PORTAGE – Shaun Gregory doesn’t mince words.
He took over on Dec. 1 as Portage Borough police chief, replacing Ed Miller, who retired after 12 years, and he knows expectations are high.
“I have some very big, big shoes to fill,” Gregory said in an interview at the police station. “I have a lot of respect for Chief Miller.”
When reached by phone on Friday, Miller said he’s heard many good things about Gregory from those who know him. Miller said he is certain Gregory will make a good police chief.
Gregory comes to the borough with a solid law enforcement background.
He patrolled the streets of Jackson Township for 14 years after graduating from Johnstown Regional Police Academy in 2007. He also has worked for police departments in Nanty Glo Borough and East Taylor Township. Gregory was a Naval reservist for six years, serving as master-at-arms, a position similar to a military police officer.
He said he took an interest in policing when he was young in Upper Yoder Township.
“When I was growing up, I would see the local police officers in my area just driving around, and that sparked something in me,” he said. “After I got out of high school, I was thinking about a career, so I went to the academy, and it seemed like a good fit.”
That comes as no surprise to Robert Koban, Portage Borough manager, who hired Gregory. Koban said the borough received many responses when the position was advertised. Gregory was one of three applicants interviewed.
“Shaun stood out as the best fit for our community, with his personality and skills,” Koban said. “He has the desire to be a good officer and continue to grow in the field.”
Gregory said his mission is to be a good example in the community.
“That’s one of the things I’ve tried to do any place where I’ve worked,” he said. “I’ve tried to be a good role model. I’ve always wanted to help other people. That’s how I got here.”
There is good reason for Gregory’s passion to be a role model, especially for kids.
He was working for East Taylor Township police in April 2012 when a 16-year-old boy was killed in a drunk-driving crash on Route 271, William Penn Highway. The crash killed Brian Roles Jr., a student at Conemaugh Valley High School, and sent his father to prison.
“That case has stuck with me most of my career,” Gregory said. “Anything involving kids makes it 10 times worse. That’s always difficult to deal with.”
Most gratifying for Gregory is earning the respect of the people he serves. A gesture as small as kids waving as he drives by can point to big rewards down the line, he said.
“Then you know the kids aren’t afraid of you and hopefully they look up to you,” Gregory said, “and maybe some day they will aspire to be like you.”