Longtime Bethel Park police chief abruptly resigns

BETHEL PARK, Pa. — Channel 11 has learned the longtime chief of the Bethel Park Police Department abruptly resigned.

Chief Timothy O’Connor resigned from his post on Monday, leaving staff, community leaders and Bethel Park citizens with questions.

“We are really not sure what happened. I was out actually with some officials in the community. We were doing a walking tour of some areas for some sidewalk projects and I received a message saying the chief had sent up his letter of resignation,” said Bethel Park Municipal Manager Kristen Denne.

Denne was on the job for just three months before O’Connor’s sudden resignation.

“By the time I got back to the building, he was already gone,” Denne said.

O’Connor was hired in 2015 after 35 years working as a patrol officer for Pittsburgh Police. Community leaders say it’s still not clear why he walked out on Monday.

The resignation happened just two days before a former Bethel Park police lieutenant pleaded guilty in federal court to trafficking an 18-year-old prostitute from overseas.

Blake Babin was arrested in May. Federal investigators said on Wednesday that Babin smuggled the young woman into the U.S. because he loved her, wanted her to help him “keep his house” and for sexual reasons.

Township leaders tell us the timing appears to be coincidental.

“I don’t have intimate knowledge of that situation it happened before I was employed here. I do not have any reason to believe there was anything nefarious or inappropriate going on as far as the chief is concerned,” Denne said.

Bethel Park Mayor Jack Allen told Channel 11:

“I want to express my gratitude for Chief O’Connor’s dedicated service to our community during his time as the head of our police department.   His decision to resign is a personal one, and we respect his choice. We understand that leading a police department can be a demanding role, and we appreciate the sacrifices he has made to protect and serve our community.  We remain committed to maintaining a strong and effective police force that serves and protects all members of our community. "

Denne said the search for a new police chief will begin on Monday and they’re specifically looking for a leader that understands how policing has changed.

“Policing has definitely changed over the last few years. There is a lot we have to continue to evolve with when it comes to supervision and training, and we are going to find a leader that is going to help to instill community standards and safety in policing,’ Denne said.

A lieutenant at the department is now the acting chief and we’re told it’s business as usual while they search for a new chief.

Check back for updates on Channel 11 News and WPXI.com as we learn more about this developing story.

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