West Chester Police Department Celebrates A Benchmark Anniversary
A lot can happen in 50 years. In April 1967, three Union Township Trustees shared a vision for police protection for its small farming community. Their motions for the purchase of one four-door Chevrolet cruiser, a used two-way radio and two revolvers with holsters were carried unanimously. That humble beginning has grown into the cutting-edge West Chester Police Department (WCPD), which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year.
“The radio was hooked up to a car battery,” Chief of Police Colonel Joel Herzog says, reflecting on the force’s history. “We’ve definitely moved from primitive times to where we are today, being one of the premier agencies in the region.”
Started in the basement of the Union Township’s Fire House No. 2, West Chester Police Department is now based in an innovative facility at 9577 Beckett Road, West Chester. Since 1967, the department and its headquarters have grown exponentially, but its mission hasn’t changed. Now expanded to a trailblazing team of up to 84, WCPD is trained and equipped to serve the community, protect life and property, preserve constitutional rights and enforce the laws of the state.
On a behind-the-scenes tour of the current police station, it’s a quiet moment. Uniformed and plain-clothed officers are busy at their desks, in a training session in a bright classroom at the building’s core or coming and going from its garage. It’s not always this quiet. When the force is called into action for an emergency, the station is a scene of readiness, each team member playing a part for which they have intensely practiced and trained.
“Everybody’s got a role. It’s pretty amazing, when something happens here how everything comes together. You see everybody jumping in and getting their hands dirty. It’s pretty impressive,” Herzog shares.
“It’s a whole-group effort,” agrees Lieutenant Colonel Brian Rebholz, Assistant Chief of Police.
Like many other police departments around the country, West Chester Police Department has learned from pivotal events across the nation to prepare for any situations that put West Chester’s residents at risk.
Over the past 50 years, there has been a steady modernization of the force which includes an award-winning Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, snipers, negotiators, Canine Unit, school resource officers, criminal investigation team and a fleet that includes bicycles for patrolling high-density areas and a state-of-the-art Ballistic Engineered Armored Response (BEAR) vehicle.
This benchmark year is marked with subtlety. Watch for celebratory license plates on each police vehicle as they patrol around town. The plates display the same “50th Anniversary” design featured on special-issued badges made to complement the police uniforms, shining in gold and black. It highlights the coming together of Union and West Chester Townships.
“Each of these badges was purchased individually by the officers,” Herzog explains. “There were no public funds used. None of these badges have a rank on them…we felt that this is a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the entire department so it’s for everyone, together,” he says.
“Union Township, that’s where we came from—many of the guys who are here started under Union Township. We are proud of where we are and where we came from,” Herzog says.
The West Chester Police Department is focused on training, education and building community partnerships as it leans into its next 50 years of service to the community. They lead with integrity, commitment, professionalism and courage.
“It’s exciting to look ahead,” says Herzog. “The public will ask, ‘Do we really have crime in West Chester?’ They don’t realize what a compliment that is to us. If you feel safe, then we are doing our job.”