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Mayor: Candidates are ‘energetic’ and ‘eager to learn’
McKeesport will look to add more police officers to fill vacancies, and the city’s mayor said the candidates that have applied so far seem “excited, energetic and eager to learn.”
The additions — plus three full-time officers welcomed last month — will help boost a department that is still healing from a shooting on Feb. 6 that claimed the life of police Officer Sean Sluganski and wounded Officer Chuck Thomas Jr.
A city man faces homicide charges in connection with that incident.
At this month’s city council meeting, Mayor Michael Cherepko said McKeesport police have done “an incredible job” since coming back to work after Sluganski’s death. County and state police and other agencies patrolled in McKeesport following the incident.
“To know what they’ve been through, and to see what they’ve done since then, we’re incredibly proud,” Cherepko said. “Their lives have changed forever, but they’re working through it.”
The city recently conducted civil-service testing for nine potential applicants, he said, and the police department will be looking to add either one or two new officers soon.
“The majority of them are fresh out of the academy, but I like what I see of these individuals,” Cherepko said. “Just talking to them, they were excited, they’re energetic and they’re willing to learn.”
The city would like to attract more experienced police officers to fill vacancies — “it would be a quicker help to us,” the mayor said — but Cherepko added that “there’s something to be said for bringing on younger officers, and I know the men and women in the police department are excited about being involved in the training process as well.”
The city will be using $100,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funding to support community policing initiatives, he said.
McKeesport is planning to bring on at least two firefighters as well, Cherepko said. In April, city council approved a new collective bargaining agreement with International Association of Fire Fighters Local 10, and the mayor said the city is working with the union to develop more flexibility in the city’s scheduling and staffing requirements.
During the citizens’ comment portion of the meeting, Terry Cooper of Halsey Drive asked if police could do something about motorists speeding and running stop signs on Pin Oak Drive near Renziehausen Park.
“In the last four days I’ve almost been hit four times,” Cooper said. “I almost got hit coming down here. People who come off of James Street to go down through the park go through that stop sign.”
City officials said the complaint would be referred to the police department. Cherepko added it may be possible to paint additional warnings — such as the words “SLOW DOWN” — on Halsey Drive to remind drivers of the intersections.
Originally published May 11, 2023.