Chief candidate hedges bet

WARREN – The police lieutenant expected to become the city’s next police chief hedged his bets last week by being one of three people taking the captain’s test.

Lt. Eric Merkel, who had the highest score on the police chief’s test earlier this month, took the captain’s test alongside Lt. Martin Gargas and Lt. Robert Massucci.

Merkel is expected to be named police chief this summer when current police Chief Timothy Bowers retires. However, because Bowers could change his mind about retirement, Merkel took the test for a captain’s position that is expected to open up later this year.

Once the chief’s test is certified during the next civil service commission meeting on April 3, Merkel’s top score will make him the next in line to become chief.

Both Gargas and Massucci also took the chief’s test. The two men tied with the second highest score.

The city also gave a test to establish a list for future sergeant positions. Approximately 25 patrol officers took the sergeant’s test.

Because there are eligible people on the list from the last lieutenant’s test, there will be no need for a lieutenant’s test if Merkel is promoted to chief.

Merkel is a 1987 graduate of Howland High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Kent State University and a master’s degree in police administration from Youngstown State University. He also graduated from the FBI National Academy in 2006. He also completed course work from the Police Executive Leadership College in Columbus.

He joined the Warren Police Department in 1995. He was promoted to sergeant in June 2004 and to lieutenant in July 2008.

Merkel was able to take the test to become police chief because the only captain, Gilmore, signed up for the position, so the city opened the test to eligible lieutenants.