FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Matt Maisel, Director of Communications
HARRISBURG — The Harrisburg Bureau of Police is growing.
Four officers were sworn in and a dozen more were promoted to higher ranks on Thursday at a new hire ceremony at the Pennsylvania State Museum. There are now more than 160 uniformed and civilian officers in the bureau.
“Our city is safer because you took that oath,” said Mayor Wanda R.D. Williams. “In Harrisburg, you are held to a higher standard. Commissioner Carter holds you to a higher standard. Your commanding officers expect more of you, and by wearing that badge in this city, you learn to expect more of yourselves.”
The new officers sworn in Thursday are:
- Ofc. Michael Fischer,
- Ofc. Kevin Jenkins,
- Ofc. Prudence Smith
- Ofc. Wilson Valera-Valdez
Officers Jenkins and Fischer have already completed the police academy, and Ofc. Smith is currently in the police academy on a part-time basis. Officer Valera-Valdez will begin the six-month academy at Harrisburg Area Community College next week.
In addition, 12 officers were promoted to higher ranks. They are, in order of rank:
- Capt. Russell Winder
- Lt. Robert Yost
- Lt. Scott Johnsen
- Sgt. Brandon Braughler
- Sgt. Teresa Covey
- Sgt. Chris Auletta
- Sgt. Jacob Pierce
- Sgt. Tony Elliott
- St. Matt Novchich
- Cpl. Jeremy Crist
- Cpl. Jacobbi Harper
- Cpl. Esteban Restrepo.
“[The City of] Harrisburg has the best police officers of any agency I’ve ever worked for and worked with,” said Police Commissioner Thomas Carter. “They are the absolute best.”
The four new officers went through what Commissioner Carter called a “tedious process” to be selected as Harrisburg Bureau of Police Officers.
“I know it’s going to be a challenge, and there will be sometimes you say to yourself ‘What am I doing this for?’” said Carter. “The majority of people in this city love you and need you.”
Of the dozen promotions, Captain Winder has been with the bureau the among the longest. First joining in 2005, he progressed through the ranks, earning the rank of Corporal in 2014, Sergeant in 2017, and then Lieutenant in 202. He has supervised all three platoons, was the officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Criminal Investigative Division, and assisted in the Technical Services Division.
In May, he was named Commander of the Community Services Division.
Michael T. Fischer was born and raised in Reading, PA, and graduated from Wilson Senior high School in 2010. In 2017, Michael enrolled in the Reading Police Academy, where he graduated and received his ACT 120 Police Officer Certification. Michael’s career in law enforcement began as a security officer in loss prevention detection,and later became a correctional officer at the Lancaster County Prison. While working at the Lancaster County Prison, he was an active Field Training Officer for new recruits, a member of the Correctional Emergency Response Team, and a member of the Armed Transport team. In 2021, Michael received a Life Saving Award for his quick and critical response preventing a suicide attempt. With his dedication and motivation, Michael was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, supervising numerous officers as well as overseeing the newly established Narcotic Treatment Program. Michael was also appointed to supervise the Restricted Housing Unit, where he implemented numerous safeguards to improve safety among staff and inmates. Later, he entered the Investigations Division as the Prison’s Evidence Technician. Michael truly appreciates his family, as they are his support structure. Michael plans to build an honorable career as a Harrisburg City Police Officer where he strives to make a continuous effort to impact the community in a positive light.
Kevin Jenkins was born in Voorhees, New Jersey, and raised in Medford, New Jersey. In 2016, Kevin graduated from Shawnee High School, and moved to Pennsylvania to attend Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. While attending Bloomsburg University, Kevin was a peer tutor to help underperforming students succeed, and also had the opportunity to do a four-month ride-along internship with the Bloomsburg Police Department. This internship solidified his interest in law enforcement. In 2020, Kevin graduated from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania with degrees in criminal justice and psychology, achieving honors as a cum laude. After graduation, Kevin moved to Harrisburg, PA to begin the 118th police academy at Harrisburg Area Community College. After graduating from the police academy in 2021, Kevin worked in the security departments of the Hershey Lodge and Convention Center and the Central Penn College Public Safety Department. He enjoys golfing, hiking, visiting the Jersey shore, working out, and spending time with family and hometown friends. Kevin has two siblings, a brother and a sister, as well as two yellow Labradors who he loves dearly. He is very
thankful for his parents, family, and his faith in the Lord as a Catholic for who he is today.
