A salute to Chief Zunino
● By Steven Hoffman
1976 was a long time ago.
The United States was celebrating its bicentennial in 1976.
Barack Obama was a 15-year-old high school student in Hawaii.
George Lucas and a handful of his closest associates were the only people who knew about Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and their saga.
There were four living Beatles, but they didn't talk that much, let alone perform together on a stage.
If you wanted to share information with a family member who lived far away, you wrote a letter or called that person on the telephone, using a landline. Facebook was still far off on the horizon. Mark Zuckerberg wouldn't even be born for another nine years.
There were no laptops or iPhones. People didn't text or tweet. The streets weren't filled with SUVs and electric-powered cars.
Like everyone else who was alive in 1976, Edward Zunino couldn't imagine how completely the world would soon change.
In January of that long ago year, Zunino joined the Kennett Square Police Department as a full-time officer in his hometown. He wanted to protect and serve the citizens of Kennett Square because he loved the town.
It was a certainly a simpler time back then, but that oversimplification is not to suggest that being a police officer in Kennett Square in 1976 was easy. It wasn't. There was still plenty of crime. Disputes, sometimes fueled by alcohol, arose between people. Drug abuse was already a growing problem. Police officers risked their lives every day that they put their uniforms on. A sad illustration of that fact occurred only a few years earlier, during the early-morning hours of Nov. 15, 1972, when Kennett Square patrolmen William W. Davis and Richard J. Posey were killed in the line of duty.
Zunino joined the force as a patrol officer and worked his way through the ranks, handling investigations on everything from burglaries to gang violence to the more serious crimes that sometimes occur, even in small towns. When he demonstrated an ability to handle these investigations—relying more on instincts and hard work rather than technology—he was promoted to the position of detective.
As the years passed, society changed and law enforcement changed with it. Drug abuse skyrocketed in the 1980s, and so did the crimes associated with it. Law enforcement agencies utilized rapidly improving technology to investigate and prevent crimes, but the challenges they faced only grew greater. At some point, after mass shootings in places like Jonesboro and Littleton, police departments everywhere had to develop strategies to respond if similar, horrific incidents were to take. As the new century got underway, police departments had to develop strategies against terrorism in all its insidious forms. This required a lot more cooperation among various law-enforcement agencies.
Zunino proved himself to be as capable collaborating with detectives and investigators from other police departments as he was connecting with the residents of his hometown. He was gifted at community policing, and his police work was always founded on the bedrock of fairness and decency. He was promoted to lieutenant and then, in 2007, to the position of chief of police.
A few years after taking over as chief, Zunino reached 35 years of service in the police department—an impressive milestone. At that time, Matthew Fetick, whose primary function as mayor is to oversee the operations of the police department, lauded Zunino for his hard work and exemplary management style. Zunino would do whatever it took to make the department run well, whether that meant going out to check on the town in the middle of the night after a big storm moved through town, or showing up on Christmas morning to cover a shift that another officer couldn't cover. He mentored the younger officers to help train them the right way.
According to Fetick, Zunino cared deeply about the town he served, and paid attention to the small details. Are there any better, more important, qualities for a small town police chief to have than to be caring and careful about the small details?
Zunino reached his 40-year anniversary as a police officer in Kennett Square in January of this year. He is now retiring from the police department after being Kennett Square's stabilizing force in an ever-changing world since 1976.
On the night that his retirement was announced, Fetick said, “Ed Zunino has certainly left his mark on the Borough of Kennett Square, and we are a much better community because of his service.”
Zunino took an oath to protect and serve the residents and business owners of Kennett Square, and for more than four decades, that's exactly what he did.
Congratulations and thank you, sir, on a job well done.