Sunbury Police: Department in Crisis?

SUNBURY, Pa. -- The city of Sunbury has one of the state's highest violent crime rates and has now gone through its third police chief in less than four years.

Some believe the city has a public safety crisis.

Timothy Miller, who stepped down as Sunbury's police chief Monday, followed two chiefs who were demoted by a former mayor.

People in that Northumberland County city are questioning why Miller left and why he will still collect a paycheck for the next 10 months.

When Sunbury hired Miller as police chief in 2017, city leaders touted him as the cop who cleaned up downtown Williamsport as assistant chief there.

But Miller lasted just two years, and the police department is once again without a chief.

Joel Wiest is Sunbury's solicitor. He admits the police department had a leadership crisis.

Ex-chief Stephen Mazzeo was demoted to patrolman in 2014 by a former mayor who cited low morale in the department.

A year later, ex-chief Brad Hare took a demotion to corporal when an outside investigation concluded he covered up the misbehavior of another officer.

But after Miller stepped aside Monday, Hare was appointed Sunbury's officer in charge.

"I think Brad Hare would be the first to tell you he would do some things differently now," Wiest said.

Miller's departure leaves Sunbury police with more money problems. Because of guaranteed contracts, the city will pay chief salaries of more than $75,000 to both ex-chief Mazzeo who works as a patrolman, and Miller who is on administrative leave until April.

"And during that period of time, he's going to be paid," Wiest said, adding it's not a good deal for the city.

The FBI's Uniform Crime Statistics show Sunbury's violent crime rate is more than double the state average and higher than the largest cities and boroughs in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.

"The drug dealers and the pimps, and anything else in this town, they need to get rid of them," said resident Jack Nentwig.

"People stealing, and breaking in houses and stuff like that, I've seen a lot of that," said Bruce Foye.

We set up an interview Tuesday with Sunbury Mayor Kurt Karpovich to talk about the police department. But he had his secretary call us back to say the interview's off, that something came up.

In explaining Chief Miller's departure, the city released this statement.

"Tim has been suffering from hidden wounds that have caused him distress in his professional and private life. Tim has suffered silently."

Solicitor Wiest says privacy rules prevent anyone from saying more about Miller's medical condition.

"It just wasn't in his best interest to continue in the law enforcement realm," Wiest explained.

Wiest says the police department needs more manpower and says that's unlikely to happen until Chief Miller's salary comes off the books next spring.

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