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Police discuss recruitment and retention

“We are protectors when you need us: We are protectors when you need help, and we are the consequences for criminal action.”

Thus declared President of the Bethlehem Fraternal Order of Police Officer Robert Nichelson Oct. 3 as he addressed city council.

Alongside Vice President Officer Martin Soltan and Chief Michelle Kott, they represented a united front on the role of the police in the community.

“At times we are crossing guards ensuring your children make it to school safely. Often we are nurses when someone has minor injuries. Other times, we are tasked with performing life-saving skills until Bethlehem Emergency Services arrives. We are therapist sometimes marriage counselors, most time mediators. And at times, just someone to talk to when you are having a bad day,” Nichelson said.

“Due to the decline in available manpower, there has been more restraint put on officers. We continually utilize officers for patrol shifts to ensure minimum standards are met, which takes them away from other needs. Our officers are being stretched thin.”

Nichelson said the department is facing difficult times, partly due to retirements, partly due to attracting residents to the force. The demands of the job can be difficult and challenging, as he made the point of two recent resignations due to the demands of serving and ensuring Bethlehem is a safe city.

The nationwide shortage of police officers is being felt in Bethlehem and in neighboring communities. Nichelson highlighted Mayor William Reynold’s office for working with the force with the recruitment and retention issues it is facing.

Nichelson told council, “It is imperative that we find qualified candidates that want to be police officers.”

Council President Michael Colon thanked Nichelson, saying, “I wish everyone the best to try and get these people in these uniforms because it’s not easy. It hasn’t been for a long time.”

Reached by The Press afterward, Kott stated, “I look forward to working with the city administration and police union to address these pressing issues (recruitment and retention).”

As for the forthcoming meeting Mayor Reynolds previously mentioned back on Sept. 19 with Gov. Shapiro and other mayors, his office confirmed to The Press, “at this time, the meeting is still in the planning process.”

The day after the council meeting, Bethlehem City Police advertised details for its latest recruitment drive. Anyone interested can contact Bethlehem Police Recruitment Hotline at 610-419-6075. Deadline is Jan. 5, 2024.

Press photos by Marieke Andronache Chief of Police Michelle Kott greets Officer Robert Nichelson backs to his seat after is address to city council.
PRESS PHOTO BY MARIEKE ANDRONACHE Officer Robert Nichelson, president of the Bethlehem Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 20, addresses city council Oct. 3 about the current realities facing Bethlehem City Police.