Easton’s police force moved closer to full strength Wednesday night as four new officers were sworn in, including the first female officer to join the department in several years.
“The fact that you guys are taking this step says a lot about your character,” Councilman Jeffrey Warren told the new recruits- Jamie Hauze, Frank Rezes, Margaret Stahlnecher, and Matthew Thornton- after Panto officially swore them onto the force.
The new additions bring the force to 61 officers, two short of its full complement of 63 said Police Chief Carl Scalzo.
He said the department has been working somewhat short-handed for the past six or seven years as the ranks of the department declined precipitously after council offered an early retirement package for officers with 15 or more years on the force in the mid-2000s as cost savings measure.
At one point, said the chief, the force was down to around 45 officers. Council and the force have elected to slowly but steadily rebuild the department each year.
Retirement is unlikely to be a major issue for the department in upcoming years according to the chief who noted that more than 50 percent of the force has served less than seven years.
“We’re a very, very young department,” he said.
Easton started the year with 58 officers, said Mayor Sal Panto. He noted that some recent retirements knocked some officers off that list. He added, though, that the council should hire its 62nd and 63rd officers by the end of the year, although those officers would not be on the street until 2013.
Of the officers sworn in at the meeting, only Thornton is ready to immediately serve on the street. Thornton, 30, graduated Allentown Police Academy in 2010.
Since then he has served as an officer on the Macungie Police Force. Prior to becoming a police officer, the Palmer resident had his own business detailing cars for dealerships. With his Easton field training complete, Thornton is eligible to start right away. The husband and father of one is very excited to get going as being on the force is a dream come true.
“The Easton Police Department is one of the reasons I became a police officer," Thornton said.
Next on the list in terms of readiness is Rezes. The 25-year-old Perth Amboy native graduated the Allentown Academy on June 29. He has to complete his field training yet, a process that should take about three months said Scalzo.
Rezes is single and has an associate’s degree in criminology from Raritan Valley Community College.
Hauze and Stahlnecher still have to complete their terms at the Academy, a process that should take about six months. Hauze, is a Bethlehem Township resident with a wife and three children. The 29-year-old worked as a dispatcher for eight years with Northampton County before making the decision to join the Easton P.D.
Stahlnecher, 28, worked for the Northampton County Department of Corrections. She has a BS in criminology from Indiana University in Pennsylvania. She lives in the Easton area with her husband.
The salary for a new Easton officer is an annual rate of $37,547 for an officer in training at the Academy and $46,698 when he/she eventually joins the force according to figures provided by the city financial director’s office.
In addition to the new recruits, there was also a promotion Wednesday night, with Det. Joseph Alonzo being promoted to sergeant.