Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a multi-part series covering a day in the life of the officers who work for the Shamokin Police Department. The city allowed The News-Item to spend a day shadowing officers on Nov. 3.
SHAMOKIN — Shamokin Police Chief Raymond Siko II walked into the police station shortly before 7 am with a McDonald’s coffee in hand and a persistent sinus infection that had been going on for more than a week.
The burly 52-year-old veteran went about his usual morning routine at the office: contacting night shift officers leaving for the day, checking computer-aided dispatch to see what calls the department handled overnight and reviewed the newly filed arrest. and incident reports.
Meanwhile, the two officers he would work with during the day, Senior Trooper Tyler Bischof and Rookie Preston Gehring, are in the patrol room catching up with Coal Township Trooper Cody Rebuck as they prepare for their 12-hour shifts. .
“I made it to the third inning before I fell asleep,” Gehring said of Game 5 of the World Series the night before.
Long shifts are typical in police work. Shamokin officers work four 12-hour shifts one week and three 12-hour shifts the next. As part of their labor agreement with the city, the 84-hour biweekly pay period does not pay overtime until officers exceed 84 hours worked.
Still, overtime is common, especially with the added workload that results from court cases.
Trooper Gregory Hoffman finished his 12-hour shift at 7 am. He had to go back to work again at 7 pm the same day. Still, instead of being able to sleep, he had to be at the Sunbury courthouse for an 11 am hearing regarding a simple assault charge he had filed.
Gehring, a 2021 graduate of the University of Lebanon Valley, where he played defensive back in football, has been on the force for less than two months.
He receives on-the-job training from Bischof, who serves as Gehring’s field training officer.
Young officers comprise the majority of the Shamokin Police Department, a symptom that many veterans have reached retirement age in the last five years.
“These guys have less than four years on the job, but with their training and experience here, they handle calls like veterans,” Siko said. “We have a fantastic group, and I give a lot of credit to the civil service training that we do. Jim Catino is on our civil service board, he controls everything and we stay out of it. The testing process is great and I think that’s how we can get the best of the best.”
The first call of the day is mundane, the kind that would likely draw blank stares and no response from larger departments.
“Boss, a mom just called and said her 8-year-old son is swearing at her and missed the bus on purpose,” Bischof said as he headed to Siko’s office.
Siko said the department answers all calls except in high-volume situations, which Thursday morning certainly wasn’t. He explained that community policing is not just about enforcing the laws, but about being there for those who need it, regardless of the powers that come with the gun and the badge.
“Sometimes these parents, if it’s just one parent, they have a child that doesn’t behave or doesn’t do what they need them to do, what do they do? They call the police. We are all in this together.”
Siko answered the call, explained to the boy that he was missing school, and had a caseworker from Children and Youth Services respond to the home to make sure the boy went to school.
At the end of the brief encounter, the irreverent boy was sobbing and apologizing for his behavior. The mother appreciated the help.
Siko went out on patrol around the city as the city began to wake up shortly after 8 a.m.
When asked why he responded to such a low-priority call, he said: “The thing is, I don’t have to sit in an office all day, and if I did, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I want to be in public, I want to be with people and watch. I believe in community policing and that’s the only way we do it.”
It didn’t take long to prove his point. Within minutes of starting to drive through the city streets, he was stopped by a concerned citizen to file a complaint.
“The neighbors down the street play loud music on Fridays and Saturdays until 3 am and none of you do anything about it,” the woman said.
The chief recommended making calls to the station when the incidents occur so that they can be attended to, which the woman claimed to have done.
Siko later reviewed call logs, which showed no noise complaints in that area.
“And that’s what we run into a lot,” he said. “It’s very frustrating when people complain that we don’t do anything when they don’t even let us know what’s going on.”
That said, Siko emphasized that he wants people in the community to come to him with complaints or praise because that is how he can best analyze the effectiveness of the department.
“Getting the patrolmen out of our parking lot is one of the best things we can do,” he said. “I want people to talk to me, not as a boss, but as ‘Hey, Ray, how’s it going?’ We get a lot of information about narcotics and everything else because we’re in the community.
“I was told a long time ago that there is no crime at 511 N. Franklin,” he said, referring to the address of the police station.
tim zyla it is managing editor of The News-Item