Long before Lt. Col. Frank Pawlowski moved up to the Pennsylvania State Police headquarters in Harrisburg, he worked a slew of criminal investigations in Chester County.
Pawlowski, who was named acting commissioner this month, handled a number of local cases while working as a state police investigator in Chester County.
A more notable arrest credited to Pawlowski is that of the Coatesville Water Authority's director. In 1990, Christina Frey was charged with various counts of bribery and theft by deception. After pleading no contest, she was sentenced 23-to-59 month at Chester County Prison.
Pawlowski, a Uwchlan resident, grew up in Havertown and completed the state police academy in 1978 after receiving a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from West Chester State College in 1976. He graduated from the FBI National Academy in 1999.
Over the years, he took on various roles in the state police with a large portion of his career spent in Chester County. Outside the county, Pawlowski also handled significant cases. For example, he worked with the state attorney general to investigate former state Supreme Court Justice Rolf Larsen, who was charged in 1993 for prescription fraud.
"He followed an investigation wherever it took him," said retired Embreeville Lt. Brian Naylor. "He didn't care one way or another."
In 2000, Pawlawski became captain for Troop J, which includes Lancaster and Chester counties. Since then he has worked his way up to the state police headquarters. In 2007, he became deputy commissioner of operations.
After Commissioner Jeffrey Miller announced this month he will be leaving the agency in August, Gov. Ed Rendell tapped Pawlowski to step into the role, which at this point is only on a temporary basis.
Pawlowksi has expressed interest in taking on the role permanently. Over the next few days the governor is expected to select a commissioner. The candidate will then need state senate confirmation.
"(Pawlowski) is certainly amongst those being considered to replace Miller," said Chuck Ardo, spokesman for the governor.
Pawlowksi is a member of the Chester County Police Chiefs Association. He and the group's president, West Whiteland Police Chief Ralph Burton, have known each other for roughly 30 years.
"He's absolutely the best leader for the state police," Burton said. "He's very professional, very aggressive - aggressive in a good way...He worked hard to make a good arrest."
Even though Pawlowski works in Harrisburg, he seems very familiar with police and crime in Chester County. For example, when asked if Coatesville's crime issues are on the radar in Harrisburg he did not hesitate to respond.
"It's a city in distress," Pawlowski said. "We've been looking for answers for years. There are a lot of well intentioned people who want Coatesville to succeed."
The state provides the city money through a Weed and Seed grant program. It's intended to help local officials and police "weed" out criminals and start up positive programs. Frequently, troopers at Embreeville patrol Coatesville through Weed and Seed funds.
While the city has received Weed and Seed money for years, there continues to be a need, Pawlowski said.
"We're finding it takes longer," he said. "They keep coming back because they are in need."
While the need remains, Pawlowski said he does not want local residents to get discouraged.
"We just have to keep working on it. You just can't give up," he said.
Pawlowski also complimented Coatesville officers who have stayed with the department even though times have been rough.
"There are some real dedicated officers there hanging around because they are dedicated to Coatesville," Pawlowski said.
Pawlowski also praised Chester County's police and court system. He said the district attorney's office, defense attorneys and police officers are "top notch."
"It's a system that works well. You're proud to be a part of it," Pawlowski said. "That's what's unique about Chester County - people are very lucky to have a criminal justice system like that."
Crime Victims Center Director Peggy Gusz began working with Pawlowski early on in his career. She said it has not been surprising to see Pawlowski move up the ranks.
"I really can't think of anybody more qualified or deserving to be selected to take over the helm," Gusz said. "He brought a level of professionalism that you don't see in a trooper so young. I think it was innate."
With a father who spent over 20 years in the state police before retiring in 1968, it was only natural that he pursue the same career.
"It's in my DNA," Pawlowski said.
While it was an obvious decision to become a trooper, Pawlowski said he never planned to get to the agency's front office.
"Some people make plans. They have goals and timelines and they stick to them... I'm not one of those people. I sort of trust my future to fate," Pawlowski said.
Miller is slated to leave the state police Aug. 9 to become director of security for the National Football League.
"I'm disappointed he's leaving, but I'm really happy for him," Pawlowski said.