [with] Whitemarsh Police, the Township appointed an interim chief," Sheriff Behr continued. "During both periods, the department faced extremely low morale, distrust with government officials, and significant discipline issues. The Police Department and the community we served suffered in both situations... I would hate to see this department and community suffer simply because no one shared their past law enforcement experiences with the civilians responsible for choosing a police executive.  

The Deadline

Council has yet to publicly address the issue of the search with just shy of four months until both Chief Bono and Capt. Richet leave their posts. It's worth noting that the PCPA, the agency council originally contacted about conducting a search, has suggested that the process should take approximately four months.

Councilman Marlon Milner responded to Norristown Patch's request to council for an update on the search with the following statement:

"The police chief issue has been in both public safety committee and talked about in executive session. But it's been a few months since I was briefed on any updates. I know we need a process and we are running out of time. I certainly intend to stand by my convictions on what is the best way for Norristown to move forward, replace Chief Bono, uphold standards of diversity and community input and enhance public safety. I welcome community input. People should come to council meetings and speak out about the issue."

Council President Gary Simpson assured Norristown Patch that he would comment on the issue as soon as a decision has been made.

Chief Bono, who was instrumental in recommending the PCPA to council for the purposes of conducting the search, said recently that he has not been involved in the process since that initial recommendation.

"I've had no involvement whatsoever, other than to provide them the names of some consulting firms early on," said Chief Bono. "Since it came to light that it could be the Captain, I've had no involvement."

Chief Bono noted that while he hasn't been consulted or asked to recommend any candidates from inside the department, he felt it was important for council to consider the need for a transition plan.

Norristown Patch will continue to follow update this story as new information becomes available.


