Bethlehem Press

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Veteran NYC, county officer new sheriff

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 by Bernie o”Hare Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Acting sheriff Richard H. Johnston knows a little bit about perseverance.

He was a lieutenant in the sheriff’s department in 2010 when he was suddenly laid off as a cost-saving measure. Rather than giving up, Johnston spent the next two years working for the Sands Casino as both a security officer and table games dealer. In 2013, he was reinstated by the county. Last week, he was appointed sheriff by Executive Lamont McClure. This appointment must be confirmed by six of county council’s nine members. A vote is expected on July 19, after council review. If he is confirmed, Johnston’s salary will be $89,235.

The Northampton County sheriff provides building and court room security, transports prisoners, locates and apprehends fugitives, serves legal papers, administers the foreclosure, repossession and sale of real and personal property, and issues gun permits.

This appointment is the last of McClure’s cabinet appointments. It took longer than the others because the administrative code imposes more cumbersome procedures for a sheriff appointment than applies to other top positions. The executive must rank his top three choices and forward them to the courts. The courts in turn can rank the choices in another order or include new names. The executive has the final say.

On June 18, McClure sent his list of top three applicants to President Judge Michael Koury, who had just been sworn in that day. Johnston was McClure’s first choice, followed by former Sheriff Randall Miller and SGT Timothy Hornbaker, a well-respected deputy sheriff.

After reviewing the matter with his fellow jurists, Koury agreed with McClure’s top three choices, ranked in the same order.

Johnston has the satisfaction of knowing that he is the top choice of both the courts and executive.

There is also some poetic justice in seeing Johnston, who was once laid off by the county, selected as its sheriff .

It’s mostly gone, but you can still detect a New York accent in Johnston’s voice. He started his career there as a NYC transit cop in 1992. While working full-time, he earned an associate’s degree in forensic psychology in 1993. In 1994, he was promoted to sergeant for the NYPD, where he supervised anywhere between 20 and 45 officers, depending on which precinct he worked.

After putting in his 20 years with New York City, he continued his career in law enforcement here in the Lehigh Valley. He started as a district security officer at Easton School District, and became a deputy sheriff in 2002. He worked his way up the ranks until he became a lieutenant in 2008.

All together, he has 34 years of experience in law enforcement.

He lives in Bethlehem Township with his wife. His daughter Flannery was a tennis ace at Freedom HS.