Cheswold Police Department adds a familiar face to its roster

Cheswold residents may be forgiven if they experience a bit of déjà vu whenever a town patrol car driven by Officer Susan Kline passes by.

Kline, 40, rejoined the Cheswold Police Department on Sept. 17, five years after leaving to take a job as a court constable in New Castle.

It's that prior experience that led to her being rehired, said Chief of Police Christopher Workman.

"She has a relationship with the town," Workman said. "She knows the town and the town knows her. I talked to members of the town council and to other residents, and found she has a very good bond with the townspeople.

"When I mentioned I was thinking of hiring her, all I got were positive comments."

Although he had planned on hiring two part-time officers, Workman was able to get his department budget in line so he could instead hire a single, full-time patrolman.

Kline is paid $21,840 annually, plus benefits and pension costs.

Although she's only been back a week and is going through a period of refresher training, Kline is enjoying the experience.

"I really liked working with the people in town," she said. "I seem to have a rapport with people and they've really taken me back with open arms."

Born and raised in Dover and a 1991 graduate of Dover High School, Kline always has had an interest in police work, perhaps influenced by her father, who also served in law enforcement.

But when it came to employment, she took a different path, working for years at the former Discover card processing center.

"Finally, I said, this isn't for me. So I took the leap and came to Cheswold," Kline said.

Graduating from the Wilmington Police Academy, she first put on the uniform in 2004.

The following years were a turbulent period in town history: Cheswold's elected officials were clashing with each other, town residents and the police department. In 2008, Kline was pulled into the fray, but an investigation determined allegations against her were unfounded.

She continued on until September 2009, when she left of her own accord for New Castle. She later worked as a mental health specialist with suicidal inmates and as a constable for Bayhealth.

When she saw Workman was looking for an addition to the Cheswold force, she applied.

Having left the force in good stead, Workman had no qualms about rehiring the veteran officer.

"When the opportunity came about to be able to add a former officer to the ranks with the reputation and respect she still holds in the community, it was a no-brainer to hire her back," he said.

Kline plans to keep up that affinity with the residents of Cheswold by being seen often.

"I don't like sitting behind a desk, I'd rather be out interacting with the people," she said. "When you find a job you love, you just want to keep doing it."

As the mother of a 15-year-old daughter, Kline admits she is cognizant of the hazards inherent with wearing a badge.

"The work is dangerous, but you don't think about that," she said. "You do what you're trained to do."

That work includes doing more than just chasing down criminals. Sometimes it means counseling people on solving problems, consoling others when the unthinkable happens, or just being a sounding board for frustrated residents.

It all goes with Kline's philosophy of doing the job to the best of her ability.

"Everyone deserves to be treated like you'd want to be treated," she said.

With Kline joining Workman and Cpl. Louis Simms on the force, Cheswold's 1,400 residents now have seven-day police coverage. A town officer will be available Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to midnight, on Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., Saturday from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from noon to midnight.

That's just the minimum, Workman said. The department plans to use grant money to fund extra patrols and to allow the officers to do plainclothes work. Delaware State Police troopers will be on call whenever a Cheswold officer is not available.