By: Raymond Neider
By 1929, the congestion of Muhlenberg Township, North to the city of Reading, has created the normal suburban public service needs as well as the problems. The demand for order and enforcement of the law was growing. On January 7, 1938, Harry Gensemer Sr. was appointed chief of police for Muhlenberg Township. His salary for the year was $1,500, and was the only police officer. Harry Gensemer Sr. remained the Muhlenberg Chief of Police until his death in 1947. Late in the year of 1941, with the on set of the Second World War, a police committee was formed to help with the Reading-Berks WWII defense council. The committee was made up of Harry Gensemer Sr., Harold Angstadt, and Russell Kessler. The duties of the committee were to control traffic, patrol the streets, guard defense plants, prevent looting, enforce blackouts, control panic, and removal of duds or timed bombs. Officers on this committee have the power to arrest. Harold Angstadt and Russell Kessler were only temporary officers during the war. After the war, the Reading area’s population began to grow rapidly. With this growth, there was a need for extra police protection and so two new police officers were hired. These two new police officers were Walter T. Paul and Herbert Derr.
In January of 1946, the township bought their first police vehicle, a Chevy 4-door sedan for $900. In the same month, the position of police commissioner was created to oversee the police department. Harry Gesemer Jr. was appointed the first Muhlenberg Township Police Commissioner. On November 12, 1946, the township ran an ad in the Reading Eagle stating that the police can now be called out at anytime through the Reading Radio Service at city hall. Herbert Derr is appointed chief of police on July 7, 1947 due to the death of Harry Gesemer Sr. a month before. Walter Greth was hired as a police officer to fill the vacancy left by Mr. Gensemer. These three police officers worked on the force until 1949. Halfway through the year of 1949, a mobile radio unit was installed in the police car. This radio was similar to Reading Police’s radio, so as to work off Reading’s Radio Systems.
During the late forties, early fifties Muhlenberg Township Police Officers were working out of a small garage at 3215 Holtry Street, the current location of Laureldale Tool Company. In 1950, John Burkhart was appointed Chief, and two new officers were hired, George Kase and Austin Schmeck. During the same year the police pension fund was started.
Charles Endy was hired March 6, 1950, and on January 2, 1951, Raymond Endy was hired as a part time police officer. By 1953, officer Endy was promoted to the position of Chief of the Muhlenberg Township Police Department. In 1951, the department relocated to 5400 Leesport Avenue, across from the present township building. Once this building became overcrowded the department eventually moved out of this building and into the basement of the parks and recreation building located on River Road.
Throughout the department’s history, Muhlenberg Township Police have assisted other municipalities in their law enforcement. In 1957, Muhlenberg made a resolution with Alsace Township that Muhlenberg Township Police will now patrol the area of Alsace. The contract between the two municipalities eventually ran out in 1961. Today, Alsace Township is under the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania State Police. In 1951, a document was agreed upon by Muhlenberg Township and Laureldale Borough, that all Muhlenberg Police Officers have full jurisdiction in Laureldale, and vice versa. In 1999, Muhlenberg Township Police Department took the area known as Temple under its jurisdiction for law enforcement services. At the present time, Muhlenberg Township Police Department does not patrol Alsace or Laureldale areas.
As of 1958, Muhlenberg Township Police Department had seven officers and three police vehicles. The township was growing steadily, and on October 18, 1965, the township was classified as a 1st class township. With this population growth, came the criminal activity. By December 1969, Muhlenberg voted on the creation of a detective division. The department sent officers to take civil service exams for positions of sergeant and detective. This is the first time that Muhlenberg officers took a civil service test for a promotion. The first officer to be named detective was Robert H. Schafer, on April 6, 1970. He remained the only detective, despite talks about needing another one, until his death in 1978. Kermit Frantz then took over the position of detective sergeant. Several years later, approximately around 1980 the MTPD gained another detective, Barry Hadley. In 1981 Craig Fink was shot and then was transferred to the detective division. The detective division has reached three detectives, and has remained at that number to this. In the mid 1980’s, Kevin Smith took the place of Craig Fink when he left. On April 2, 1970 Farr Lindenmuth was one of the officers who tested for the position of lieutenant and he scored the highest on the civil service exam. Farr Lindenmuth was the first lieutenant in the history of the Muhlenberg Police Department. The position was later replaced by the position of deputy chief.
In 1970 Barry Fredricks was the first officer at Muhlenberg to work with a police dog. The police dog was re-introduced in 1988 by Leonard Sokolovich. The dog was obtained from the Metropolitan Security Agency. One year later when Erik Grunzig joined the force he too, worked with another police dog. The dog was a German Sheppard and its primary duties included: tracking, article search, agility, building searches, and handler protection.
Raymond Endy retired in 1978 and Harley Smith was appointed the new chief of police for Muhlenberg Township. The department moved from River Road to the township building in Hyde Park, in 1980. Natale Deluca was elected township commissioner for the police department in 1987. He was very supportive in the hiring of needed additional personnel to the department. During this era, chief of police Harley Smith ran the department successfully so that at the end of his retirement in 1996, there were 22 police officers on the force (Garipoli, 2002).
In 1996, Chief Robert M. Flanagan began his career with the Muhlenberg Township Police Department. With the assistance of commissioner Deluca, the department hired deputy chief of police Kirk Trate in 1998. Deputy Trate left one year later and was replaced by Richard Garipoli. This position was later replaced by the position of lieutenant. Todd Graeff was promoted to Lieutenant in May 2002.
In June of 2003, the department moved from its location on Raymond Street in Hyde Park to the new state of the art facility at 5401 Leesport Avenue, Temple, PA. Chief Flanagan runs a community oriented police department consisting of 29 officers. The department consists of several divisions, including the administrative, patrol, criminal investigations, a community service. The department also has a traffic investigation unit, bicycle and motorcycle patrols, as well as a citizen’s police academy and many other programs.
In August of 2007, the department began to transition to a new administration with the retirement of Robert Flanagan. Sergeant Erik P. Grunzig was named as the Officer In Charge to act in the capacity of the Chief of Police until such time as the Board of Commissioners names a new Chief of Police.
On October 15, 2007, the Board of Commissioners of the Township of Muhlenberg swore in Erik P. Grunzig as the department's newest Chief of Police. Chief Grunzig has promised the citizens of the township a progressive approach to his direction and administration of the department.