1917 - The Boroughs of Bethlehem and South
Bethlehem merge and become the City of Bethlehem. An earlier
merger had occurred between the Boroughs of Bethlehem and
West Bethlehem in 1904. On August 26th, 1907 Officer George
Shuman of the South Bethlehem force was killed in the line
of duty while effecting an arrest of a William Handy in the
area of the Reading Railway near Adams St. Handy was arrested
several hours later and was tried on September 23rd, 1907
he was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death. On
February 23rd, 1908 Handy was executed in the electric chair.
1918 - Superintendent of Police, C.A. Davies
leads a force of 42 men. For a short period of time the Police
Department is responsible for the collection and removal of
the City’s garbage. A female matron’s position
is created to deal with unfortunate “girls” and
women involved in illegal activities.
1919 - The Grand Lodge of the Fraternal
Order Of Police issues a charter for the Star Lodge #20 of
the FOP. The monthly pay for Bethlehem Patrolmen is $100.00
compared to $125.00 for Patrolmen in the Allentown Police
Department. The Superintendent had requested that the pay
be increased because the Bethlehem officers were as good as
the Allentown officers and they just might be a little better,
citing the fact that the Bethlehem officers had beaten Allentown
in a baseball game the previous summer.
1921 - Superintendent of Police Lawrence
Kelly requests that the City purchase a new Police Patrol
and Ambulance Combine to replace the current one which is
reported to be very dilapidated and has outlived it usefulness.
Some of the crimes reported during this time period are:
1. Assault and Battery- 7
2. Conducting Bawdy House- 17
3. Alien owning Firearms- 1
4. Fornification and Bastardy- 4
5. Peddling Narcotics- 3
1923- First motorized Paddy Wagon is in
use by Police Department.
1924- On the 6th of January Officer Charles
Lawrence dies while fighting a fire on W. Broad St. Officer
Lawrence had fallen from a ladder and suffered a fatal head
1925- The Police Department consists of
the following 60 positions.
Patrol Drivers- 2
Traffic Officers- 10
Mounted Officers- 3
Motorcycle Officers- 6
1927 - On the 12th of November Officer Charles
Fenton interrupts a robbery at a “disorderly house”
on Columbia St. and while effecting an arrest of several actors
he is shot. On the 14th of November he dies from his injuries.
1929 - Some of the equipment being utilized
by the Police Department:
Silent Policemen- 7
Traffic Sticks- 2
Wooden Maces- 50
Tear Masks- 3
Gas Bombs- 3
Night Sticks- 64
Sawed off Shotguns- 2
The Department also lists
the following items and values:
Oakland Touring Car- $100.00
Horses- Colonel- $100.00-
REO Police Patrol- $900.00 Prince- $100.00
Dodge Touring Car- $25.00
(7) H.D. Motorcycles- $1050.00
1930 - Reorganization takes place within
the Police Department. Some of the positions in the department
Superintendent of Police -1
Chief of Police- 1
A Training School is established
to develop efficient officers. Courses are taught in Ethics,
Law, and Traffic Problems. Rifle Ranges are installed and
all officers are reported to be Expert Marksmen.
The “Municipal Wood
Pile Program” is established. It’s goal is to
eliminate the undesirables that are “loafing and floating”
into various parts of the city. These individuals are arrested
and given the option to find profitable employment or accept
forced employment on the woodpile. This stockpile of wood
helps the needy families of the city.
1933 - In June Captain Harry Strauss is
truck and killed by an automobile on William Penn Highway
while directing traffic during a barn fire. The Mayor gives
special orders to the Police Department to do “surveys”
of Bawdy Houses and then eliminate them. There are 58 proprietors
arrested along with 204 “inmates” of these houses.
1939 - Mayor Pfeiffle tells the citizens
that it is necessary for officers to get paid overtime to
direct traffic during city’s Christmas Season. He promises
that this extra cost will pay dividends in the future.
1940 - The Police Radio System is moved
from the Southside Municipal Building at 100 E. Third St.
to City Hall at 53 E. Broad St. A tower is erected atop the
building and the radio has a 20-mile radius.
