As we progress into the new millennium, one might not suspect that the modern, 91-officer Abington Township Police Department had rather humble beginnings. Organized in 1906 as a “police force and night watch,” the APD began with just seven officers, under the command of Chief Gideon Lever. In those days officers worked on horseback or on foot, patrolling a rural Abington Township that looked vastly different from today’s highly developed suburban landscape. Without automobiles or radios, officers relied on a call box system for communications with headquarters. By 1937, however, the Department had grown to 21 officers and replaced its horses with radio-equipped patrol cars.
Tragedy struck APD on June 29th, 1949 when Officer Thomas Mathews, a four-year veteran of the force, was gunned down while investigating a suspicious truck in the Rydal section of the Township. Investigators later determined that the assailant had committed a burglary of a nearby estate just before Ofc. Mathews came upon him. After an intensive manhunt, the killer was arrested in Virginia and subsequently convicted of Ofc. Mathews’ murder.
The Police Department’s modern era began with the arrival of Chief Bill Kelly in 1985. Under the leadership of Chief Kelly the Abington Police added an undercover drug investigation unit; modernized its SWAT team; increased it K-9 capability; initiated community policing and crime prevention as organizational priorities; started a bike patrol, added school resource officers; began a D.A.R.E. program; conducted minority hiring initiatives; and computerized the Department’s day-to-day operations.
Today’s Abington Police Officers cruise their beats in patrol cars or on bicycles. Some have K-9 partners that are trained to sniff out drugs or explosive. Seasoned detectives investigate criminal offenses, while school resource officers build bridges of trust and understanding with the youth of our community. Internet safety courses offered by the Police Department help kids stay safe online.
As a modern, diverse, and professional police agency with a rich organizational history, the Abington Township Police Department stands ready to meet the needs of its citizens in the 21st Century.