Westmoreland County

Ligonier Valley police chief on leave after department raided by federal agents

LIGONIER, Pa. — Ligonier Valley Police Chief John Berger is at the center of a federal investigation after a raid at the police department last week. Chief John Berger is now on administrative leave and assistant chief, Mike Matrunic is acting chief.

The township’s solicitor tells Channel 11, the chief’s department cruiser and cell phone were seized as a part of that raid involving PA State Police and the Department of Homeland Security. The DHS tells Channel 11 that search warrants were executed in the township last week, along with the Ligonier Valley Police Department.

Those warrants are sealed, but Ligonier Township’s solicitor tells Channel 11 that Chief Berger is the only subject of the investigation.

The news of the raid at the police department hit this small community hard since so many people we talked to know the chief personally.

“Having known John, having known him to be trustworthy, I trust him,” Kathy Acklin said.

Acklin is also a former intelligence officer and worked for the DHS. She says she’s stunned and wants to reserve judgement until she has all the facts

“He’s always been very fair with us,” Acklin added. “I really would like to know exactly what’s going on and if perhaps there is some kind of misunderstanding.”

Dr. John Cencich is a professor and criminologist at PennWest University. While no one in the public knows what’s in those sealed warrants, Dr. Cencich shared his expertise.

“The three areas that get law enforcement and officers in trouble the most are money, guns and drugs,” Dr. Cencich added.

This comes five months after the former Greensburg Police Chief Shawn Denning was indicted on federal drug charges, leaving the community and many in his own department stunned.

“When that trust is shattered, when that badge is shattered, it has an impact that transcends the entire community,” Cencich added.

As for the investigation centered around Chief Berger, there’s a meeting Tuesday night to determine his future with the department.

“When the fed gov’t executes that search warrant, their ducks are normally in a row,” Cencich added. “They have it all lined up. They’re ready to go , they don’t wing it. There’s probably a lot that will come to light sooner than later.”

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