Bethlehem might have its first female police chief as Mayor Robert Donchez spoke at City Hall on Sept. 23 to officially offer Capt. Michelle Kott the top job at the Bethlehem Police Department.
The announcement comes a few weeks after former Chief Mark DiLuzio stepped down after posting a controversial Facebook post. Kott’s nomination will need official approval by city council, which next meets on Oct. 6.
To Kott, it is an honor to be able to fill the role and inspire others.
“I’m very humbled,” Kott said at the press conference. “I look forward to the challenge and leading the men and women of the department and hoping to inspire other girls that may be interested in hoping to pursue a career in law enforcement.”
Kott, who was accompanied by her wife and two kids, emphasized the importance of listening to the grievances of the people when asked about her stance with the Black Lives Matter protests and what she would do as chief moving forward.
She recalled attending one of the protests and really understanding that not everyone will have safe and positive encounters with police officers.
“Worst thing you can do is take it personally because then you get defensive and you are completely missing the point of everything,” Kott explains. “You have to listen. Give people the space that they need. People just want to be heard.”
Donchez said Kott was a “solid choice” and that even though there were talks of doing national searches for the position, he knew that there would be a strong candidate inside the department.
Kott, who got her doctorate in criminal justice from California University of Pennsylvania, also wants to highlight the importance of mental health and wellness for officers. Kott would like to enforce more suicide prevention programs in the department.
“It’s something that I take seriously,” Kott said, who encouraged officers to go to therapy and see counselors more often. “Especially when (officers) are starting to deal with stressors, so those stressors in their personal lives, don’t lean over to their professional lives.”
Kott has been working in the department since 2004, taking on various roles like patrol officer, detective sergeant and detective lieutenant. She said she plans to bring strong leadership that combines empathy, compassion, respect and responsibility.
“I’m certainly hoping that the city council approves my nomination at the first meeting in October,” Donchez said. “ I look forward to working with Capt. Kott and the whole leadership of the police department as we continue to move the department forward and as we continue to severe the citizens of Bethlehem.”