EBENSBURG - With supervisors' approval Monday, the Cambria Township Police Department will be growing by one come Jan. 6 and giving the department something it's never had: a female police officer.
Supervisors said at a Dec. 12 meeting that they would consider a letter from Police Chief Mark Westrick requesting two full-time officers be added to the department and voted Monday to fulfill his request by promoting a part-time officer from within, as well as new hire Kristy Vaught.
Officer Walter Maul has been a part-time officer with the township for a little more than a year and will be full time in 2014, Westrick said, and Vaught previously worked part time in Jackson Township for three years.
Westrick said Vaught will be an important asset to the department.
On top of her usual duties, she may be needed to interview female sexual-assault victims or young children, who sometimes find it uncomfortable talking to male officers.
Cambria Township currently operates with three full-time and five part-time officers. With the changes, the department will move to five full-time and four part-time officers.
Because supervisors already budgeted for an additional full-time officer, Westrick said the financial impact of moving Maul from 32 hours per week to 40 hours, at $15 per hour with his promotion, will be minimal.
Westrick said he requested the additional manpower because of the "significant economic growth" in the area over the past few years.
Within the next few weeks, for instance, two new businesses - Hoss's Steak and Sea House and Applebee's restaurants - are set to open along Route 22 in the township.
In addition to business growth, the population is rising as well, he said, leading to an increase in crime.
Keeping a part-time heavy department was not ideal, Westrick said, with several part-time officers working 32 hours per week both for the township and elsewhere to make ends meet.
Those officers usually end up leaving when they find full-time employment, he said.
Westrick said the hire and promotion will put the department on good footing for next year.
Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.