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Ridley Park Police Department History

The police department was formed shortly after the borough was organized. Originally police were watchmen who were paid about $1.25 a day. Oil lamps were used as street lights at that time and police were required to keep the lamps cleaned and filled. They were required to light the lamps at dusk and turn them off before daybreak. By 1897, the job of cleaning and filling of the oil lamps was given to a separate man. Police were required to be on duty from 7:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. during the months from May to October, and November thru March, 7:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. Usually two policemen were on duty and they were allowed to meet each other 3 times a night. They were required to file weekly reports of any problems. Police were also on call during their time off. In 1902, Police were issued uniforms, equipment and firearms by the borough. In 1917 a motorcycle was purchased for police use, their first piece of motorized equipment. Shortly afterward a Ford car was purchased. The car was used for the chief only and police officers still patrolled the borough on foot. Foot patrol might sound easy, but in the days before stop signs and red lights it could be very dangerous. In the mid 30ís, police officers could use their own cars, but in late 1937 the borough supplied 2 cars for police use. At this time, police cars were equipped with radios, using Sharon Hill radio room. Today Ridley Park uses the County Radio System.

The department now consists of 10 full-time officers and 4 part-time officers. The department is located in a modern 5500 sq.ft. building at 230 W. Chester Pike a huge step from the 600 sq. ft. room we occupied until 2008.

Police Chief George T. Smith served as a police officer for 40 years from 1929 to 1969. Smith became chief in 1950 and was succeeded in 1969 by Charles Miller who retired in 1990, to be succeeded by Bob Marks, who served as Chief until 2002. Our current Chief is Thomas J. Byrne.

Off. James Stewart. Only Ridley Park Police Officer to die in the line of duty. DOD August 26th, 1931

James E. Stewart was appointed a police officer in February 1930, and he was also constable for the borough. About 3:30 a.m. on August 26, 1931, Stewart was on foot patrol at Ladomus Avenue and Chester Pike. He stopped a Maryland car for littering and while talking to the driver, a second car struck the Maryland car and also hit Stewart. Stewart was taken to Taylor Hospital where he died six days later. The striking driver who was drunk was charged with manslaughter. James E. Stewart, a Rodger Street resident, was 27 years old when he died. Stewart is the only police officer in Ridley Park to die in the line of duty.

(Special Thanks to Keith Lockhart for use of this story)


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