Middletown’s new police chief wants to knock down barriers

by Submitted News

 MIDDLETOWN — The officer spotted a known shoplifter and fugitive wanted on seven charges.

An apprehension followed at the Walmart on U.S. 301 near the Delaware-Maryland border and the suspect was held accountable for his previous offenses.

New police chief Rob Kracyla’s policies immediately produced dividends on his first day in the bustling southern New Castle town.

Patrol officers are now required to leave their vehicles for at least 30 minutes per shift to interact with the community, investigate suspicious activity on foot, watch sporting events for a few minutes or whatever else may arise.

That’s just what the officer did when entering the store.

Visibility, communication and building trusting, respectful relationships with residents in all parts of town is a must, Chief Kracyla believes.

“The goal is to take a barrier away so police and citizens can connect as human beings,” the 61-year-old. “I want everyone here to see Middletown Police officers as people.

“If strong relationships result then we can all make a collaborative effort to make this a better town to live and work in.”

Mayor Ken Branner said the new chief’s exuberant personality clearly met town council’s requirements.

“He demonstrated exactly the kind of traits we wanted to get back to town policing, which means getting out of the vehicle and being more noticeable to people,” he said.

Interest in the opening was strong — four other current Delaware police chiefs applied, along with one each from New Jersey and Pennsylvania among the 12 candidates. Five prospective chiefs were interviewed by the entire council, joined by consultant and former police chief/consultant Dan Yeager.

After his swearing in Monday night, Chief Kracyla mingled among the attendees and connected with police who were present. The long-time Middletown resident with two of his five sons in the local Appoquinimink School District previously served almost a year as Seaford’s police chief before arrival.

“All of the officers I’ve talked to said he’s brought the excitement back to them,” Mayor Branner said. “That’s not to say the other chiefs didn’t do a great job because they did, but everyone likes the direction the department is now headed.”

Growing up in Wilmington, Middletown’s new top cop said he learned a sense of justice through his father, a bar owner who confidently stood up to belligerent patrons (sometimes wielding a baseball bat, along with his son) when needed. After a short time as an GE Electric Motor Mechanic upon graduation from Delaware Technical Community College with an engineering degree, Chief Kracyla took a new career path toward law enforcement.

The continually fast growing metropolis – new businesses and residential neighborhoods continue to arrive – isn’t without problems in a suburban atmosphere filled with a significant upper-middle class population and ample out of state transplants, the chief said.

It’s a relatively short drive from nearby Wilmington or Philadelphia and bigger city issues tend to migrate everywhere.

Officers on the 37-member force (including six females) investigated four opioid overdoses in three days, and domestic disputes, firearm, robbery, assault and theft cases keep the 37-officer force continually busy as the population grows.

“Opiods in general have touched every part of the state and we’re not going to arrest our way out of it,” the chief said.

Besides elevating the personal touch, Middletown PD staff will study crime maps and analytics to forecast when, where and how offenses may take place and staff accordingly. A daily roll call is designed to fill in patrol officers on what’s ahead, along with let them express whatever they need to.

Chief Kracyla will join in and pass along administrative information, expecting open and frank discussions minus lasting acrimony when needed.

“I want officers to feel like they can freely communicate their feelings without worry in a back and forth environment,” the chief said. “Shared information can go a long way in increasing our ability to fulfill our duties.”

Chief Kracyla’s career history includes:

• An initial three-year stint as a Dover PD patrol officer.

• 27 years as a Delaware State Police trooper, including more than 23 years as a Special Operations Response Team member and leader.

• Serving as a FBI Federal Task Force officer for 10 years and then Detail Leader of then Delaware Gov. Jack Markell’s executive protection team.

• After leaving DSP in 2012, Chief Kracyla served as the Deputy Director of the Delaware Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement and graduated from the FBI National Academy.

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