PHOENIXVILLE - With Tom Goggin named as one of Chester County's new detectives, the Phoenixville Police Department's will continue to operate a man down.
'We've been working for almost a year and a half a man short,' Chief William Mossman said Thursday.
At full strength, the Phoenixville Police have a complement of 28 officers. Although they've hired two new police officers in as many months, Goggin's move to the county detectives and other resignations and leaves have caused the police force to remain at 27 active officers.
At Tuesday night's borough council meeting, there was some confusion over whether a new officer could be hired right away or whether there actually was a vacancy in the patrol section of the department.
Mayor Leo Scoda proposed the council move forward with naming a new officer to hire to replace Goggin.
Council President Rich Kirkner said there was no need until there was a 'vacancy for a patrol officer.'
After some discussion over whether there was a vacancy that could be filled at the time of the meeting, a motion made by Councilman Mike Speck for moving forward with hiring a new officer from the Civil Service list received no second and the issue died.
Instead, council voted to have the Civil Service Commission put forward a list of three officers for consideration to be hired next month.
Goggin's position actually falls within the Phoenixville Police's patrol section, however, and it is possible that his position as a sergeant was misled council into thinking he was not a patrol officer.
Mossman explained Wednesday that there are four platoons of patrol officers in Phoenixville, each headed by a sergeant with a corporal in position between them. Goggin led one of those platoons, meaning that of the 20 patrol positions in the department, which includes four sergeants, there are just 19 officers, currently, to fill those positions.
Although the recent hires of Jason Komoroski and Stephen MacDonald have kept the number of police officers on patrol at 12, the full number, there are only three sergeants in place, leaving the department with 19 officers on patrol.
'We don't have to wait till the sergeant's position is filled before we fill the patrol position,' Mossman said.
Until a sergeant is named, Corporal Lance Frost is the ranking officer in Goggin's patrol.
Because of training, vacations or sickness, having a full platoon of officers is something of a rarity to begin with Mossman said.
'It's rare that every person of the platoon is actually on for a shift,' Mossman said.
Despite being a man down from their full strength, Mossman said the department has been meeting their minimum manpower requirements of three officers on patrol from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. and two officers from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m.
At the earliest, now, a patrol officer could be hired to bring the force to full strength at council's meeting March 12.
A concern Mossman has with that is the fact that there is a three-month training period for Phoenixville police officers. During that period, the new officers are taught how to work the department's computer system, speak on the radio, and familiarized with the area.
'We don't just strap a gun to them, give them a badge and send them out the door,' Mossman said.
As such, he'd like to get an officer in and trained before the summertime, when things pick up.
Despite those concerns, Mossman expressed pride for his department's presence on the county level.
The Chester County Detectives now feature three former Phoenixville police officers in their force. Scoda said that fact 'speaks highly' of the borough's police department.
'Our program is top notch, our training is top notch, we have experienced officers,' Mossman said. '(The officers work on) a diverse amount of crime. These guys investigate assaults, drugs, murders occasionally.'
Goggin joins former Phoenixville officers like Joe Walton, who now works in computer forensics for the Chester County Detectives, and Gary Lynch, who serves as one of the detectives' forensic evidence men.
'It's kind of like a feather in our cap,' to have three former officers with the county detectives, Mossman said.
Scoda suggested council honor Goggin with a commendation at next month's meeting. It was made into a motion and passed unanimously.
'It's certainly well-deserved and I wish we could do more for him than give him a piece of paper with my name on it,' Kirkner said.
Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.