For two years, Audie Mertz has been the "Officer in Charge" of the Mahoning Township Police Department.

He was named to the position when former Chief of Police Kenneth Barnes went on medical leave in December 2011. Shortly before then, Barnes filed a lawsuit that has since been settled against the township.

Through that period of uncertainty, Mertz has carried on the position capably.

It's about time the township supervisors change the position for Officer in Charge to the Chief of Police.

Officer in Charge sounds like a temporary position in the police department. It doesn't command as much respect as the title of "chief" does. It just doesn't sound as official as if he were formally named the "chief."

We understand the reasons for the initial title designation to Mertz, but those reasons have long expired. They're not valid anymore.

The former chief of police is out of the picture completely. It is OIC Mertz who is and has been running the department.

Mertz couldn't be named chief immediately because when he was first appointed as OIC, Barnes was only on leave. Barnes, at that time, was still legitimately the chief of police.

Barnes has since resigned, the lawsuit has been settled, and now it is time to get back to business as usual with the police department.

Having a chief of police instead of an "officer in charge" also signals to the public that you have a specific individual running the operations. Calling that person an "officer in charge" doesn't exude the confidence that political leaders have to show to the individual leading the department.

Audie Mertz is a good choice for the police chief position.

He rose through the ranks within the department. He knows the area. He knows the people of the area, including his staff and peers from neighboring departments.

He also has proven to cooperate with the media, a trait that often is lacking these days. This is important because the public deserves to know what is happening.

Hopefully, the township's board of supervisors will come to a decision very soon and name a chief of police specifically Audie Mertz.

He's been doing a good job and deserves the position.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]