Flanagan takes the reins of the Radnor Police Department
RADNOR » About 200 people, including many members of area law enforcement agencies, firefighters and emergency medical personnel, packed the meeting room and gave Christopher Flanagan a standing ovation as he was sworn-in to be superintendent of the Radnor Police Department on Monday.
While Flanagan’s parents and other family members looked on, he was flanked by his proud wife, Judy, and sons, Pearce, 19, and Colin, 17, at the front of the room and about to take the oath, when retiring Superintendent William Colarulo called up a surprise guest, Officer Mark Stiansen. It was the first time that Stiansen, who suffered a severe heart attack in February, had been back to the township building, and the two men embraced.
“That was the highlight for me, to see him back,” said Flanagan later. “It was an extra-special surprise.”
Flanagan said that he had trained Stiansen and many officers kept a vigil at the hospital while Stiansen clung to life.
Flanagan, 49, worked his way up through the ranks after starting as a patrolman with the department in 1998. Before that, he began his career as a firefighter with the Bryn Mawr Fire Co., and he still volunteers with the Lower Merion Fire Co. and with Narberth Ambulance.
Over the last 20 years, Flanagan has spearheaded several programs in the department, including K-9 dogs trained to sniff bombs, the motorcycle unit, the police chaplain program, an improved Town Watch and the Citizens Police Academy, and he also brought an interagency approach to big events such as the Villanova University basketball championships and the papal visit, said Colarulo.
Flanagan, a Lower Merion resident, attended the Montgomery County Police Academy and has taken additional training, including for dealing with active shooters and the Northwestern University Staff and Command Course.
“It is with great honor and privilege,” Colarulo said, to put Flanagan’s name forward to be superintendent of the 43-person police department, saying that he was very proud of Flanagan. Colarulo will retire May 26.
The board of commissioners voted 6-0, with Vice President Luke Clark absent, to appoint Flanagan as the new superintendent. He will be paid at a rate of $159,000 a year for the first six months, $163,000 for the second six months and $167,000 per year after serving one year.
In an interview prior to the commissioners meeting, Flanagan said that solving a recent hit-and-run that took a man’s life on Lancaster Avenue was one of the most complex cases the department has solved. That defendant eventually turned himself in after the vehicle was tracked through surveillance cameras as it headed west on Lancaster Avenue that night.
Another memorable case was a 2006 stabbing at Cabrini University where a victim was severely injured.
“We were able to catch the person on site and eliminate any more dangerous actions,” said Flanagan. “We were able to peacefully make an arrest. It was a great example of team work.”
As for the six-person motorcycle unit, one of its most exciting duties was escorting then-Vice President Joe Biden to the Democratic National Convention, said Flanagan.
Asked about his goals for the department, Flanagan said, “We’re in a great spot now.” But he wants to ensure his officers have the latest training, including in how to de-escalate situations, and equipment and that they “keep abreast of current events.”
“In today’s challenging police world, you have to make sure your people are well trained,” said Flanagan. They have to be “knowledgeable to be able to do their jobs.” He also wants to keep the community informed “as much as possible.” Another goal “is to set the excellent police officers here up to be the future leaders of the department,” he said.
After he was sworn in, Flanagan said that he was “humbled to stand before everyone here.” He thanked his parents and said that even as a child, he had “a passion for emergency service” that first led him into firefighting, emergency medical service and then police work. He also thanked his wife and sons for supporting him during all the shift work over the years, and he thanked his fellow officers for their “amazing service.”
“You all risk their lives every day,” said Flanagan and asked the audience to applaud them. He promised to work to keep them prepared and to make sure they have the best equipment and also told them to “watch each other’s backs,” both on call and otherwise.
“We will work arm-and-arm to protect every resident and visitor in this township,” said Flanagan. He promised to “make sure every police officer and public safety official comes home safe. This I pledge as your chief.”
He thanked the commissioners, gtownship Manager Robert Zienkowski and Colarulo, as well as his family for their support.
During the interview, Flanagan said his favorite television show is, of course, “Emergency.” When he is not working or volunteering as a firefighter or with the Narberth EMS, he helps his sons with their Eagle Scout projects. The older son, Pearce, who is now studying nursing at La Salle University, is already an Eagle Scout, and Colin will soon complete that task.
Asked if it’s true about cops’ propensity to eat doughnuts, Flanagan said, “I can’t confirm or deny.”
“We get a lot of gifts here,” he said. “One of the best things about Radnor is our relationship with the community. People are often dropping food off because they know officers are working on holidays.”
New Radnor Police Superintendent Christopher Flanagan is sworn in with his wife, Judy, holding the Bible and sons Pearce and Colin looking on. Retiring Superintendent William Colarulo holds a microphone.