South Bethany chooses local man for new police chief

South Bethany’s new police chief comes from just down the street. Jason Lovins will be departing Dewey Police Department to take the job, which was offered and accepted on May 20.

South Bethany Town Council held a special meeting that day to discuss their candidate finalist. 

Saxton was impressed by his qualifications and also his “very strong answers on how to recruit and retain officers in a small agency. He’s had experience in a small agency and very large agency. He’s very well-rounded, very personable.”

“He was a stellar candidate,” with good answers to specific questions on police management, said councilmember and police liaison Gerald ‘Jerry” Masiello. “He is looking forward to meeting the people of the town. He is not above, as he said, stopping his patrol car and getting out and talking to people. So, I think pretty much in a short while, everyone’s mind will be set at ease and the police issue will be a ‘fait accompli.’”

Officially, the mayor appointed Jason Lovins to be police chief, which was ratified by the council (per town charter). Councilmember Frank Weisgerber was absent from the otherwise unanimous vote.

The council had a 90-minute executive session to privately discuss his qualifications, get legal advice and draft an employment contract. After the vote in open session, a public comments period was also scheduled, but no residents attended the midday meeting.

“We are currently working with Jason to finalize the terms and agreements of his contract,” Saxton confirmed the next morning.

Lovins lives nearby and can be close during an emergency. Moreover, all background checks have been completed satisfactorily.

“We had about 50 applicants for the chief of police. Mike Carroll has done a superb job of vetting and evaluating all those applicants,” said Saxton. “We were lucky enough to have 10 highly qualified individuals that were Delaware-certified make it to the first set of interviews,” by a committee of SBPD temporary advisor/administrator Carroll and neighboring police chiefs Bill Boyden and Ken McLaughlin.

Their top four candidates were interviewed by an administrative committee with Saxton, Masiello and Town Manager Maureen Hartman.

The overall quality of candidates was “crazy good,” Saxton said. “You never know what you’re gonna get when you do something like this [recruiting]. And I think he’s going to be able to attract officers relatively quickly that are high-quality as well.”

SBPD’s previous chief, Troy Crowson, retired from the Town on April 1. He was the sixth officer to depart South Bethany since early 2018. There had been mutual frustrations between the police and town council for several years, due to questions of compensation; two changes in rank structure and new policies, resulting from two professional studies; and the eventual exodus of officers. SBPD currently has one regular officer; one recruit in the police academy; one out-of-state officer who is currently gaining Delaware credentials; and temporary administrator Carroll, a retired Pennsylvania police chief who will guide the department, recommend improvements and help with hiring.

In the meantime, South Bethany is filling gaps by hiring four-hour shifts of Fenwick Island, Ocean View and Delaware State police.

After he’s sworn in, Lovins can continue recruiting to rebuild the police force, which needs full-time and summer seasonal officers. Saxton hopes Lovins will arrive in early June (pending a signed employment agreement and notice to his current employer).

By Laura Walter
Staff Reporter