Related Story

Ms Peggy November 28, 2012 at 12:59 AM
All I know is it be getting crazy all up in here. I moved to the Westside to be safer and it be worse then up on the hill on Oak. These MFers is crazy and don't have no respect for nobody. It be the young boys, not the old heads. We need the national guards to come in and settle this shit down. I gots to move to Audubon.
Ms Peggy November 28, 2012 at 01:01 AM
What Willie gone to do anyway. He ain't got no clue on how to fix this shit.
jxjipper November 28, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Arm yourself, get a CCP and don't be afraid to use it if you need to. The only good thug is either in Gaterford or using pennies for eyes while looking up at the wilted flowers overhead.
Michael November 28, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Norristown is in the crapper. We have way too many social service agencies here that make the leeches leave Philly and have their way with Norristown. Why do you think the gangs/criminals from New York and Philly are coming to Norristown to establish new turf? They know they can get lost in the crowd cause the municipality doesn't even know who the renters are in town, the NPD are understaffed, the county sheriff department can't really do any policing, they can sell their drugs to the section 8ers who don't have to pay for rent, utilities or food. Willie or no Willie, I don't envy who council picks for top cop, this is a losing battle. But just for argument sake why don't people actually email Willie and ask him what he is going to do. wrichet@norristown.org. Let us on patch know what he says.
Me November 28, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Its Just Me November 28, 2012 at 02:38 PM
I am sitting here reading all of these comments. From someone buying hookers to hanging with the mafia; Desouza for president to Gary has no clue; from someone not having the credentials to its a black and white issue (which unfortunately it typically is)… Slow down for a moment and listen. I have been in this community longer than many of you writing these posts. I have seen much take place and this current council did not create ANY of it.
Its Just Me November 28, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Most of the problems are systemic and were caused by those making money and profiting from it (and they still do). Our issues are police, but not primarily. Landlords turn a blind eye to the overcrowding. When they are being looked at, they let the renters know when the inspections are coming, then the scramble for the day to avoid detection. Norristown’s NPD is over worked and too small to handle the true number of persons in this community. 34k noted via census but more like 45 – 50k. Every siren is not police responding, its fire and ambulance as well. Yes, more shootings, but let’s talk about the domestic crimes as most of these are. Issues inside the homes! Police can’t fix that.
Its Just Me November 28, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Someone having the understanding of how to fix these issues… Now I read the same article, who knows for a fact what his qualifications are? The article was speculative at best and I in Corp America knowing that you cannot release someone’s personnel files to the public (gov’t employee or not). Risa is the DA, she may work more with the community, but Behr is a Sheriff and has no bearing on any decision. Her staff handles County only. Moving prisoners between the courts and jails and security for the courthouse… She came from a town whose claim to fame was “Racial Profiling”.
Its Just Me November 28, 2012 at 02:40 PM
With all of this ranting, has anyone heard that Willie was selected or are you all going from an article which would not know unless someone from council told him that. If someone from council did that, then they are in violation of the Charter. So much was made about Millner a couple years ago, at least I know that much. Personally, I believe that many are making comments and don’t know or have a clue what they are talking about. I would suggest you sit in on a council meeting and ask the question. Stop inciting the crowds and stop using information that a few get from a third party source during pillow talk.
Its Just Me November 28, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Lastly, how many of you report what you see? Number of people living in a house? Drug activity? Situations that look suspicious?
MzPaula November 28, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Wow! As for me I was born here in 1949 at Sacred Heart Hospital, went to Hancock, Rittenhouse and A.D. Eisenhower High School. My mom and my grandmom and my great grandmother went to Norristown schools also. I am a super voter, which means I vote in every election. I live in Linda Christian's district also. I have been on the advisory boards of 5 Mayors starting with Barney Marberger. I followed the the writing of the Home Rule Charter, don't know it by heart but have the gist of what it says and can find what I want to find in it when I need it.
MzPaula November 28, 2012 at 03:51 PM
I am glad you said you would be at the Community Meeting we need folks who will be proactive in expressing their opinions. I have known the Richet family since elementary school and I love and respect them. I know Willie as a deacon in his church and I know Willie as an avid community member and volunteer. I will say this again Willie and Russell when it comes to policing do not think Black or white. They think blue they are policemen. It doesn't matter what color anyone is, they are police and they do their jobs As for the council members the voters voted them into their positions. The voters are responsible to hold them accountable for doing their jobs. If you don't like how they are doing, call them ,email them,send them a letter or better yet go to council and sign up to speak to them directly. Don't just sit tucked away behind your computer and bitch to the Patch readers. Please keep in mind that the council people do a good job considering they get a stipend of $4000.00 a year from the municpality, and they all have full time jobs, families, homes and other responsiblities. How many of you would be willing to serve your municpality in this manner. And take all of the extra BS folks like you give them. Most of you seem clueless to the process. Read more than the headlines and get a clue.
