Merkel in line to be police chief

WARREN – Police Lt. Eric Merkel received the highest score on the police chief’s test give last week and likely will become Warren’s next chief.

The test results were announced Wednesday during the Warren Civil Service Commission meeting.

Out of 150 possible answers on the police chief test given by Daniel Clancey and Associates, Merkel had 125 correct answers or 83.37 percent.

The three others taking the test were Martin Gargas and Robert Massucci, each of whom had 74.037 percent of the correct answers, and Janice Gilmore who had 72.036 percent of the correct answers. Gilmore was the only captain who took the test; all the others are lieutenants.

The officers will be able to challenge the test results at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Final results will not be announced until after any challenges are reviewed. Barring any changes based on challenges, Merkel next would be named Warren’s next police chief.

“I’m looking forward to working with the command staff,” Merkel said. “I would have been honored to have worked with any of the others if they would have been named the police chief.”

It is too early to make determinations on specific changes he would make in the department, he said.

“I would like to restructure the department to deal with the most pressing problems of the community,” he said.

Because of retirements, there will be two new captains named, and an opening for lieutenant if Merkel’s promotion is upheld. Captains and sergeants will test for the promotions on March 21.

Mayor Doug Franklin said, “I think Lt. Merkel is bright and progressive. I look forward to work with him. He’s innovative and understands where the police department needs to be.”

“I want to see heighten level of community policing,” Franklin said. “It is especially important when you don’t have the numbers. I would like to have more police officers.”

The department has 61 officers, and has interviewed seven candidates. It has not been determined how many will be hired.

Franklin said he hopes that Merkel will be able to work closely with outgoing Chief Timothy Bowers, who is retiring, so there will be a smooth transition.

”Merkel is going to have to fill some be big shoes,” he said.

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.

Merkel 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.

Also Wednesday, two Warren patrolmen, John Wilson and Mark Krempasky, went before the commission to make sure they were eligible to take the sergeant’s examination. A complaint suggested that some officers may not have the mandatory five years required service because of an earlier layoff.

Attorney David Lake said his interpretation of the contract language is for patrol officers to have at least five years service with the department, but that it does not have to be five continuous years of service.