West Chester has complete police leadership team after long void with 2 captain hires

Newly sworn in West Chester Twp. Cpt. Bruce Hoffbauer.

Credit: Submitted

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Newly sworn in West Chester Twp. Cpt. Bruce Hoffbauer.

Credit: Submitted

After more than a year, West Chester Twp. has a full police command staff now that the trustees have approved hiring two captains.

This week the trustees approved hiring Seth Hagaman and Bruce Hoffbauer at annual salaries of $115,193. Police Chief Joel Herzog told the Journal-News he received 17 applications for the positions and they took the final candidates through a rigorous process.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t leave any stone unturned and got the best applicants we possibly could,” Herzog said. “Because we’re looking for a good future to move forward here now.”

Amid controversy, former Cpt. Jamie Hensley quit in June 2020 and Cpt. Joe Gutman left in January. The pair have sued the township in federal court and the township asked the court to dismiss the case this week.

The police union was invited to participate in the process and FOP Secretary Sgt. Brent Lovell said Hagaman and Hoffbauer “were the best fit personality-wise for the department” to deliver what is critical to the union.

“One of the most important things to us would have been creating an environment where everybody can work together and continue progress at the police department to make us a premier law enforcement agency,” Lovell told the Journal-News. “The three people they brought to the final interview we couldn’t have gone wrong with any of them and we feel the process worked to find the best for our department.”

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Hagaman has served as a special agent with U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations and department chief of operations with the Central Intelligence Agency. He led crime scene investigations of Al Qaida facilities in Afghanistan and provided program management of global terrorism operations for the Air Force.

He has actually worked for the township twice before, first when he was starting his law enforcement career at age 21 in 1998 and again when his family returned to West Chester in 2011. He is leaving his job as deputy director of the Southwestern Ohio Violent Crime Task Force and senior special agent with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

“I’ve been around the world and have seen a great deal,” Hagaman said. “I am thrilled to now bring what I have learned back to the community where I live and raise my family.”

Hoffbauer retired from the Cincinnati Police Department as a lieutenant in March 2020 after 34 years. He began his career in 1985 as a corrections officer with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office.

“West Chester already has a premier agency with so much to offer,” Hoffbauer said. “This really is a full-service department with all the tools needed to do the work and a community that values its police department. I will learn so much from West Chester and West Chester can also learn from me.”

The captains take their commands Monday. Herzog said he still has seven vacancies department-wide but expects to bring a couple on soon. Given the tense law enforcement environment following the George Floyd killing last year, it is not a popular profession these days. Herzog said they used to get 300 to 400 applicants and now that number is around 60.

“But we still scrutinize. We’ll run short before we lower standards,” Herzog said. “It’s something we take pride in to make sure we’re getting the best and if we can’t get the best we’ll wait ‘til that best comes forward.”

The trustees said they were thrilled with the new hires. “Are we lucky or are we lucky,” Trustee Mark Welch said.

Trustee Ann Becker told the new hires she expects much from them.

“I look to you two to raise us up to another level, with your experience, with your vast knowledge of all things, of the police department and you’ve both had so many different, varied experiences,” Becker said.

“When we learned about you, that you wanted to be a part of our team, it reflected so well on our police department that people of your caliber want to be at the head of the train.”

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