Henry Peter Jansen, 90, of Wayne, a former Radnor Township police superintendent who worked to modernize the law enforcement department, died Saturday, Sept. 19, of complications from pulmonary fibrosis at his home.
Known as ‘'Hank,'' Mr. Jansen retired in 1996 from the Radnor department, where he served for 42 years, starting as a patrol officer in 1954 and rising to superintendent.
In that role, he presided over a force of 50, including commanders, patrol officers, and detectives.
The department said it was saddened by his passing. Thirty-six friends and fellow law enforcement officers posted condolences on the department’s Facebook page.
“He was a good man. He was such a gentle soul. He was patient with everything,” said Lori Denicola, a secretary and administrator with the department.
John Rutty, who retired in 2009 as Radnor’s police superintendent, worked as a lieutenant under Mr. Jansen at a time when Mr. Jansen and his top brass were working to modernize the force.
“He was just a nice man," Rutty said. "He was so even-keeled. I’ve never seen him upset or angry. Every day was a great day, a bluebird-on-your-shoulder kind of day.”
“He trusted his people,” Rutty said. “He trusted your expertise and experience. That’s huge when you’re trying to revamp an organization and get it on its feet.”
Andrew Block, now Upper Moreland Township’s police chief, was hired in 1990 as a Radnor patrol officer. By 1991, he recalled, Mr. Jansen was acting superintendent, and he became superintendent a short time later.
“He was phenomenal, a great guy to work for,” Block said. “He established a management team to modernize the police department. At the time, we were still using typewriters to write up reports and complaints. He brought in computers for a record management system that was cutting edge."
Mr. Jansen was a proponent of community oriented policing and implemented officer outreach to schoolchildren. “We started presentations at the schools of Officer Friendly — Stranger Danger,” Block said.
Mr. Jansen also helped bring the 911 call-and-dispatch system to the suburbs. By 2006, all the township’s emergency calls previously handled by Radnor dispatchers went through the Delaware County radio room.
Mr. Jansen had a simple theory of effective police work. “I want an open line of communication, to be more involved in the community and get problems solved before they develop into anything major,” he told a local newspaper in the early 1990s.
Before rising to superintendent, he was a Radnor detective from 1958 to 1966. He told True Detective magazine in the 1960s that his days as a police sleuth were among his most memorable.
He founded the Radnor Township Police Athletic League program and served as president of the Wayne Rotary Club. He was president of the Pennsylvania Police Officers Association and a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Born in Philadelphia to Henry Jansen and Anna Eppers Jansen, he graduated from Northeast Catholic High School, attended Villanova University, and took courses at the FBI National Academy. He served in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.
Mr. Jansen was an active Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus, and was an avid runner and a youth athletic coach. He was a member of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Strafford, Chester County.
He married Laura Norcini in 1960. They raised their three children in Wayne.
Mr. Jansen was an engaging storyteller who liked to relate tales about his experiences as a Marine stationed in Japan and a police officer in the suburbs.
He enjoyed traveling the country and the world with family so much that his children jokingly called him “Mr. Rand McNally.” In the days before Google Maps, he’d spend hours mapping out trips using paper maps.
Besides his wife he is survived by daughters Judy Jansen Burns and Jill Jansen; a son, Jeffrey Jansen; and seven grandchildren.
Private services were Monday, Sept. 28. A public celebration of life will be held once health conditions permit.
Contributions may be made to the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, 230 E. Ohio St., Suite 500, Chicago, Ill. 60611.