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Allentown police Assistant Chief Vangelo retires; Charles Roca promoted

Allentown Morning Call logo Allentown Morning Call 8/14/2020 By Andrew Wagaman, The Morning Call
a man wearing a suit and tie: Stephen Vangelo, assistant chief of operations for the Allentown Police Department, at a swearing-in ceremony in 2018. © Harry Fisher / The Morning Call/The Morning Call/TNS Stephen Vangelo, assistant chief of operations for the Allentown Police Department, at a swearing-in ceremony in 2018.

Allentown Assistant Police Chief Stephen Vangelo has retired after 23 years with the department.

For the past two-and-a-half years, Vangelo has served as the assistant chief of operations. Charles Roca, most recently captain of the force’s service area covering the West End and a portion of Center City, will replace him, the city said Friday in a news release.

Allentown hired Vangelo in July 1997 after he had graduated from Phillipsburg High School and Trenton State College, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in law and justice.

Vangelo was promoted to sergeant in December 2006, first serving as a patrol sergeant on the night shift and, later, the vice and intelligence unit. In 2014, he was promoted to lieutenant of the night shift platoon and a year later was assigned to the criminal investigations unit. In 2016, he was promoted to captain of the West End platoon.

Vangelo was a member of Emergency Response Team for 13 years, retiring as the Tactical Team Commander. He also served as an instructor and director of the Allentown Police Academy.

A member of the Lehigh County Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board, Vangelo was instrumental in creating the county’s Blue Guardian program. Two or three days after a person overdoses and is revived using naloxone, an opiate antidote, officers and addiction recovery specialists make a house call to persuade that person to enter treatment and offer support to families.

a man in a blue shirt: Charles Roca, Allentown's latest assistant police chief. © Harry Fisher / The Morning Call/The Morning Call/TNS Charles Roca, Allentown's latest assistant police chief.

“Steve served our city with dignity,” Councilwoman Candida Affa said at a recent meeting. “Steve, when I think about a police officer, I think about you.”

Vangelo is the second assistant chief to retire this year. Gail Struss, who made history as Allentown police’s first female assistant chief, retired in February after her own 23-year career. William Lake took over as assistant chief of support services.

The department will miss Vangelo and Struss immensely, Chief Glenn Granitz Jr. said at a recent council meeting, but with Roca and Lake, “We now have a leadership team in place that will be here working with our men and women for years to come.”

Roca, Vangelo’s successor, is an Allentown native and Dieruff High School graduate, who holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. He joined the police force in 2002, earning promotions to sergeant in 2012, lieutenant in 2016 and captain in 2018, along with three commendations for merit.

Roca spent several years on the vice unit before getting certified as a K-9 handler. He has served as a supervisor on the vice unit and of the K-9 unit and was member of the force’s Crisis Negotiation Team.

Granitz called Roca integral to his long-term plan for the restructuring the department. “We will be focused on continuity of leadership and assuring our officers have the resources they need to serve our residents,” he said.

Morning Call reporter Andrew Wagaman can be reached at 610-820-6764 or awagaman@mcall.com.

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