Steven Henshaw: 2 new Berks police chiefs familiar to their communities

·3 min read

Jan. 14—Two Berks County municipalities have selected as their next police chief a person who needs no introduction to the officers and the community.

The Spring Township supervisors officially appointed Stephen D. Powell as chief of police in early December, one year after hiring him as deputy chief of the 30-member department.

Powell was lured from West Reading, where he had been chief for seven years, with the understanding he would take over as chief when Chief Bryan Ross retired from one of Berks County's largest police departments at the end of 2021.

"It's a great department," Powell, 56, said of the Spring Township force. "I feel very privileged to be part of it."

Powell has spent his entire 30-year law enforcement career in Berks. He started as a Reading police officer in November 1991, working his way up to captain before retiring after 22 years.

The supervisors recently approved a five-year contract with Powell at an annual salary of $125,000, with raises to be determined based on annual performance evaluations.

Unlike Spring Township officials, Fleetwood Borough Council considered outside candidates to replace its longtime chief, Steven Stinsky, who retired in November. After an exhaustive interview and vetting process, they selected a department veteran, Dale Ulshafer.

Borough council voted unanimously at the annual reorganization meeting Jan. 3 to promote Ulshafer, who previously held the rank of sergeant, to chief.

Ulshafer served as officer-in-charge the past two months following Stinsky's retirement, but that didn't make him a lock for the top job. He had to go through the same process as finalists among the 12 initial candidates, Mayor Tammy Gore said.

"It was a diligent interview process," Gore said. "We had the borough manager do a preliminary phone interview to make sure the candidate understood our chief is not just an administrator but also goes out on patrol."

A committee of police chiefs in Berks interviewed the finalists, who also had to make a presentation to a panel of stakeholders in the community that included representatives of key businesses and organizations. The panelists filled out a scorecard on each candidate.

Ulshafer came across as incredibly prepared, the mayor said.

Salary and contract terms won't be available until the borough receives and approves the signed contract, Gore said, adding that the salary lies in the mid-range of what chiefs are being paid in Berks.

Besides covering the borough, the Fleetwood Police Department, which has six full-time officers and up to four part-time officers, provides coverage on a contractual basis to Richmond and Ruscombmanor townships and Topton.

Although the department is not governed by a regional police commission, Gore said Fleetwood could well be considered Pennsylvania's oldest regional police department because its relationship with Richmond Township dates to 1957.

Ulshafer, 47, started his career as a part-time officer with the Fleetwood department nearly 23 years ago. He was promoted to sergeant in 2018.

For the past 11 years he has served on the Berks County Emergency Response Team, which is composed of officers from around the county who have special training in responding to situations such as barricaded people threatening to harm others and/or themselves.

"It's an honor," he said of being picked for chief. "It feels great to be able to continue and push forward."

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