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May 15, 2014

Demotion of top cop shrouded in mystery

— SUNBURY — It wasn’t for lack of civic engagement that Steve Mazzeo was demoted from chief of the Sunbury Police Department to patrolman.

Nor was it because he didn’t live within city limits. He does, unlike most of the officers in the department.

Nor was it because his department brought charges against two suspects within a month of a rare city homicide.

Sunbury Mayor David Persing, who on Monday cited personnel reasons for the demotion of the six-year chief, will not discuss what those issues were.

While Mazzeo — who stated at a recent City Council meeting that he was not a “working” chief — may not have been patrolling the streets, he was involved in numerous community projects and served on various Sunbury boards.

Mazzeo is a member of the Sunbury Revitalization Inc., Sunbury River Festival and Sunbury New Year’s Eve committees, as well being a member of several fire houses and the Sunbury Rotary Club.

He’s even participated in various charity events in Sunbury.

His work duties, he said previously, were to maintain the force, organize officers’ schedules and assure operations inside the department went smoothly each day. On occasion, he’d make an arrest or assist in an arrest.

Mazzeo handled all media inquiries and became known globally after the arrests of Miranda and Elytte Barbour in connection with a Nov. 11 homicide inside the city. By Dec. 6, both Barbours had been charged.

2013: Crimes, spending

Mazzeo had authorized his officers to work as many hours as needed in the month leading up to the arrest of the Barbours, even though it may have put a strain on the police department budget.

Mazzeo also contended with a June incident that saw one of his officers shoot Naheem Reams, 18. Reams led officers on a high-speed chase through the city, police said, and when Reams was cornered, he tried to run over the officer.

Mazzeo in 2010 also dealt with a city officer who shot and killed his wife, then turned the gun on himself, shocking Sunbury residents and the police department.

During the tragedy, Mazzeo fended off journalists who tried to speak with officers about the murder-suicide.

Mazzeo has appeared in district and county court numerous times on behalf of his officers.

Mazzeo was not paid overtime when he was called out for any after-hours work for which he was needed.

Because the city switched computer systems, Sunbury leaders were able to provide overtime budgets for only the past four years.

In 2011, the city budgeted $25,000 in overtime for patrolmen, but spent $42,456.09.

In 2012, the city changed to a three-tiered overtime system. Patrolmen’s overtime was budgeted at $15,000 but  came in at $28,252.41. Overtime for sergeants was budgeted at $5,000 but $6,482.56 was spent. Corporals had $5,000 and used $4,973.04.

In 2013, the city budgeted $15,000 in overtime for patrolmen, but $50,518.45 was spent. Most of that money went for the homicide investigation.

Sergeants’ overtime, budgeted at $5,000, came in at  $7,040.96; while corporals had $4,000 and spent $10,846.77.

Police also went through a vigorous negotiation process with city officials, but Mazzeo was not part of those talks.

City officials have said the call volume in the city for 911 response has not gone up drastically.

Mazzeo has had several grievances filed against him from some of his officers, but none would be discussed by Persing, citing personnel issues.

Mazzeo and acting Chief Brad Hare are the only two officers who live inside city limits. Living within Sunbury is not a requirement to serve on the force, and according to several state troopers and city police officers, it is safer for families who have law-enforcement jobs to live outside of the areas in which they patrol.

During Monday’s council meeting, Persing read from a prepared statement and city solicitor Brianna Apfelbaum Kula, informed the public that removing Mazzeo from the chief spot was in fact allowed because Persing is the head of the department and has the authority to switch chiefs at any time.

Mazzeo is off for the next two weeks, and is then expected to return to the department May 23 as an officer.

 

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