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Emmaus Police Chief Charles Palmer retires after 27 years on the job

Like any law enforcement officer in a small town, Emmaus Police Chief Charles Palmer has seen just about everything in his 27 years on the force.

There have been disappointments and victories, “but we’ve been more than up to our challenges,” he said recently.

When he ascended to the chief’s position in 2016, Palmer saw an opportunity to reorganize the department in a way that would reduce some of the administrative paperwork and record-keeping required of law enforcement officers everywhere,

By creating an operations section to chase that paperwork, Palmer was able to increase the time his officers could be patrolling the streets of the community.

“I wanted patrol officers to patrol and detectives to detect,” Palmer said, “and be more effective on the street than they would be at their desk.”

That offered an opportunity to use some of the private donations that generally come from community sources other than taxpayers, and put his administrative officers in a position for more one-on-one community outreach.

“We were able to more frequently go into our high-rise residential communities and into community events at the borough Triangle and other venues and listen to concerns and suggestions from folks in a more relaxed atmosphere,” Palmer said.

It was a big disappointment, Palmer said, that the advent of COVID-19 restrictions last year “put the brakes” on that kind of outreach.

“I really did not want to be hamstrung in those activities in my last year on the job but we made the most of what we had to work with,” he said.

Commenting on the anti-police sentiments in many parts of the country, Palmer said his force had already addressed many of the changes citizens and politicians are calling for.

“The state accreditation process we went through from 2002 to 2006 really helped us to get ahead of the curve in implementing use-of-force policies and de-escalation training which are now being called for in many big cities across the country,” Palmer said.

The “Accredited Law Enforcement Agency,” Palmer referred to hearkens back to the early 2000s. The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association developed more than 125 standards to help law enforcement agencies reduce liability risk and exposure to lawsuits.

In May, 2006, the Emmaus force received the accreditation that put it in the top three percent of 1,200 law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania.

The Emmaus Police Department has renewed its accreditation every three years since then, including this year.

Although there have been perceived tensions on social media and a few rallies at the Triangle, Palmer said, “they have been mostly uneventful and pretty much people just exercising their right to free speech.”

When asked why there seems to have been an unusual number of attempted bank robberies in the borough in the past three decades, Palmer said the geographical layout of the community may have had a lot to do with it.

“While a cursory look at our community may cause some perpetrators to think they can make an easy getaway, we’ve developed strategies that reduce those odds. We’ve been up to the task and held our own in that area,” he said.

As his May 31 retirement date nears, Palmer said he and Deputy Chief Troy Schantz have been working together to assure a smooth transition as Schantz becomes chief when Palmer leaves.

It helped when borough council unanimously promoted Schantz from sergeant to deputy chief in January, Palmer said.

“Troy and I both came up through the force together over the years and we’ve had a good professional working relationship during that time,” Palmer said.

When asked what’s next for the outgoing chief, Palmer said “That’s still to be determined. There will be some motorcycling and golfing,” Palmer said, “but I’m not the type to sit around, so some type of employment will probably be in the picture.”

And like many athletes who’ve just won a championship exclaim, “We’re going to Disney World,” Palmer and his wife, Lisa, plan to make that trip with their three-year-old twin grandchildren later this year.

PRESS PHOTO BY JIM MARSH Emmaus Police Chief Charles Palmer retires after his 27-year career with the Emmaus Police Department.