The Embreeville state police station, which covers a slew of Chester County municipalities, has a new commander, and he's no stranger to the barracks or the county.Lt. Douglas O'Connor, 47, was recently selected to replace station Cmdr. Brian Naylor, who retired in March after more than 26 years of service.
O'Connor has spent nearly his entire 20-year state police career in Chester County.
In January, O'Connor was promoted to lieutenant and left Embreeville for the Skippack station in Schwenksville to take on an administrative role. In March, Naylor announced his retirement, opening a door for O'Connor to return to Chester County.
O'Connor said his familiarity with Chester County prompted him to apply for the post.
"There's a comfort level with being familiar with the area, familiar with the operation," he said. "Being station commander puts me back in a post where I can have a greater impact in what I do."
O'Connor graduated from Upper Darby High School then joined the U.S. Air Force, where he served for 10 years. Between his military transfer from England to California, he applied for the state police academy.
He left the Air Force in 1988, not knowing if he'd been accepted into the academy. And he said it was his only chance to get in because he was nearing the academy's cutoff age of 30. But it worked out; he was accepted.
Nearly all of O'Connor's first 16 years in police work were spent at the Avondale station. In 2005, he had the opportunity to go to Embreeville to be patrol sergeant.
"It was an opportunity to do a different job," he said. "It put me in a position to make decisions, maybe have a greater impact."
O'Connor is well-known for his efforts to make drunken-driving arrests. In August 2007, O'Connor was honored by township supervisors in West Bradford for those efforts. In 2007, roughly 400 DUI arrests were made in West Bradford.
From 1995 to 2003, O'Connor reconstructed fatal and serious car crashes on a full-time basis. That work was one of several factors triggering his recognized operations targeting drunken drivers.
"It's an area that throughout my career I've taken seriously," he said. "I've seen a lot of families torn apart because of DUI accidents (DUI crashes) are indiscriminate. It's not a planned event. It can happen any time of the day, any day of the week."
A recent drunken-driving crash took the life of rookie Avondale trooper Kenton E. Iwaniec.
"That hit home, across the state, to all of us," O'Connor said.
O'Connor said he's still unsure what, if any, changes he will make as the new commander. He said Naylor left the station in good shape and drastic changes are likely unnecessary.
One specific effort Naylor made that will not change is regular communication with the municipalities the station serves, O'Connor said.
"I think it's important to stay in touch with the municipalities who get police service from us. It's important to keep the public informed," O'Connor said.
O'Connor said the station will also continue to focus on reducing crashes. He acknowledged the increase in crashes over the years but said a big contributing factor is the increase in population.
"I do think a lot of it was out of our control," he said. "When you see the numbers, you think we're not being successful. But you need to take into account the increase in traffic."
O'Connor said the station will also focus on the use of seat belts and child safety seats.
"It's very upsetting when you go to a fatal crash and someone died because they didn't have a seat belt on," O'Connor said. "Unfortunately, too often we see too many of those incidents."
Naylor visited Embreeville on Friday and said his replace-ment's familiarity with the area will enable a smooth transition. And Naylor said O'Connor's work is impressive.
"He is arguably one of the hardest-working patrol sergeants I've ever seen," Naylor said.