Norristown gets new police chief Tuesday

Norristown Police Chief Willie Richet (left), who will retire after 40 years with the law enforcement agency, talks to fellow officers. RON TARVER / Staff Photographer
Norristown Police Chief Willie Richet (left), who will retire after 40 years with the law enforcement agency, talks to fellow officers. RON TARVER / Staff Photographer
Posted: November 17, 2013

NORRISTOWN Norristown Police Chief Willie Richet finally will be able to relax and wear something other than his uniform. And he has mixed feelings about that.

When Richet retires next week, he'll put away his badge after 40 years with the Montgomery County seat's law enforcement agency.

Mark E. Talbot Sr., director of the Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation, will be sworn in as Norristown's next chief Tuesday.

Given how long he has served and the fact that he is a Norristown resident, "it made for great relationships," said Norristown Councilwoman Linda Christian, the public safety committee cochair.

Richet was supposed to retire as the department's No. 2 man at the end of February. But when longtime Chief Russell Bono announced his retirement, Richet was asked to lead the department until a successor was chosen.

He didn't mind.

Over four decades, Richet served in almost every capacity, beginning as a patrolman. His career highlight was being chief, "the pinnacle of this department."

Richet will leave behind a department of 64 officers facing a troubling crime rate.

In 2011, four murders and "nonnegligent manslaughters" occurred in Norristown, according to state police statistics, a rate of 11.6 per 100,000 - almost six times the countywide rate.

Norristown, with a population of about 34,000, also had significantly higher rates of sex offenses, robberies, and assaults.

Richet acknowledges that challenges await his successor. But he said there is momentum for progress - the department is in the process of hiring three or four more officers.

With a bigger force, he said, officers could engage more in preventive policing rather than just "running around responding to crime."

Talbot, 43, has been credited with helping improve the oversight of professionals licensed by the state. The need for changes became evident after Philadelphia police arrested Kermit Gosnell in January 2011 on charges, including first-degree murder, related to an abortion clinic he operated in West Philadelphia. Gosnell is now serving a life sentence.

"We really were trying to make changes to allow the organization to be high-functioning and to do the job it was designed to do," Talbot said Thursday from Harrisburg.

Before joining the state in August 2011, Talbot was deputy police chief in Reading, a city that is twice as large as Norristown and that also has high crime rates.

There is a seamlessness to the transition from Richet to Talbot: Both love policing.

Said Talbot: "There is nothing like the opportunity available to have a positive impact on people's lives than you have in policing."

Said Richet: "I've put everything I have into this town and this police department. . . . I enjoyed every minute of it."


cdavis@phillynews.com

610-313-8109

@carolyntweets

www.inquirer.com/montcomemo

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