1943 - The 1st Annual Bethlehem Police Pistol
Tournament is held at the Police Social Club Range. This event
will take place every year for many years and participants
will include shooters from area departments and from surrounding
1949 -The City installs new fireproof cells
and padded cells in the City Jail.
1950 - Due to pressure from the F.C.C. the
City is forced to change the radio system to a Frequency Modulation
System, which is serviced by Bell Telephone. The Police Department
consists of 74 men. A new summer uniform is added to the Police
Department and is well received by the city’s residents.
1960 - Chief Melvin Packard is in charge
of the Police Department and the Police Budget for that year
is $678,438.00. Some of the calls received by the department
1. Sudden Deaths-24
2. Prowling Calls- 44
3. Larceny- 641
4. Burglary- 191
5. Armed Robbery- 1
6. Rape- 1
1964 - In September Vivian Butts is hired
as the first female officer. She is later promoted to Sergeant
in 1980 and retires in 1989 after 25 years of service.
1967 - On November 28th the City of Bethlehem
dedicates its new Civic Center, which is located at 10 E.
Church. This building houses the Police Department on the
ground floor and it is the present day location for the Police
1969 - August 29th Officer Phillip J. Fahy
is shot and killed after he and his partner, Officer Merle
Getz chased Bebley Wells to an area off the Williams St. Extension.
Officer Getz is able to return fire and wounds Wells. Wells
is later tried and convicted and is currently in Graterford
State Prison. A bridge that spans the Lehigh River in the
City is later named the Phillip J. Fahy Memorial Bridge in
1970 - The Police Department is reorganized
for the first time in 20 years. The Chief of Police is John
DiDonato and the positions of Deputy Chief of Operations and
Deputy Chief of Staff Services are created. The position of
Patrol Captain replaces the eliminated positions of Shift
Captain. The position of Captain of Investigation is established
and a Vice Unit is established. The Departments manpower is
125 men and there are 15 vehicles being utilized.
1971 - The position of Court Liaison Officer
1976 - The Police Commissioner is Robert
Galle and Neighborhood Team Policing is established. The teams
are designated as Adam, Baker, and Charlie. Each team is responsible
for designated areas of the city and is commanded by a Captain.
There is a Nightwatch Command and Auxiliary Services/ Central
1988 - Officers Cindy Jordan and Leonard
Jordan are killed in a motor vehicle accident while off duty.
The Department establishes a Tactical Response Unit, a unit
that is responsible for combating street crime and high risk
warrant service. This Unit will later develop into the present
day Emergency Response Team.
1990 - The Department begins a transition
of replacing its duty weapons from S&W model 65 revolvers
to S&W Model 5906 9mm automatic weapons.
1991 - The Police Communication Center starts
using the 911 Dispatch System. The first Police Substation
is located in the Marvine-Pembroke Housing Development. Officer
Jack Fliter begins working with K-9 Buster von Steppinwolf
the Departments first Canine Unit. K-9 Buster has a fine career
and retires in 1994 and remains with Officer Fliter until
his death in 1996.
1992 - The second Police Substation is opened
on the 800blk. of E. 4th St.
1993 - Captain John Yerk is named the new
Police Commissioner and remains in that position until his
retirement in 1997. Officer Steve Marshall begins handling
K-9 Yulla the departments second K-9.
1994 - The Department begins utilizing a
new $30,300.00 Mobile Police Substation. K-9 Buster retires
and Officer Fliter replaces K-9 Buster with K-9 Blesk.
1995 - Officer Don Sabo is named the 1995
Crime Prevention Officer of the Year by the Pennsylvania Crime
Prevention Officers Association. The Department unveils new
Police Bicycles to be utilized by Patrol Officers.
1996 - The Department installs computers
and in-car cameras in some of the patrol cars. Members of
the department are using Trading Cards. These cards have the
members photograph and brief information about the member.