Prudence Smith graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice, and earned her master’s degree in MBA Global Management. She is married with four children, ages 15-25 years old. Her career in law enforcement started in 2000 with the Baltimore City Police for eight years, and later joined the PA Air National Guard 193rd SOW in 2012, serving for seven years. She has owned and operated several small businesses, including a financial firm, a fitness studio, and a physical security company. Prudence has had many supervisory roles to include being a red rope of 120 airmen in Security Forces Tech School. She has served as a security forces member, firefighter, and logistics planner at the 193rd. She has also earned a Firefighter I & II certification with her local fire department. Prudence Smith has three years with the PA State Parole & Probation, and looks forward to a career with the Harrisburg Bureau of Police. Prudence is competitive, and enjoys spending time with her two Great Danes (Duke & Duchess), her Malinois pup (Sable), and staying active with her family.
Wilson Valera was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and migrated to the United States in 2007 at the age
of 13. He graduated from Harrisburg High School, and joined the Pennsylvania National Guard as an indirect infantryman.
After spending 6 years in the National Guard, he joined the U.S Army Reserves as an Information Technology Specialist. Wilson loves to travel and has spent a lot of time in Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. During his time in the
military, he completed numerous training courses that helped prepare for this career as a Police Officer.
Captain Russell Winder, Jr., came to Harrisburg by way of Camp Lejeune, NC, as he is a former United States Marine and a Desert Shield/Desert Storm veteran. From 1998 to 2005, he was employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections as a Corrections Officer. He dawned the mantel of a Harrisburg Police Officer in 2005, During his early years, he was assigned as a School Resource Officer and a member of the Dauphin County Gang Task Force. He has progressed through the ranks, first by acquiring the rank of Corporal in 2014, the rank of Sergeant in 2017, and then the rank of
Lieutenant in 2020. He has supervised all three platoons, was the officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Criminal Investigation Division, assisted in the Technical Services Division by overseeing the Property Management Section, and is currently the Commander of the Community Services Division. Capt. Winder continues to serve on the board of the Harrisburg Area Police Athletic League (HAPAL), and remains active in his church. He also enjoys volunteering his time to organizations that focus on youth-based mentorship. Captain Winder believes “that in all things and at all times, God remains good”, that family roots and grounds him, and that the success of the bureau remains his primary and ultimate goal.
Lieutenant Robert J. Yost joined the Harrisburg Bureau of Police in 2006. He has served in the United States Navy from 2002-2006 as a Master and Arms 2nd Class Petty Officer conducting Anti-Terrorism Operations. In 2006, he earned an
Associate’s Degree in General Studies from American Military University. Lt. Yost is a member of the Dauphin County Emergency Response Team (CERT), where he serves as a sniper. Lt. Yost started his career as a patrolman in the Uniformed Patrol Division. In 2008, he was transferred to the Community Policing Power Shift Unit, then to the Street Crimes Unit, until his return to Uniformed Patrol in 2014. From 2017-2021, he served as a patrol supervisor. In 2021, he became the officer-in charge (OIC) of the Juvenile Offender and Victim Unit in the Criminal Investigation Division. Lt. Yost is married to his wife of 19 years, and is a dedicated father to his two children.
Lieutenant Scott T. Johnsen is from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. Upon graduating high school, he joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. In 2006, he joined Harrisburg Bureau of Police, where he was assigned to the 3rd platoon of the uniformed Patrol Division. Later in 2017, he was promoted to the rank of Corporal, followed by the rank of Sergeant while supervising the 1st Platoon. Since the beginning of this year, Lt. Johnsen has served the 3rd platoon as the platoon commander. Lt. Johnsen has been married for 9 years, and is a father of 3 children.
