Michael Chitwood, Upper Darby Township’s blunt-spoken and controversial police superintendent, has announced that he is retiring after 55 years in law enforcement.
“I really don’t want to leave,” Chitwood said Friday. “My next birthday, I’ll be 76. I still run up the steps and still ride the bikes. But it’s time to go."
He emphasized that he was leaving on his own volition but that he wanted the newly elected mayor of the state’s sixth-largest municipality, Democrat Barbarann Keffer, to choose a new police chief. Keffer narrowly defeated Upper Darby fixture Tom Micozzie, the Republican incumbent, on Tuesday.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do now,” Chitwood said.
Retirement would give him more time to spend with his children, grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren, but he said that would be an unlikely option. “I’m not the kind of guy who’s going to do nothing," he said.
Chitwood, whose retirement was first reported by 6ABC, said he would step down Dec. 1.
He began his law-enforcement career as a Philadelphia police officer in 1964, and has been top cop in Upper Darby, located on Philadelphia’s southwestern boundary, for 14 years.
He also had been police chief in Middletown, Bucks County, and Portland, Maine. His son, also named Michael, is the sheriff in Volusia County, Fla.
One of Philadelphia’s most highly decorated police officers, Chitwood has often been in the public eye with tough talk that included calling suspects “scumbags,” “bums,” and assorted other insults.
» READ MORE: Straight from the mouth of Chitwood
He said he had seen profound changes in police work and criminal activity in his career.
“From a positive perspective and police perspective, it’s the technology,” he said. As for crime, that’s not been so positive.
As a child growing up during the Cold War, when the big fear was nuclear attack by the Soviets, kids would “duck under desks” during air-raid drills, he recalled. Now, he says, they have to duck under desks for fears of shooters.
He lamented the street robberies, domestic violence, and drugs his department deals with today.
“We are an extension of Philadelphia. It’s just more and more" — here he used a signature Chitwood pejorative to indicate not-nice people — “moving out here.”
The available FBI Uniform Crime Reports show no discernible trend in violent crimes in the township of 83,000. In 2010, 439 were reported; in 2018, there also were 439, with some year-to-year variation.
One thing hasn’t changed, he said. “Crime is still crime.”
In the short term, Chitwood said, he might take a trip to Italy or spend some time with a brother who lives in Milwaukee. From there?
“Who knows what the future holds,” he said, adding that he wasn’t overburdened with regrets. “As Frank Sinatra said, ‘I did it my way.’”