SOUTH PYMATUNING TOWNSHIP — For the second time in as many months, South Pymatuning has a new police chief.
On Monday, Brookfield resident Paul Ferm took over as South Pymatuning Township’s police chief, replacing Paul Smith. Township Supervisor and Secretary Rose Lyons said Smith, who was hired May 8, stepped down for medical reasons.
Township residents will have a chance to meet Ferm at the supervisors meeting at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
Like Smith before him, Ferm faces the task of re-establishing South Pymatuning Township’s police department from the ground up. Township supervisors disbanded the previous department February 13 after an investigation uncovered irregularities in the department, including missing weapons and equipment, and outdated procedures.
Ferm said he is taking the task seriously.
“Hopefully within the next few months we’ll have everything up and running again, and we’ll have a police department that will make township residents proud,” he said.
Ferm’s career has taken him from Ohio and Pennsylvania to Florida and back.
He graduated from Brookfield High School in 1977 and began his career in 1979 with the Brookfield Township Police Department. He then moved to the Grove City Police Department, where he worked from 1980 to 1985.
“My career started in Brookfield, a community that’s relatively the size of South Py,” Ferm said.
In 1985, Ferm took a position with the Coral Springs Police Department in Coral Springs, Fla., where he worked for 26 years. Ferm started there as a road patrol officer, and moved to the tactical unit before becoming an investigator in the department’s crimes against persons unit’s robbery-homicide division.
Ferm was promoted to sergeant in 2001, and was selected by the police chief to head the department’s internal affairs unit for three years. He then went to Coral Springs sex crimes and child abuse division of the criminal investigation unit and returned to lead the robbery-homicide division.
“When I took the job in 1985, Coral Springs was a community of about 52,000 people and a little over 100 police officers,” Ferm said. “By the time I left in 2011, the community had grown to about 137,000 people and the department had over 200 police officers.”
While in Florida, issues sometimes arose due to families living in close proximity, so the police engaged in de-escalation techniques as an alternative to making arrests.
“Officers would set up meetings with people or the individual, let them vent or talk, and most of the time by sitting down with the officer, they could arrive at some type of agreement,” Ferm said.
In 2011, Ferm retired to his hometown of Brookfield, Ohio. Though he had done some part-time work in the private sector since then, Ferm applied for the position of South Pymatuning Township’s police chief.
“I suppose the fire never stops burning completely,” he said.
Even though South Pymatuning Township is much different than Coral Springs, with a mixture of older residents, middle age residents and younger families, Ferm said he would like to apply a similar method of community policing as chief.
“The answer’s not always jail, sometimes if it’s a younger person you just take them and talk with the parents,” he said. “Back in my day, that was probably worse than anything the criminal justice system could have done.”
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