Sergeant Brandon Braughler was born in western Pennsylvania, and raised near Orlando, Florida. He is a graduate of Penn State University, with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice. Sergeant Braughler served in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard from 2005-2014, including two deployments for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2014, Sergeant Braughler joined the Harrisburg Bureau of Police, and was assigned to the Uniformed Patrol Division on 2nd Platoon (daylight shift) for 7 years. While assigned to Uniformed Patrol, he has served as a Field Training Officer, Patrol Forensic Officer, Traffic Safety Investigator, and as a member of the Bureau’s Honor Guard. He was promoted to Corporal in 2021, and has been serving as a patrol supervisor on 1st Platoon (midnight shift) since his promotion. Sergeant Braughler has completed training in collision reconstruction, crime scene investigation, incident command, and is an EMT. Sergeant Braughler also serves as an adjunct instructor at the HACC Police Academy.
Sergeant Teresa K. Covey is originally from Lancaster County, but grew up in the Harrisburg area, and is a graduate of Central Dauphin High School. In 2001, Sgt. Covey was hired by the Harrisburg Police Bureau. She has worked most of her career in the Uniformed Patrol Division on both the 1st and 2nd Platoons. In 2009, Sgt. Covey volunteered to be deployed to the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Pa. to quell the violent protests that were taking place at the time. She is a Field Training officer, Background Investigator, Rifle Operator, IPMBA Police Cyclist and is also part of the Police Motorcycle Unit. She has also served in the Traffic Safety Unit, and completed a Career Development in the Criminal Investigation Division. When she was promoted to Corporal in 2020, she volunteered to become the Police Vehicle Fleet Manager, and managed 115 vehicles across all divisions. Since becoming a supervisor, Sgt. Covey also successfully completed the FBI Leeda SLI and ELI courses.
She is married to her wife, Tracy, and is an avid beekeeper and motorcycle enthusiast.
Sergeant Christopher M. Auletta grew up the oldest of three boys in Massapequa Park, New York. He is a third-generation police officer, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Sgt. Auletta attended Saint Anthony’s High School in New York, where he earned multiple awards in football including All-American. He accepted a football scholarship to Penn State University, and played on the offensive line for the Nittany Lions until 2007. He then graduated from Penn State University, earning a dual bachelor’s degree in History and Labor and Employment Relations. Sgt. Auletta was employed as an iron worker in New York City, Before being hired by the Harrisburg Bureau of Police in 2009. He was a patrol officer for 12 years, and has been a Corporal on midnight shift for the past two years. He has received multiple awards for Merit and Bravery, and was honored as the Officer of the Year or 2019. Sgt. Auletta was previously a Field Training Officer, and holds instructor certifications in the use of baton, tactical handcuffing, defensive tactics, OC/Pepper, Spray, Tactical Medicine, and is certified in force science through the Force Science Institute. Sgt. Auletta lives in Harrisburg with his wife, Laina, and his three children, Pheobe, Quinn, and Simone.
Sergeant Jacob B. Pierce grew up in Monroeville, Pennsylvania. After high school, he joined the United States Army, where he served in the 82nd Airborne Division. In 2003, he graduated from the Allegheny County Police Academy, and was hired by the Harrisburg Bureau of Police in July of 2004. Later in 2018, he was promoted to the rank of Detective, and assigned to the Juvenile Section within the Criminal Investigation Division. In March of 2021, he was promoted to the rank of Corporal.
While serving the Harrisburg Bureau of Police, Sgt. Pierce has been awarded a medal of Valor, thirteen Merit Awards, two Distinguished Unit Citations, and the UPMC Children’s Resource Center Children’s Champion Award. He also received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Central Penn College in June of 2011, and in August of 2013, he also completed a Master of Public Administration Degree from the Pennsylvania State University. Also earned were certifications in Public Sector Human Resource Management and Human Resources and Employment Relations. Currently, Sgt. Pierce resides with his wife Melissa and their 7 children, while owning and operating a successful brick and mortar small business for the last several years.
