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Chester County Press

Long-time police chief Gerald Davis remembered for half-century of public service

04/07/2021 11:23AM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

Gerald W. Davis, who died on March 27, is being remembered for his nearly 50-year career in law enforcement, that included stints as a police chief for New Garden and East Marlborough townships, as well as for a legacy of public service that was layered with accomplishments.

Born and raised in Avondale, Davis graduated from Avon Grove high School in 1962, and soon began to embark on a career in law enforcement that he seemed destined to pursue. His father Ernie was the Police Chief of Avondale Borough and his brother William served as an officer at the New Garden Police Department and the Kennett Square Borough, until his untimely death while serving the midnight shift on Nov. 15, 1972 with Patrolman Richard Posey, who was also killed in the incident.

The family DNA did not end there. Two of Davis’ uncles served as troopers with the Pennsylvania State Police’s Avondale barracks.

Davis began his public safety career in June 1967 as a dispatcher for the then newly-formed Chester County Police Radio, which at the time was a branch of the Chester County District Attorney’s Office. In October 1967, Davis began his law enforcement career with the New Garden Township Police Department, serving under Police Chief McKinley Hall. There, he worked alongside several law enforcement professionals including Frank Zagorskie, Steve Guest, Fred Guilanio, Marvin Noznesky, Martin Feliciano, Ralph May, Vernon Rouss, Prince White and Kevin McCarthy.

Following Hall’s retirement in 1972, Davis became the department’s newest Chief of Police, where for the next 30 years, he oversaw the expansion of the department from a 12-member part-time staff to becoming a primary law enforcement agency with a strong emphasis on community policing.

As New Garden Township began to grow in its population and evolve in its identity, so did the demands for its police department. Under Davis, the department expanded its coverage hours, increased its dedication to officer training, created and supported several community programs in local schools, and transformed into an agency with 12 full-time officers.

After retiring from New Garden in 2002, Davis went on to become the first police chief for East Marlborough Township, where he served until his retirement in 2015. During his career, he was a long-time member of the Avondale Fire Company, and was the Acting Director for the Chester County Department of Emergency Services.

“Chief Davis was the best example of a dedicated public servant, especially in the area of fire and safety and ambulance,” said New Garden Township Supervisor Steve Allaband.

“He was police chief for two townships, and juggled a commitment to various committees and boards, as well.

“Just at New Garden alone, he was a mentor to several officers under his command, many of whom have gone on to various other forms of law enforcement and emergency services. They all have the same thing in common: At one time, they worked for Gerald Davis.”

From the time Gerald Simpson became the new police chief of the New Garden Township Police Department in 2010, he has – with the assistance of his department and elected and appointed officials – grown the department’s mission to include 24-hour coverage, the formation of the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department and the construction of a new, state-of-the-art police facility.

While policing in New Garden Township looks very different now than it did when Davis was the township’s police chief, Simpson said that Davis paved the way for the growth of what has become a regional department.

“In using the metaphor of building a house, Gerald Davis built the foundation for what we are today,” Simpson said. “I may have built the walls, and when I’m gone, someone else will build a roof, and we’re well on our way to what in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is considered a rare thing – a sustainable regional police organization that delivers services in a way that’s unmatched.”

In respect for his contributions, the New Garden Township Police Department’s annual Officer of the Year award was once named for Davis. On March 16, 2015, Davis was honored by the department for his long-time service to the township, and was accompanied by several officers who worked under his command.

“I stand here with three fellow officers, all of whom had the honor and good fortune to work with Chief Davis, to be able to call him ‘Chief’ and to be able to call him ‘Friend,’” said long-time officer John Gibson at the ceremony. “I cannot tell you how many times I've spoken to fellow officers who, after finding out that I worked at New Garden, asked when we were hiring.

“When I asked them why they wanted to work at New Garden, the answer was always the same. It was because of Chief Davis. He had and still does have that kind of draw with every officer I’ve known.”

“Gerry Davis was the right man for the right time for New Garden Township,” Simpson added. “He was probably the most transformational police chief for his time, and for his era. He was a forward thinker, particularly when it came to police training and community relations.

“You have to give a nod to the men and women who have served in this field throughout this county and area. They are legends, and Gerald Davis is one of them.”

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].