Community Government Police

Hellertown Council Discusses ‘Eye-Opening’ Report on Police Dept.

Hellertown Police

The independent review–which was commissioned by council and recently completed by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association (PCPA)–was prompted after ex-Hellertown Police Chief Robert Shupp III, was charged with stealing over $120,000 in borough funds throughout the course of his employment of more than 20 years.

Est. Read Time: 4 mins

Hellertown Borough Council held a special meeting Monday, after an assessment of its police department was made public last week.

The independent review–which was commissioned by council and completed by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association (PCPA)–was prompted after ex-Hellertown Police Chief Robert Shupp III, was charged with stealing over $120,000 in borough funds throughout the course of his employment of more than 20 years. Shupp resigned last October and was charged in December.

Council president Tom Rieger said the chief’s resignation and subsequent charges “were a shock to council and the entire community.”


Robert W. Shupp III resigned as Hellertown’s police chief in October 2023 following an investigation into what council described as “payroll discrepancies.” In December, he was charged with stealing more than $120,000 from the borough. (FILE PHOTO)

The 44-page report–which can be read here–issued in the wake of a months-long review by PCPA was based on interviews with multiple police officers and council members, and a review of police policies and procedures.

Rieger said the borough wanted expert opinions on the police department. He also noted that council realized how reliant it was on the former chief and mayor David Heintzelman for information on what was happening within it.

“Frankly, the council are not law-enforcement officers and felt it was more appropriate for police chiefs to evaluate our police department,” said Rieger. “As I have stated before, it is difficult to fix problems until you fully understand them.”

Leadership, staffing, policies and mutual trust are just some of the issues identified in the report. Rieger called it “eye-opening,” but he said one of the biggest issues is the size of the department.

“We have provided 24/7 coverage of the borough with two officers on per shift,” he said. “We have supplemented full-time officers with part-time officers to try and maintain that level of staffing.”

The PCPA report recommends that the borough hire six new officers to reach the ideal size and primarily utilize full-time officers, rather than rely on part-time officers. This change would result in roughly a 35-percent-plus property tax increase, according to an estimate highlighed during the meeting.

Rieger said there are no easy answers and that money will be a factor in how council moves forward with the recommendations it has received. The report stated that all of the possible decisions council now faces will have a fiscal effect on the borough, and also that one of many possible solutions could be to rely on state police for services.

In the fall of 2019, Fountain Hill officials discussed the possible outsourcing of local law enforcement to state police; a discussion that proved unpopular with many and ultimately led nowhere.

Ofc. Dominick Fragano, who was named interim chief in late 2023, resigned last week to return to his duties as a patrolman. Heintzelman thanked him for his time in the position before naming Det. Michael Dattilio as the new officer in charge.

“He has the respect of the department, and I believe he can step into the difficult role and succeed,” the mayor said.

Heintzelman said neither Shupp nor his alleged actions represent the Hellertown Police Department. Shupp is next scheduled to appear in court at a preliminary hearing Wednesday, May 29 at 1 p.m. in Northampton County District Court 03-2-11 in Bethlehem.

“I want our officers to know this community and I stand for and with (them), as we look towards a better future and a new chief,” he said. “We believe in you and support you, especially during this tough time.”

The mayor’s appointment of the new officer in charge will not affect the borough’s search for a new police chief, which is under contract with the PCPA, Rieger said.

Rieger said the application deadline is at the end of the month and there are several qualified candidates who have applied to become the new chief. Council hopes to conduct interviews next month and hire someone this summer.

Multiple borough residents spoke at Monday’s meeting and shared their feelings about the state of the police department.

John, a borough resident of two years, said he hopes council hires a new chief from within the department.

Jason, a resident of eight years, praised Fragano and said he hoped the new chief would show the same respect Fragano demonstrated during his time as interim chief.

“Prior to speaking with Fragano, our problems were always made to feel small and unimportant by the prior police chief and some of the responding officers…,” he said. “He actually sat with us, listened to us and didn’t make us feel like we were crazy… This was all accomplished in the last month, which was further along than we got in the last eight years.”

Another resident said he was present because the borough officers deserved better working conditions, and that outsourcing for state police coverage isn’t the answer.

“For the most part, I feel like the Hellertown Police Department conducts themselves in a very professional manner,” that resident said. “You may have one or two bad apples. It is your responsibility as a council and your responsibility as mayor to make sure that those apples in that bunch, who are causing disruptions, are out.”

“I don’t think state police is the answer,” he added. “The response time for state police is going to be 30 to 40 minutes at best, and I don’t think the answer is Lower Saucon (Police).”

Council views Monday’s meeting as the beginning of a conversation with the public about the police department, Rieger said.

“That really is the focus of this meeting–to hear from you, the residents of Hellertown, about some of these options,” he added. “We are willing to explore all options, but I can assure you that we are committed to protecting the safety of our residents.”

The next council meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 20 at 7 p.m. at Borough Hall. Meetings are livestreamed on Facebook and Zoom, and recordings of past meetings are available for viewing on the borough’s Facebook page. To view meeting agendas, minutes and/or subscribe to receive email updates about upcoming meetings, visit


Subscribe to receive our newsletter in your inbox every Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

Please wait...

Thank you for subscribing!

About the author

Justin Carlucci

Leave a Comment