Confused November 28, 2012 at 10:37 PM
What am I missing? There is still 90 days to select a Police Chief. My understanding is that their are services which have pre-qualified individuals to select from. So if they are pre-qualified then an interview process takes place and if you like them you hire. What's the big deal?
Ixlr8 November 28, 2012 at 11:06 PM
The big deal is politics are coming into play! :-)
Michael November 28, 2012 at 11:16 PM
Its Just Me...you sound like Millner. Long winded. There are a few simple questions that council can answer right now: 1) Are they going to do a search and when? 2) If needed who would be the interim Police Chief until a new Chief is found? These are not hard questions to answer and do not have to be priviledged. Except for the newest council members, all the others knew the drop date with both Bono and Richet. It is poor planning on Council's part to wait until the last minute. Even "Corp America" (as you should know since you work there) have succession plans well in place for certain key positions. And there have been two articles printed. One in Patch and one in the Times Herald. And if you go back further, I thnk to maybe the begining of the year, Huskey wrote a piece about Norristown's top cops retiring and it was also in the Thumbs Down section about youth violence. You can comment about maybe James Meyers may not be conservative, but I don't think Stan Huskey would print something about Richet being picked for Chief even in an opinion piece unless he had some knowledge. So don't deflect the issue. People in Norristown want to know who will take over when Bono and Richet retire in the spring. So if Its Just Me is Millner or some other long winded council member- take a hint and get a move on making an announcement.
Michael November 28, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Thats right- why don't they just get started? This is not a conspiracy theory. Whether the process takes a long time or a short time, if they haven't started yet, it probably means that they are not going to do a search and already have someone in mind for the position. The only qualified Norristown cops that are still on the force and have enough experience are Lt. Shannon and Capt. Richet. The Capt would be logical choice since 1) he is a higher ranking officer. Unless of course they are going to appoint someone from outside the NPD...but THAT would be a conspiracy theory...
Justice November 29, 2012 at 12:58 PM
From my readings, the Captains qualifications are in question. Can someone clarify what qualifications are needed and if Richet in fact meets the criteria. As long as our Council is serving us in an honorable fashion with the highest ethical standards making sure the communities safety is the most important issue then I'm good. I have a general sense that this is not the case. Politics must not trump the safety of the community.
Respect First November 29, 2012 at 02:18 PM
A job description released in July of 2012 by the municipality's human resources department lists the required experience and education sought for the Police Chief position as: •10 years of increasingly responsible experience in a police department; •Graduation from the FBI National Academy; •Municipal Police Officers' Education and Training Commission certification; •National Incident Management System certifications; •Bachelor's Degree; or •Any equivalent combination of education and experience.
Sally19401 November 29, 2012 at 02:56 PM
OK - all I want is to be assured by Council that the most qualified individual is hired for the Chief of Police position. This cannot be done by simply appointing someone they know. There should be a search. The community deserves that and the concerned citizens of Norristown will push for that.
Harry November 29, 2012 at 03:20 PM
I agree with Sally, I want the most qualified and committed individual to be hired. Norristown has been rated the 59th most dangerous city in the State which should be a wake up call. Council actually has an opportunity to shine and look like heroes should they make a great selection. Council must realize that this is a pivotal time for us and we need them to do what is right. The problem is some council people don't own a home in town and can leave anytime they want leaving us with their poor decisions.
MzPaula November 29, 2012 at 11:22 PM
When are you going to ask for his birth certificate? He and Bono are approachable, your council members are approachable. have you thought about asking them.or like I've said before go to the council meetings, sign in and ask your questions and get the answers. Instead it seems as though yoou perfer to listen to half truths and lies, rather then find out the truth from the real sources. these people don't know anymore than you do. Some of them ar paid antagonists who post things to get the community riled up. That never does any good in today's arena. The Tea Party tried that in everyway imaginable including the Trump card. most people have minds of their own and use them. . “The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” ― Malcolm X
Mohandus Frieri November 30, 2012 at 12:29 AM
It's a miracle anyone cares about Norristown anymore. Folks are busy dodging bullets. It's like a frontier town. And yet borough council dawdles. Where's the urgency?
