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Norristown Searching For New Chief, Deputy Chief of Police

Norristown Police Chief Russell J. Bono and Deputy Chief Captain Willie Richet are retiring in the spring.

[Editor's Note: This is the first in a planned ongoing series exploring Norristown's search for a new Chief and Deputy Chief of Police. Check back with Norristown Patch for more on this issue as it develops.]

Norristown Patch has learned that Norristown Municipal Council is currently mulling its options for replacing its two top cops when they retire next year.

Both Police Chief Russell J. Bono and Deputy Chief Captain Willie Richet are scheduled to step down at the same time in April 2013, and council is now tasked with filling not one, but two senior leadership roles in the in the next seven months.

While that process would be no easy feat for any municipality, it's made more complicated for Norristown by budget constraints, a short timeline and disagreements by council on the best way to proceed.

Options

Council has made it clear that they are still in the early stages of the process and no decisions have been made, but several options have reportedly already emerged from executive sessions on the subject.

One option would be immediately hiring an executive search company that specializes in hiring law enforcement heads. Council has already met with the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association (PCPA) to discuss the organization's executive search services.

According to the PCPA, they can prepare the job announcement and distribute it to its members, screen the applicants, help with the interview and exam process and even provide experienced chiefs to conduct, evaluate, and score interviews. They would also make recommendations and provide a chief to sit in on the final interviews.

Tom Armstong, a testing and consulting coordinator for the PCPA, said the cost for the sevice is $3,500 plus expenses and the process should take approximately four months. 

Council had reportedly also planned to meet with another search agency, Safe Cities, LLC, in July, but cancelled the meeting.

Another option being considered is to ask Capt. Richet to stay on as an interim chief while council searches for a candidate. This, says Council President Gary Simpson, will allow council to open the search process up to input from residents and community groups.

"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."

Simpson says Capt. Richet's strong ties to the community and 40 years of service in the Norristown Police Department make him an ideal candidate to help "bridge some gaps" between the police and the community that have developed over the years.

Council Marlon Milner echoed similar sentiments in a statement emailed to Norristown Patch:

"...On public safety, what I care about most is credibility and respect on the streets. After walking the streets of Norristown for months late at night, I know all these youth aren't bad, even the ones hanging out at one in the morning. But can a replacement – interim or permanent – get respect on the streets? Respect will go a long way to getting information on a tough homicide investigation, or calming tensions that sometimes arise between cops and certain communities."

Some council members believe Capt. Richet garners that respect, both in the community and in the department.

It's unclear how long council would expect Capt. Richet to remain as interim chief if he's rehired. Time periods from one to three years have reportedly been discussed, but not everyone on council believes the process should take so long.

"I am pushing that we begin the process of hiring a search firm and start the process of obtaining applicants for police chief immediately," Councilwoman Dr. Mary DeSouza said in an email statement. "I believe that if we are to need an interim chief past the retirement date of Chief Bono and Captain Richet, that time period should be brief. Finding a new chief should not be delayed."

That said, DeSouza doesn't discount the need for community involvement in the search.

"I will push for full transparency of the process," DeSouza said. "I believe that the community should be involved and should get involved right now offering not only opinions of the type of chief they would like to see move Norristown into the future, but also bring ideas forward for ways to strengthen community-policing relationships. I don't believe the community should wait for Municipal Staff or Council members to reach out to them. They need to step forward now."

Simpson agrees on the need for transparency, but stated more time is needed for council to really explore all of its options.

"We need to take the time," said Simpson. "We need to have the community involved."

Simpson cited the Norristown Area School District as a success story for why a drawn out selection process would benefit the municipality.

"One of the reasons why the superintendent search at the [school district] was good was because they opened it up," he said. "They gave us the opportunity to meet with the short list of candidates and ask the questions because all of our kids were going to school there."

"It just made sense," Simpson conitued. "You have to give the residents the opportunity to speak to the situations, the concerns, the problems... because at the end of the day, we all have to live with the decision that we make."

Check back with Norristown Patch for the next in this series exploring the search for a new Chief and Deputy Chief of Police – "Roadblocks in the Process."

