The Herald, Sharon, PA Published Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Smoot sworn in as police chief

Public ceremony brings together cops, community

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By Larissa Theodore
Herald Staff Writer

With his right hand in the air and his left on the Bible, Riley Smoot Jr. was sworn in Monday as chief of police for the second time this year for the Southwest Mercer County Regional police department.

"This is awesome," Smoot, 45, said after the ceremony.

More than 100 family, friends, officials and community members gathered at the Farrell City Building to watch as Smoot vowed to support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Farrell Mayor William A. Morocco, Wheatland Mayor Thomas R. Stanton and West Middlesex Mayor David George each helped with the swearing in, reading the chief's official duties and watching Smoot repeat them aloud. He received a hearty standing ovation afterward.

At the outset of January's Farrell council meeting, the Rev. Martha J. Sanders, pastor of Farrell's Hour of Power Full Gospel Tabernacle Inc., questioned why the community was never invited to participate in the first formal oath-taking of the new chief.

That same night, council members arranged to have the official passing of the guard. Farrell Mayor William A. Morocco said the swearing in was a "good direction" for the city.

"I'm 100 percent confident Chief Smoot will be able to more-than-naturally fill the position," Morrocco said.

Seventeen of the 21 members of the Southwest force, including Sgt. Detective Joseph Long, attended the ceremony and were acknowledged. As they stood before the audience Smoot introduced each by name and referred to them as his "family."

"It's important to me that my officers get to meet you and it's important you meet them," he said adding that he considers both the police force and the community his family.

Smoot explained that the policemen need to know what's going on in the community and are there to protect residents.

"They can't become a part of this community if you won't accept them and them accept you. Coming together starts the process," he said.

James A. DeCapua, police commission chairman, gave Smoot a formal certificate acknowledging his Jan. 1 appointment. DeCapua said the department has faced rough financial times and will probably face more, but with Smoot around, he feels secure.

"I have all the confidence in the world that this man can lead us through."

Smoot's wife Cheryl -- joined by their two daughters Ashley, 17, and Allyson, 14, -- said she is very proud of her husband and knows he'll do his best.

"I know he's going to lead us in the right direction," she said.

Ashley and Allyson were also happy for their dad. "I'm glad it happened," Ashley said. "He is well deserving of it."

Smoot's brother and sister, Renwick Smoot and Lorraine Hailstock, were both happy with the large number of residents who came.

"It couldn't have happened to a better person," Renwick Smoot said.

In 1992, the Southwest Regional police department was formed. Smoot began with the Farrell police department in 1979, was sergeant since 1982 and was chosen as chief from four other sergeants to succeed Chief Joseph Timko, who retired last year.

Smoot is the second African-American police chief in Mercer County. The late James "Luke" Gillespie was the first; he served the former Farrell force between 1971 and 1973.

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