Homer November 30, 2012 at 12:42 AM
I wonder why mspaula is defending this illogical position of Council. I carefully read all the posts, and for the life of me cannot comprehend why the initiation of a search has not commenced. Other than politics, as some have suggested, there is no excuse, unless we are faced with managerial ineptitude. “The enemy isn’t conservatism. The enemy isn’t liberalism. The enemy is bulls**t." —Lars-Erik Nelson, political columnist
MzPaula November 30, 2012 at 01:30 AM
I haven't defended it one way or another I have said go to council and ask for yourself. This has been on the table for a long time, now everyone wants to create a crisis. The cry is where is the urgency? By the way my name is MzPaula with a "Z". Do you know what Council's position is? if there is to be a search it should have started last year. Why are you people so against Richet? is the fear of a Black Planet? Black President, BlackCouncil President, and Black Police Chief. It really isn't as bad as you folk make it seem. Creating a crises, blowing things out of proportion. There aren't enough of you makig noise to change anything. Let's see how many of you show up at council meeting .
ki November 30, 2012 at 05:45 AM
The worse part about all of this, is that a person, regardless of race that has worked all of their life to have a good name ,do good things for his community, and provide for his family has been dragged through the thickest mud and continues to be dragged deeper everyday!!! NO PERSON IS PERFECT AND EVERYONE HAS TO LIVE TO LEARN ! We all know that opinions are like assholes and we all have them but you're not making these comments about a deaf,dumb,and/or blind person common courtesy could be at least considered.....think about yourself in the same place! just my thoughts
John Q Public November 30, 2012 at 09:50 PM
Misspaula you continue to say that we should go to council but I'm not sure why. At a council meeting you have 3 minutes to make a comment, council does not have to respond to any comment or question. Council has already refused to comment to the papers on this issue, so why would you think they would answer to John Q Public? It's a jam job from the word go and there are ulterior motives to not searching. The council president is remiss in his responsibilities to lead the way. Maybe a fired up public going to a council meeting with the TV stations reporting on the meeting should be in order.
MzPaula November 30, 2012 at 10:31 PM
I am beginning to understand how you people think or don't think. You have selective hearing, seeing and even reading and are determined to hear, see, believe and read what you want to. My name is MzPaula ! Not mspaula, not misspaula it is Mz Paula with a "Z" . I am beginning to believe you people are stuck on stupid or are dumber than dirt if you can't understand why going to council meetings or reading the Home Rule Charter can't help you understand the municipal processes. The council right now is the only entity who can answer your questions. You can back and forth it all you want. It won't get you anywhere ! Get the TV stations get your public fired up see if it will change anything. I bet you won't even show up for your own rally because you are a closet antagonist, hiding behind your computer in your basement. Do you know what is so cool about this? Everytime I decide to comment on a story, you people decide to jump in and shoot me down. This is a game to me. This my computer game. We have now reached a hundred comments, yea for Patch, I am tired of the subject now, so you guys can carry on without me. Have fun. if you don't hear from me before then have a Happy New Year! Hail to the Chief!
Respect First December 01, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Mz Paula, for all the work you have done in the community, do you have any statistical information that shows the impact you had on others?(not referrring to newspaper clippings) ex: 40 kids went on a bus tour to DC or 10 kids served food to the homeless. I think if you provide that information it will make you sound more believable. Right now you sound very opinionated and emotional.
MzPaula December 01, 2012 at 08:29 PM
I wasn't going to respond anymore on this post however., I will give you some references to check out. Of course you can ask Chief Richet and Chief Bono They know of the things I have done. You can contact Congress people Margie Margolis, Jon Fox, Joe Hoeffel and Jim Gerlach. I am the Founder of Family Unity Day a 20 year festival, which caters to the family , in fact this year we had over 350 children Participate in the Children's village activities, i was on the Board of Urban Scouting whe it was in Norristown and I was den mother to ten boys with behavioral problems my reference for that would be Pastor Kim Egolf-Fox and Bill Procyson, I was the assistant to the administrator of the Center for Youth and we worked with a girls gang who have all succeeded and have gone beyond their secondary education. I have been involved with CTC Disproportionate Minority Contact commmittee. You can also ask Hank Cisco who I had as my school cop when I was in elementary school and we still work together.I used to be a chaperone on Norristown Parks and Recreation trips. In fact at one point I was the President of Norristown Parks . I coordinated the Summer Concert series. In 2000 I registered 2000 voters. Each year I pick a project this year I am helping with the revival of the Carver Center and I am on the board of the Norristown Atrts Council. Now do you need my birth certificate? I am a retired disabled nurse. Now that you have almost my entire resume. I am out.
John Sailor January 21, 2013 at 12:10 AM
Ferman needs to stay out of the borough and concentrate on doing her job. She's always spouting stuff like people are guilty until proven innocent.


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