Sergeant Tony P. Elliott was born in Fort Hood, TX, and raised in Florida and Washington County, PA. After graduating high school, he joined the United States Air Force, where he served multiple combat deployments. Upon completing his military service, Sergeant Elliott began his law enforcement career in the State of Florida. In 2012, he moved back to the Pittsburgh, PA area where he continued his law enforcement career. In 2015, Sergeant Elliott was hired by the Harrisburg Bureau of Police, where he was assigned as a patrolman on 3rd Platoon (evening shift). In 2016, Sergeant Elliott was assigned to the Traffic Safety Unit, where he is in charge of investigating serious injury and fatal traffic collisions, along with all other areas of traffic enforcement. Sergeant Elliott has held many positions within the Bureau of Police, which include Patrolman, Patrol Forensics, Field Training Officer, Patrol rifle Operator, and Traffic Safety Investigator. In 2021, he was promoted to Corporal, and assigned to the 3rd Platoon. Sergeant Elliott holds certifications in Collision Reconstruction, PA State vehicle inspection, Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Instructor, Drug Recognition Expert, and recently became certified as a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor. He also conducts all in-house DUI training for new officers, and assists with DUI training at Harrisburg Area Community College.
Sergeant Matthew A. Novchich is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, where he had the privilege of playing Division I soccer for the university. In 2013, he was hired by the Harrisburg Bureau of Police. While serving as a patrolman and Field Training Officer, he trained over 25 officers. In January of 2020, Sergeant Novchich was promoted to the rank of Corporal, and spent the next 3.5 years on the 3rd Platoon before accepting this promotion. He is currently a Firearms Instructor, De-escalation Instructor, and In-House Instructor. With this promotion, he will be taking over the Adult Offenders section for the Criminal Investigation Division. Sergeant Novchich has also been a member of the Dauphin County Crisis Response Team since June of 2017. Lastly, but most importantly, he is an extremely proud husband to Megan and father to Bennett and Elia.
Corporal Jeremy A. Crist attended Central Pennsylvania College where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business
Administration. In 2010, he joined the Harrisburg Bureau of Police, starting in the Uniformed Patrol Division. While serving
in the Uniformed Patrol Division, he was a Field Training Officer, Platoon Forensics Officer, and a member of the Dauphin County Crisis Response Team since 2014. In 2020, Cpl. Crist was assigned to the Street Crimes Unit, the Dauphin County Special Interdiction Unit, and the Dauphin County Gang Task Force. Cpl. Crist is married to his wife of 5 years and has two children.
Corporal Jacobbi T. Harper joined the Pa Army National Guard while attending high school. He enlisted in the Infantry Mortars, and was assigned to a Cavalry Unit at Fort Indiantown Gap. He then graduated from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. While attending Shippensburg University, he enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps. Cpl. Harper was Commissioned as an Armor Officer in the United States Army, where he finished his career as a Reconnaissance Officer in the US Cavalry. He proudly served for 13 years with a deployment to the Middle East. In 2014, Corporal Harper joined the Harrisburg Bureau of Police. He served most of his career on midnight shift as a Field Training Officer, and was assigned to the Street Crimes Unit for the past three years. Currently, Cpl. Harper enjoys training members of the Bureau. He is one of the department’s firearm instructors and armorers. He currently resides in Hummelstown, PA with his wife Shannon and his son Ellis.
Corporal Esteban Restrepo was born and raised by his mother in Queens, New York City. In 2012, Cpl. Restrepo earned a
bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from John Jay College. Later, in 2016, Cpl. Restrepo moved to Harrisburg, PA where
he joined The Harrisburg Bureau of Police. Since then, he has served as a Field Training Officer, Patrol Rifle Operator, and as
a member of the Mobile Field Force and Honor Guard. Corporal Restrepo lives alongside his girlfriend and two daughters.