The history and growth of WWPD is closely tied to the growth of retail establishments in this region. In 1973, the Rouse Company built and opened the Exton Square Mall in the center of West Whiteland Township, at a major intersection that was already known as “the crossroads of Chester County”. The Township Board of Supervisors (BOS), the governing, elected council of the municipality, passed a resolution creating the Police Department. Heretofore, the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) provided Police services in West Whiteland Township, but it was determined by both the BOS and PSP that the opening of the Mall would create too much demand for PSP resources to handle.
After creating the Department, the BOS hired Robert P. Bitter to lead and develop the new agency. Bitter was previously a command level Officer in an established Police Department in the eastern part of Chester County. He spent the next few months hiring Officers to provide Police services in the Township 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Through the 1980s, 1990s and into the 21st century, retail centers and office parks continued to develop in West Whiteland Township, along with the required highways, highway improvements, water and sewer upgrades, and other infrastructure expansions. The resident population doubled, from 7900 in 1973 to well over 16,000 in 2000. The existence of retail centers and office parks causes the daytime population to swell to an estimated 40,000 people daily. All of this growth soon left just a few reminders of West Whiteland’s farming and rural past. WWPD also grew, from one Officer in 1973 to 29 today.
In 1988, the agency experienced substantial organizational change. Sergeant Ralph J. Burton was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and four Officers were promoted to the rank of Sergeant. Each of the four new Sergeants was assigned to a patrol team, along with two patrol Officers. This move was designed to provide direct supervision on each tour of duty, everyday. Also, the first Criminal Investigator position was established. This move marked the first “special unit” in WWPD’s history. The Department continued to grow slowly, adding two new Officers in 1990. This allowed the creation of a second Criminal Investigator position and a full-time Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) Officer.
Late in 1997, Chief Bitter retired and Lieutenant Burton was promoted by the BOS to Chief of Police. One of Chief Burton’s first initiatives was to restructure the command level of WWPD. He created two Lieutenant positions. One would be in charge of operations and the other in charge of administration. Two veteran Sergeants, Claude Frisbie and Steve Meacham, were promoted to these positions. In turn, two veteran patrol Officers were promoted to fill the vacant Sergeants slots.
In 2000, the largest single hiring in WWPD history occurred, bringing the agency staff to 27 sworn Officers. The influx of new personnel allowed the creation of two new special units, K-9 and Traffic. Two veteran Officers have been trained and assigned to the K-9 Unit and two have been trained and assigned to the Traffic Safety Unit. These units operate separately from the patrol teams under the direct supervision of the operations Lieutenant. The Criminal Investigation Unit has been expanded to four Officers and each patrol team is comprised of four Officers; a Sergeant and three patrol Officers. In 2004, two more Officers were hired, bringing the total complement of the Department to 29.
As the times have changed, so has the technology. From the days of citizens’ band radios and manual typewriters, the Department has evolved into a real 21st century law enforcement agency using state-of-the-art equipment such as mobile data terminals, computer-aided dispatch systems and automated identification databases. However, even though the equipment has changed and many of the faces have changed, the agency’s commitment to the community remains the same, to protect and to serve.