Two county police chiefs with 90 years of combined experience are ready for the next step in their lives.
Parkside Police Chief John Egan will be retiring after 20 years leading law enforcement in the tiny borough, preceded by 30 years with the East Lansdowne Police Department. Egan’s replacement will be Marple Police Chief Tom Murray, who after 40 years with the township police will be retiring on Jan. 10, 2020.
But Murray will not be taking any rest when, days after retiring from Marple, he will start his position as police chief in Parkside.
He originally planned to retire in 2021, but in speaking with Egan, his long-time colleague, he took a detour to a full retirement.
“Egan mentioned in March or early April that this was his last year and we had a conversation about it,” said Murray Monday afternoon, recalling his switch in leadership. “I asked him what they had in mind for a replacement and they don’t know what to do. I told him I was interested.”
A meeting with borough officials was soon convened, according to Murray.
He continued, “When this opportunity presented itself, Parkside, being a small community, the police chief is a part-time position and that was very enticing to me, and I’d like to cut back after going for 40 years."
For 40 years – the last 15 as chief – Murray has been maintaining law and order in Marple, a township of 24,000 residents in 10.2 square miles patrolled by a full-time police force of about 30 officers. His proudest moments, predominately from his tenure as chief, include the transfer of the township’s dispatch operations to the county system in the mid-2000s, moving the police to a new building in 2017 and the 2016 accreditation from the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission (the department was re-accredited this year).
At the start of this school year a school resource officer program was enforced that appoints a Marple police officer to provide necessary safety duties in the township’s three public elementary schools and middle school.
For the big moves he helped implement for Marple Police Department, he will be downsizing to lead a force of about a dozen officers (mostly part time, according to the state Department of Community and Economic Development) in a borough just .2 square miles large with 2,300 residents.
No matter the size of the municipality, policing doesn’t change in Murray’s eyes
“From the standpoint of policing, the problems will be similar, but on a smaller scale,” he said. “The basics of policing haven’t changed. It’s getting to know the people in your community, opening up dialogue with the community and relying on the community to give you information. Information is the lifeblood of policing: without it we go nowhere.”
The amount of information to police has increased as law enforcement agencies have adopted easily accessible tools, especially social media, to create a constant bond with the public to keep communities safe. Social media is a platform Murray says he has “embraced” and has made strides in local policing over the last 10 years. Murray had broadened community outreach efforts with involvement in the National Night Out program and a citizens police academy.
Continuing the strong community relations into Parkside is something he looks forward to, especially knowing Egan’s own impact on the borough.
“I was at a couple of events with Egan and people of Parkside love him, and he knows them all. I hope to be able to do the same kinds of things, to be available to the people, to know them,” he said. “I think if I can continue to do those things he paved the way for, I think Parkside will continue to have an effective police department.”
Murray was not provided any special advice from Egan on leading law enforcement in the small borough. Murray's replacement has not yet been named.
Egan was a 30-year veteran of the East Lansdowne Police Department, climbing to the ranks of sergeant before retiring in 1999. During that part of his career he was part of the emergency response team that convened for days at Foxcatcher Farm estate in Newtown Square when millionaire John du Pont barricaded himself in his mansion after the shooting death of Olympian Dave Schultz in January 1996.
After a two-month retirement from East Lansdowne he started as chief of Parkside in August 1999.
Egan could not be reached for comment.
(Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified John du Pont's estate as the location where he killed Olympian Dave Schultz.)