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Schuylkill County Police News

Minersville Appoints Bowers as Next Police Chief

He takes over for Michael Combs, who is retiring after 46 years as a police officer and 15 as Minersville’s chief.

Jeffrey Bowers has been named Minersville’s new Chief of Police.

Borough council members voted Tuesday night to have Bowers replace Michael Combs, who has retired after serving in that role since 2009 and as a police officer for the last 46 years.

Last week, The Canary spoke with Bowers about his new position at the helm of Minersville Police Dept. and Combs as he was preparing to retire.

Bowers has been serving as a police officer in several municipalities since 2001. He started at Minersville in October of that year. He promoted to the rank of sergeant in June 2023.

The role of police chief isn’t exactly new to Bowers. He’s previously served in that position for Cass-Foster townships when they had a combined police force.

Minersville, however, is the same job on a bigger scale.

Challenges Ahead for Minersville’s New Police Chief

Bowers says the biggest challenges he faces are manpower and the public perception of police these days. Both challenges are related, too.

On the lack of manpower, Bowers says there’s a dwindling pool of applicants.

“It’s a buyer’s market,” he says. “Everybody’s trying to compete. There’s a handful of officers looking for jobs and everybody’s hiring.”

In Combs’ years of experience, he says, “I’ve never seen a situation like we’re all in today. Previously, if you had an opening, you’d have 20 applicants.”

Bowers adds, “You’re begging people to work.”

Community-oriented policing

So, why are there so few police officers these days? Bowers and Combs say it’s public perception of the job and those who serve in that role.

Combs says that negative perception of police is a societal issue.

And while the police in Minersville can’t really do much to change that sentiment on a national or state level, they can and do try at the local level.

Bowers says Minersville Police maintains an “open door policy” and he doesn’t intend to change that with the changing of the guard.

Prior to Combs’ arrival, Bowers says borough residents had a standoffish relationship with the police. But Combs did a lot of work to change that for the better.

In a conversation with Combs last week, he told The Canary that one specific incident comes to mind that shows how the public can begin to think differently of its police force.

An elderly resident – someone he says probably never called the cops in her life prior that one day – phoned to say that she believed she was the victim of a bank fraud. Combs said he sat with her in her home at her dining room table and helped her uncover the suspected fraud by balancing her checkbook.

“People know they can come here for help,” Bowers says. “We try and do whatever we can do even if it’s not something we’re required to do. Little things like that go a long way.”

Adjusting to the New Role

Bowers is a familiar name to many who read the news here in Schuylkill County. His name is attached to numerous drug arrests in Minersville.

The new role of Chief seemingly would take him away from that but he says he still wants to be an active member of the police force.

“I’m still going to do as much as I can,” he says. “I still want to stay active in the drug work. I know it’s going to be harder but I still enjoy doing that.”

But the new job will come with its set of unique challenges.

Combs joked, “He’s just saying he’s just so anxious for his first personnel issue.”

Bowers says, “Ultimately, the buck stops with you” as chief.

Taking Over for Combs

Bowers knows he’s got some big shoes to fill as Minersville’s new Police Chief.

And he says he doesn’t plan on making many changes at all. He says Combs has taught him how to treat people, how to manage, how to lead, and how to motivate.

We asked what’s the best piece of advice he’s gotten upon taking on the new role. He says it came from his predecessor.

“The biggest lesson he taught me is to never respond in anger,” Bowers says.

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