Mohawk High School

The Mohawk Area School District has taken its first step toward creating its own police department.

Former Union Township police officer Joseph Caiazza of Volant was hired on Tuesday to serve as chief of the Mohawk Area School District Police Department.

He will be paid $47,000 for the next two years. His salary is provided through a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, said school superintendent Michael Leitera. Caiazza will be the only full-time employee of the department

Also hired were eight officers who will make up the department. Leitera did not release names of the officers, all of whom will be part-time employees.

"I haven't yet notified all eight, and I still need certifications from some of them," he said. He noted that all of the officers hired by the district had already worked security in some capacity within the district. He said all have the Act 120 training or are retired Pennsylvania State Police officers. Within six months, he said, all will be required to also have National Association of School Resource Officers training as well.

"We're lucky to keep people who are familiar with our students, their families, the staff and the district," he said.

Leitera said all of the officers will be court appointed, sworn in by a judge or district judge, and will have full police powers within the school buildings and grounds. He added, "This is just the beginning. We're looking to get more officers."

Leitera said he expects to recruit officers from North Beaver and Mahoning townships, Bessemer and other police departments within the district. In addition to day shift, the department will have to fill a night shift and special events at the school including sports events that require security.

"Our officers will be part-time so they will most likely work part-time for other departments too," he said. He said the officers will be paid $21 per hour. 

After the district announced plans to begin its own police department in June, Leitera said at least 15 qualified candidates expressed interest in the job.

Leitera said he believes the school got an outstanding candidate.

He said Caiazza has degrees in criminal justice and public safety and emergency management, a master's degree in criminal justice management and is a professor at Westminster College. He also has experience as a code enforcement officer.

He said Caiazza served as police captain in Leeds County, Florida.

He served as a Union Township police officer from 1976 to 1980. He was a school resource officer for nine years in Florida  and in 1983 helped to start the first School Resource Officer program in Florida, Leitera said. He said Caiazza also has had training as an emergency response/unified incident command leader and has had experience dealing with three hurricanes and related natural disasters.

"The Bush family also had a residence within his jurisdiction," Leitera said. "He worked with the Secret Service to provide security for a former president, sitting president and governor of Florida."

Leitera added that Caiazza has firearms training and is experienced in use of force.

"Hiring a chief is the first step we needed to take in creating our own police department," Leitera said. "We've done that. Now he will meet the staff."

He said uniforms and badges have been ordered and the chief and officers will be in place and ready to go when students return to school on Aug. 22.

"It will probably be the end of September before everything is fully in place," Leitera said.

nlowry@ncnewsonline.com

Reporter

Nancy Lowry is a reporter at the New Castle News. Email her at nlowry@ncnewsonline.com

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