The Hamburg Borough Police Department celebrated its 175th anniversary with a service held outside the Hamburg Municipal Center on May 19.
Established on March 28, 1846, the Hamburg Police Department is one of the oldest police departments in Berks County as well as in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“Hamburg was a very different place back then and so were the people and the local government,” said Hamburg Mayor George Holmes.
The mayor was called a bourgeois. The police chief was also the constable.
“But one thing remains the same,” said Holmes. “The officers of the Hamburg Police Department, like many of us here, cared deeply about the well-being of the Hamburg area and have served and sacrificed to that end.”
The service included the posting of colors by an honor guard consisting of Hamburg Detective William Kramer and Officers Keven Chase, Joseph Mikos and Ryan Brobst.
Father Don Cienciewicz of St. Mary Roman Catholic Church presented the opening prayer and Rev. Mark Caston of Bridge Church in Hamburg gave the benediction.
Citations were presented by Rep. Jerry Knowles, Sen. David Argall, and Deputy District Director Tom Gerhard speaking on behalf of Congressman Dan Meuser. Also in attendance were former Corporal Richard Leymeister, and Judge Kim Bagenstose and staff.
Congratulating the officers who have served the community so well for so long, Argall said, “Think about how much has changed in 175 years. Just think of all of the adaptations this police department has had to make to continue to protect each one of us.”
Berks County Commissioner Christian Leinbach said that the Hamburg Police Department is focused on community policing.
“These officers are not sitting behind a desk. They are out in the community, serving the community. You are an example of what great policing is all about,” he said.
Disputing the media’s focus on the few tragic cases involving police, Leinbach said that is neither right nor fair.
“The reality is that the men and women of law enforcement in our community … serve us, protect us and are willing to put their lives on the line for us every day.”
Congratulating the department on its 175th anniversary, Leinbach said, “We need to celebrate days like today. We need to celebrate the men and women of law enforcement.”
Former Hamburg Police Chief Gene Schappell read “When God Made Policemen” in remembrance of Hamburg Police Chief Wilson Lewars who was fatally shot in 1928, Officer John Ayello who died when he suffered a heart attack while making an arrest in 2000 and Patrolman Levi Williamson who was also listed as a line of duty death, but no other information could be found.
Former Hamburg Police Chief Michael Painter talked more about Chief Lewars who was responding to a silk mill burglary when he was shot three times. He died the following day. Lewars was the first member of the department and the first chief of police in Berks County killed in the line of duty.
Commending the 175th anniversary, David Steffen, president of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, said it is an honor to come together as a profession to celebrate and advocate for police, as well as advocate for best practices in law enforcement. The Hamburg Police Department is in the process of obtaining accreditation.
To honor their continued service amid the pandemic, Hamburg Police Chief Anthony M. Kuklinski presented Hamburg Borough Police officers with Distinguished Unit Citations and pins.
“Officers provided the highest level of service and conducted themselves professionally and courteously,” said Kuklinski reading the citation. “The actions of all officers reflected positively on the Hamburg Borough Police Department as well on the entire law enforcement profession. Your participation in this assignment represented an outstanding accomplishment in the protection of life and property. This accomplishment was made as a result of teamwork with decisive and professional actions.”
The following received the Distinguished Unit Citation: Detective William E. Kramer, Officer Keven Chase, Officer Tito Loor, Officer Scott Goff, Officer Joseph Mikos, Officer Kevin Chase, Officer Edwin Fernandez, Officer Anthony Vaillant, and Officer Ryan Brobst.
Thanking the Hamburg officers, Hamburg Area School District Superintendent Richard J. Mextorf said, “We feel very well protected and very well served by all of the members of this organization. I know that if anything happens at any one of our schools, you’re just a phone call away and you’ll be there in minutes. That is such a wonderful thing to know.”
After the service, Kuklinski talked about the significance of the department’s 175th anniversary.
“I feel like I’m the curator of law enforcement history,” said Kuklinski. “The department was created in 1846. All I’m doing is carrying that torch to the next chief, to the next department that comes here. It’s very exciting to be part of something that is that old, something that is so respected and mixed in with our community.”
The event concluded with refreshments and a historical display in the police station.