Johnny August 13, 2012 at 09:08 PM
I'm totally befuddled! Were the Council members surprised with the retirement of both top cops or have they just been lackadaisical and remiss in their duties? It would appear that the spring time is still several months away which seems to be plenty of time for a selection process to take place. What am I missing?
Dina T August 13, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Its about time!! I just hope that there new pick will clean the department and the town up! That department needs to be cleaned out and put some true cops who care about the town and the people living in it.
James Myers (Editor) August 13, 2012 at 10:19 PM
There are definitely a host of issues involved that I'll continue to cover, starting with another post I hope to make tomorrow outlining some of the hurdles council is facing with their options. I decided to cover the story in pieces so as not to overwhelm everyone with too much information at one time. I promise we'll cover all the bases.
Old man August 14, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Council did so good with the schools we only had three in the bottom of the state . Plus the word was out sometime about the two top cops going to retire. Great your going to have the 2nd in command retire pay him his retirement rehire home as the top cop an pay him more, what a great job.
Its Just Me August 14, 2012 at 01:14 PM
OLD MAN, council had nothing to do with the hiring of the superintendent... That would be the school board. The reason for the schools has to do with the fact that not all areas accept mentally disabled students into their districts; most do not have the number of english as their second language students... This brings down the testing. I know many children that graduate from NASD and attend several of the prominent colleges and universities in the area and country and do very well... Check out everything before you make a comment and you dont know what you are talking about!
TiredOfthePrejudiceBS August 14, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Can't speak for Bono but I know Capt. Richet personally and what you're not going to do is even imply that he is in anyway dirty or corrupt @ Dina T....please do your homework on these individuals before you include them in your usual corrupt talk about Norristown and it's police dept. Capt. Richet does alot for and at the PAL, he continuosly helps the people and the kids in the community and loves his family. he welcomed me into his family and hardly knew me. I hate how you people continue to talk bad about the cops, council, and the entire town as a wjole as if everyone and everything in it is bad. Please look at yourself and see if everything you do righteous before pointing fingers.
OMG August 14, 2012 at 06:45 PM
I wonder what's really going on because you don't usually have it where two of them retire together. It makes me think something is about to hit the fan and they want out before it does. Anywho, I'm not sure but I do know we should have another Mayor for the town. Yes the whole department needs to be cleaned up but I have nothing to say bad about Bono or Richet. Gene can only do but so much but I do think he has the street credibility needed to make people feel more comfy but that is not always the issue. We need someone who is fair and do not just pick on people because you heard they did something but because you know and have proof and who respects others especially when they want to help. I want my town back the way it was and its gonna start by not continuously letting immigrants move into the town just because the landlord can charge the 1-200 a head and come up. Our schools are so overcrowded I wish council could do something as far as getting another school (Kennedy-Kenrick) and using that as a school since they allow this.
Mary Ellen Digregorio August 15, 2012 at 12:19 AM
I feel that Spring is too long to let them hang as Sitting Ducks. We have now open a mass of opinions being spread from her to facebook and the problem is that these two men are leaving and it's funny how this is the third person to retire, since the "770 Sandy Street" shut down...... the Secretary to Planning Department, Bono who was assigned as Administrator for a short time along with being the Safety Director for thirteen years. There were NO CHECKS AND BALANCES within the Police Department. ANy conflict with residents and Police, who make sure there are checks and balances, who did the community go to if the Police Chief was not doing his Job? NOBODY.....
500 BLOCK OD MOORE STREET August 15, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Capt Willie G Richet care about Norristown and the police dept he work for the last 40 years.Capt Richet has a love for all people no matter what race you are.So stop trying to mess up his credibiliy to do what best for Norristown There no need to search for a chief. Norristown as a good man right in their dept CAPT WILLIE GENE RICHET........500 BLOCK OF MOORE STREET
500 BLOCK OD MOORE STREET August 15, 2012 at 12:52 AM
THING CALLED DROP PROGRAM ANYBODY IN LAW ENFORCEMENT KNOWS HOW IT WORK.COME NORRISTOWN WAKE UP STOP LOOKING FOR THE WORSE
Norristown citizen August 15, 2012 at 01:00 AM
Nothing bad should be said about Bono or Richet!! Both are outstanding individuals doing a great job. Never judge someone unless you walk a mile in their shoes. @ Dina T....I agree with TiredOfthePrejudiceBS...do your homework!!
CryinSam Says August 15, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Hear Hear! No need to wait: "I am pushing that we begin the process of hiring a search firm and start the process of obtaining applicants for police chief immediately," Councilwoman Dr. Mary DeSouza said in an email statement. "I believe that if we are to need an interim chief past the retirement date of Chief Bono and Captain Richet, that time period should be brief. Finding a new chief should not be delayed."
jxjipper August 16, 2012 at 03:30 AM
This will turn into a P.C. circus before it's all over. The black members will insist on a black chief and then we'll have a whole big mess and the others will fall in line like cattle following the bell-cow.
Ms Bella November 24, 2012 at 03:15 PM
It's hard to believe this same issue was discussed back in August on Patch and still no movement. Most of these Council members should be thrown out on their heads. Dr Desouza is apparently the only one that is trying to push for the search to begin. She should be President of Council.
500 BLOCK OD MOORE STREET November 29, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Great job councils members You guys came to Capt Richet about taking the chief job.Now his name is being drag though the mud Where are the council member now.If you guys made a mistake in asking him say so.Or is it you guys are waiting for him to throw in the towel to let your butts off the hook.
Brownhound June 16, 2013 at 06:07 PM
sooooooo hows the search going?

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