Retired Chief of Police Diane Conrad was honored by the Ferguson Township Police Department, Township staff and community colleagues at a reception on Wednesday, June 28. Chief Conrad served 28 years with the Borough of State College prior to becoming the Chief of Police at Ferguson Township, where she served an additional 12 years. Her successor, Chief of Police Chris Albright, was sworn in on Thursday, June 29.
As Chief, her department excelled at promoting community relations in the Township. The Township's recognition as one of the safest places in the state and in the nation reflected her officers’ dedication to crime fighting and public safety. Their first instinct when responding to any incident is to help.
Among the initiatives her officers undertook were training to ensure they respond appropriately to individuals in an emotional crisis; teaching bike safety skills to residents of all ages; and collecting unused prescription drugs — particularly opiates — to help reduce substance abuse in Centre County.
After a thorough and well documented review, Chief Conrad’s department also recently earned recommendation for accreditation by the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission’s (PLEAC) assessing team. Accreditation demonstrates to the community, Township management and Police Department staff that an independent body has reviewed the department’s essential policies and practices and found they comply with currently recommended best practice standards.
Speaking at her retirement reception, Chief Conrad said she decided on a career in law enforcement 40 years ago and has never regretted it.
Excerpts from her speech:
"Like most things, the field has changed a lot: the technology, the transparency, the issues (although some have come full circle), and the safety features. What hasn’t changed is the integrity of our officers and the incredible work they and all of our public safety partners do every day. I will miss being a part of that.
"As any officer will tell you, there are times of great tragedy in our work, and you wonder why such terrible things happen to some people. But there are many more times when you see and appreciate the amazing things done by people in our community every day — the people who keep our community running and safe, and who make it the wonderful place to live that it is.
"Not only police, but folks in Public Works, Engineering, Planning, Administration, medical services, human services, 911, the power and gas companies, the water authority, emergency management, the fire department and more. Without these professionally delivered services, we would not have the safety, security and efficiency that we do.
"There are also behind-the-scenes people who support the field workers: the internal staff in Finance and Administrative offices, Public Information, and IT. They also do an amazing job and provide us the resources necessary to do our job well.
"It’s hard to leave a job that you love and have been committed to for your whole adult life, even though you’re excited about the 'permanent vacation' ahead. Law enforcement is a career that is as rewarding as it is demanding. It’s a constant struggle to prepare for what might come next as well as meet the day-to-day tasks. It’s a position in which every rank wields great power and much responsibility. It gives you a window into the breadth and depth of humanity and of a community that few others will ever see.
"I have been very fortunate to have worked in the Centre Region, to have been hired twice by professional police departments: first by Elwood Williams as a new officer with the State College Police Department, and by Mark Kunkle as Chief of the Ferguson Township Police Department (FTPD) in 2004. I can’t thank either enough for the support and opportunities both have afforded me.
"I have the greatest appreciation for the men and women of both departments, and could not have had a better group of coworkers. I have been fortunate to work with outstanding officers and agents in our criminal justice partner agencies; the FBI, Attorney General/Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, Penn State Police, the other county police departments, as well as other non-law enforcement agencies and organizations like the Women's Resource Center, MHID, United Way, Youth Service Bureau, Criminal Justice Advisory Board, and the HOPE Coalition. Our successful outcomes in critical incidents, issues and cases have been the result of these collaborative partnerships. I am particularly proud of the changes in our responses to safety issues of women and children, those in mental health crisis, and to be able to say we are on the path to mitigating the opioid epidemic. Our regional mobile data and records system is second to none and I’m sure our new one will continue that legacy.
"We have much to be proud of here at the FTPD. I have always been most proud of not only the professionalism, but the kindness and respect with which our officers deliver our services. Hardly a week goes by when I do not receive a call, comment, email or note from an appreciative service recipient describing how wonderful our officers were when responding to their call. I especially treasure the ones from the defendants who apologize for their behavior. Not too many chiefs receive those! You demonstrate every day the good part of government, even when an arrest is part of the response, and you do the right thing in the right way. You keep everyone safe by the decency with which you treat others.
"Every chief wants to leave a department in better shape than when they arrived. Thanks for making that a realization for me. And now I am so pleased to leave you in the very capable hands of Chris Albright."