Jan. 24—SELINSGROVE — Selinsgrove Borough Police Chief Shanee Mitchell has faced plenty of challenges in her first six months on the job.
When the former City of Philadelphia lieutenant succeeded Thomas Garlock, who retired in April 2022 after 27 years as chief, she found some aspects of the office, the department's computer systems and equipment outdated.
For several months Mitchell has been working to make the upgrades to be eligible for state and federal grants, improvements that council member Bobbie Owens said are ongoing.
Then in November, longtime police officer Eric Mouery retired, followed shortly after by the resignation of officer Monty Anders who moved out of state. This left the department with three full-time officers — Scott Grove, Francis Petrovich and Elizabeth Shampanore — and one part-time officer, Nathan Fisher.
"Chief Mitchell has had challenges coming into the position, including these shortages of police hours and the unexpected issue with Grove," said borough council president Marvin Rudnitsky, referring to Mitchell's toughest issue to date.
In mid-December, Grove, a 25-year police veteran in Selinsgrove, publicly raised concerns about the chief and was accused of insubordination and harassment of Mitchell and Mayor Jeff Reed, and harassment of District Attorney Michael Piecuch and council members Rudnitsky and Bobbi Owens for repeatedly calling them to express his concern and frustration.
Grove was suspended without pay for four weeks on Jan. 9 while borough solicitor Robert Cravitz and Grove's attorney, Anthony Caputo, of Harrisburg, work out unspecified conditions for his return to work.
"There are always growing pains with leadership change," said Reed who has not brought a list of complaints he received from the officers last month, including concerns with a schedule change; Mitchell not filling patrol shifts and living in Pottstown, two hours from Selinsgrove.
Reed said he's waiting for the matter involving Grove to be resolved before he decides whether the complaints need to be brought to the council's attention.
In the meantime, the borough has hired another full-time officer, Christopher Baker.
Reed said Mitchell "has a big picture" view on running the department and has the support of council.
Council members Rudnitsky and Owens said they are aware of the concerns raised by the officers but nothing has been brought to them formally.
Owens anticipates that each issue "will be heard and talked through" without involvement by the council.
Both council members said public safety is a priority and they are confident in Mitchell's leadership.
As for the contract with Mitchell that is being developed as her six-month probationary period comes to an end, Rudnitsky said he doesn't expect a residency requirement will be included or that she will be mandated to go out on patrol.
"As long as the job performance remains good, I have no objection" to where Mitchell resides or whether she works a patrol shift. "The mayor is in charge of the police force. (Mitchell's job performance) becomes a concern if the mayor has a problem with it or (the mayor) is not providing proper information to the council."
Added Owens, "I'm not going to micromanage the department."