Members of the Department win 7 gold medals in the Pennsylvania
1997 - Police Commissioner Yerk retires
and Eugene Learn is named the new Police Commissioner. In
April Officer Daniel Rice #146, a twenty-six year veteran
of the force is killed in a motor vehicle accident while on
patrol. The Department begins using Digital Cameras for all
1998 - The Department begins utilizing a
donated step van vehicle as its Emergency Response Vehicle.
1999 - The Department replaces its S&W
9mm handguns with Glock Model 23 40 Caliber Automatics.
2000 - K-9 Blesk retires and is replaced
by K-9 Alan who is handled by Officer Fliter. They are the
Departments first Explosive Detection Canine Team. Officer
Jonathan Isaac begins to handle K-9 Madjo, a Patrol/Narcotics
2001 - Police Commissioner Learn retires
and Francis Donchez is named the new Police Commissioner.
The Departments Traffic Safety Unit has pedestrian safety
signs installed around all the City’s Schools. The Criminal
Investigations Unit begins utilizing a Crime Scope to aid
in the detection and enhancement of latent fingerprints at
July 2006 - Commissioner Francis Donchez
Jr. retires and Randall P. Miller is appointed Police Commissioner
and Stuart Bedics is appointed Deputy Police Commissioner.
January 2007 - The Department reaches 150
2009 – The Police Department reaches
an all-time high of 160 sworn police officers.
Summer 2009 – After a 63 year hiatus,
the Bethlehem Police Department re-introduces a Mounted Patrol
Unit with three horses patrolling the City’s business
Summer 2009 – The Department purchases
thirty Taser X26 Conducted Energy Devices in order to deploy
a less-lethal alternative on the streets. All officers receive
thorough training on the weapon system, with most officers
electing to take a full five-second Taser exposure to learn
the devices capabilities. After deployment of the Taser, arrest
related injuries to both officers and suspects decline significantly.
December 2009 – Commissioner Randall
Miller retires and Stuart Bedics is appointed Police Commissioner.
Jason Schiffer is appointed as Deputy Police Commissioner.
2010 – The police force is reduced
in numbers to 157 sworn officers. These reductions come through
attrition, rather than layoffs. Significant budget cuts are
made to save five officers from layoffs.
May 2011 – Commissioner Stuart Bedics
Retires and Jason Schiffer is appointed Police Commissioner.
Craig Finnerty is appointed to Deputy Commissioner.
Summer 2011 – The Bethlehem Police
Department purchases all new Glock Model 23 Generation 4,
.40 caliber handguns.
October 2011 – The police department
begins an online social media presence with a Facebook Page,
Twitter account and our own blog. The effort quickly gains
support from the public and soon the department is posting
daily crime reports, safety information, wanted and missing
person information and engaging in a dialogue with the citizens.
By the end of the year, our Facebook page has around 1000
Likes and we have 350 followers on Twitter.
2012 – The Police Department is further
reduced back to the 2007 level of 150 sworn officers.
April 2012 – With a 7-0 vote, City
Council changes the title of Police Commissioner to Chief
of Police, restoring the name as it existed in Bethlehem prior
to 1974. Chief of Police Jason Schiffer and Deputy Chief of
Police Craig Finnerty continue in these positions.
Summer 2012 – The Bethlehem Police
Department purchases fifty new Remington 870 Police Shotguns
with shorter barrels and stocks for easier handling and maneuverability.
For the first time, all police cars including detective cars
are equipped with a shotgun.
Summer 2012 – The 9-1-1 Command Center
receives a much needed console upgrade including the computers
and workstations for our police, fire and EMS dispatchers.
December 2012 – The social media efforts
have been much more successful than our goals, reaching over
15,000 hits per month on our blog and 2200 Facebook likes
and 1800 Twitter followers.
2013 – The 9-1-1 Command Center is
now supervised by a civilian Director of 9-1-1 and the position
of Captain of Support Services was eliminated, reducing our
sworn officer strength to 149 officers.
January 2013 – Our first next-generation
Ford Police Interceptor cars begin patrolling Bethlehem with
more powerful V6 engines, All Wheel Drive and removable Panasonic