Meet Middletown’s new police chief

Middletown police chief Gary W. Benedict Jr. recently joined the force. Rich Cooley/Daily

MIDDLETOWN – Police chief Gary W. Benedict Jr. wants his officers and Middletown residents to know he has an open door policy and they can come to him, whether in his office or on the street.

The new chief considers the community the department’s biggest asset, its eyes and ears to alert them of possible problems.

The police department is there to serve the community. There is a relationship of trust and openness with the residents that he wants to not only continue but improve on.

That is his philosophy.

“It starts with the chief,” Benedict said.

Benedict is the man for the job, according to Mayor Charles H. Harbaugh.

“We are thrilled about the hiring of Chief Benedict. He brings with him a long resume of management and leadership. He has already made a great employee hire, and he has already showed the willingness to be successful at his job. He has worked nights, weekends and special events. He is a natural leader and we look forward to his tenure in the town of Middletown,” Harbaugh said.

Yes, the chief responds to calls. In fact, a call for help in the morning is almost guaranteed to bring the chief, who usually is the only officer working.

“The community is a big asset. Everyone has been gracious and greeted me with open arms. The mayor has given me a very good budget to work with and he has been very supportive,” Benedict said.

The chief moved here from Avon, New York, just south of Rochester, where he was the police chief for four years.

Benedict has been in law enforcement for 35 years, including 23 years with the New York State Police.

He is, however, no stranger to Virginia.

His mother and her side of the family are from “this side of Virginia” and so he has been coming to the state on and off his entire life.

“I fell in love with the area,” Benedict said.

He even found himself wearing the Chesapeake, Virginia, police uniform in his first job as a full time police officer.

“I was there on vacation at Virginia Beach and saw they were looking so I applied,” Benedict laughs.

Getting fully staffed

Benedict started as Middletown’s police chief July 1.

The Middletown police department now operates with four officers, including the chief. For a long time there was one full time officer, he said.

In the weeks Benedict has been leading the department, he hired officer Brian Thomas from the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.  The Middletown department now has three full time officers with Benedict, Thomas and officer Matt Clark as well as one part time investigative officer.

Benedict also has an administrative assistant.

“I think we are making progress. Residents are getting used to seeing me and are getting used to seeing the cruisers,” Benedict said.

He would like to hire one more full time uniformed officer and a part time officer.

Benedict wants to hire the best candidate – regardless of race or sex. He would like a person who brings skills to the position (such as multi-lingualism).

Fun fact about Benedict:  He knows some sign language, having worked at the National Institute of Technology for the Deaf when he first started in law enforcement.

Someone who is already certified as an officer is a must for job applicants. Benedict does not have time to wait a year and a half for someone to become eligible in Virginia to be an officer.

‘We work for the community’

He also wants someone who can be part of the community.

“When I hire officers, I look for people who are going to be community involved,” Benedict said.

Clark grew up in Middletown and Thomas is from Frederick County, Benedict pointed out.

He wants the department to engage with the community.

“We have the luxury that we are not going from call to call to call, Benedict said. “The officers can get out and meet the public. I try to as well. Every event I could very easily say Matt, Bryan, you all are working it but I attend those events. I try to get out and meet the business owners.”