City police took a giant step toward solving a manpower shortage Monday night when four recruits were sworn in as officers.The new officers will provide a much-needed boost for the city's police department, which had dwindled to as few as 24 officers since Chief William Matthews took the reins in April.
"Please join us in welcoming all of the candidates to the police department," Matthews said at a City Council meeting. "They are so badly needed."
Six recruits were originally expected to be sworn in at Monday's meeting, but two are now expected be sworn in at council's next meeting.
And more help appears to be on the way. Matthews said as many as three new cops will be hired by the end of March. The department is budgeted for 34 police officers, including Matthews' position.
The new officers bring diversity and experience.
Kenneth R. Michels is a former Coatesville police officer who has been working as a Uwchlan police officer.
Claude J. Simpkins has been working as a part-time police officer in Darby Township.
Shannon Miller had been working as a police officer in West Caln.
Amy Whisler previously worked as a dispatcher for West Chester Police and as an officer at West Chester University.
Michels worked in Coatesville from January 2004 to October 2007 and said he is glad to be back.
"I'm back with the guys I served with," Michels said. "(I'm) back with family, you know what I mean."
Each new officer had been interviewed as part of the provisional hiring process the city implemented to cut the time it would take to get officers on the streets.
Since coming to lead Coatesville's department, the chief has stated publicly several times his desire that the racial makeup of the city's force be more representative of Coatesville's population.
These hires would appear to be a move in that direction.
Simpkins is black. The two new female officers are white, as is Michels.
The new officers each have been interviewed twice and taken oral and written tests. As part of the provisional hiring process, the department will continue to evaluate their performance for the next six months on the job. After that, Matthews and his staff will decide whether to keep the officers permanently.
Vacancies on the force remain, and more could come as a result of retirements. Matthews has said he has instructed the city's Civil Service Commission to administer a new test and compile a fresh list, ranking candidates for the positions.