MIFFLINBURG — Jeffrey Hackenburg held onto his father Donald’s police badge since the longtime borough officer and onetime chief passed away in 2007.
Last week, Hackenburg accepted borough council’s offer to lead his hometown department three decades after his father took on the very same role.
“That's been in my dresser drawer since he passed away,” Hackenburg said.
He looked over the smallish gold badge, perhaps three sizes smaller than the standard badges today. From inside the black wallet that holds the shield, Hackenburg thumbed out three of his father’s department photo IDs.
“I pulled it out when I got hired,” Hackenburg said.
Borough council hired Hackenburg, 47, on Jan. 21. He started the job the next day. It’s a yearly appointed position. The starting salary is $71,000.
The Mifflinburg Police Department now has a full-time chief, six full-time officers and two part-time officers. It shares an administrative assistant with the borough office.
Hackenburg’s father took on the chief’s role in 1991 and retired in 1993 after 38 years with the borough department.
“Everybody knew you,” Hackenburg said of growing up in Mifflinburg as a son of a town officer. “I wouldn’t say everybody knew your business but you knew you couldn’t get away with a whole lot.”
Hackenburg, who turns 48 today, succeeds former chief Fred Dyroff. Dyroff resigned in August to lead the police department in Mahoning Township, Montour County. Mark Bailey led the Mifflinburg department as officer-in-charge in the interim.
Like Dyroff before him, Hackenburg was hired following his retirement from Pennsylvania State Police.
Hackenburg had a 25-year career with the state. His assignments included stations in Milton, Montoursville and Selinsgrove, the latter at which he served four years as commander.
Hackenburg spent one year in internal affairs, was promoted to lieutenant and last served in risk management from state headquarters in Harrisburg. Part of that role meant reviewing incidents like officer-involved shootings to determine if changes were needed in training or policy to improve safety.
He retired from the state in July 2018 and worked as a school police officer for both Mifflinburg and Lewisburg before accepting the job of police chief.
Mayor David Cooney said Hackenburg’s ties to Pennsylvania State Police will prove beneficial.
“One thing that’s nice that I learned with our previous chief, Fred Dyroff, we were made aware of a lot of resources that we were not using to the fullest potential,” Cooney said, citing the state police crime lab as one example.
“I think he has the energy and expertise to be a great leader,” Cooney said of Hackenburg. “It’s great to have someone in the office and know we’re moving forward with a full staff, finally.”
Growing up in Mifflinburg, Hackenburg said he’ll have some advantages as chief, namely, familiarity with many residents. Having run around the borough as a kid, he said there’s no learning curve for street names and locations.
He credited Dyroff for authorizing equipment upgrades like computers and said there’s no radical change in store as he begins his tenure.
“A lot of that heavy lifting has already been done. I kind of came in and started running with it,” Hackenburg said. “As things stand right now, we’re in a good position here.”
Policing is much evolved since the days Donald Hackenburg patrolled Mifflinburg, his son said. One thing Hackenburg said he took away from his father and Hall Solomon, another former chief who worked with Donald and also served as district judge, is behavioral.
“The biggest thing you learned is how to treat people,” Hackenburg said.
Hackenburg is a borough resident. He and his wife, Vicki, have two children: Alexa, 19, a freshman at Penn State University, and Aaron, 16, a sophomore at Mifflinburg Area High School.
He thanked Mayor Cooney, borough council members and department officers for supporting him as he begins the job.