Police chief’s 40-plus-year career applauded

For more than 40 years, a Kennett High graduate embodied the concept of community policing – a practice that did not even gain public attention until the 1990s.

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Kennett Square Police Chief Edward A. Zunino  expresses support to Andy Rumford of East Marlborough Township in Rumford's crusade to prevent other parents from losing a child to a heroin overdose.

In 1994, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) was established within the Justice Department. It aimed to promote a proactive approach to public safety concerns by building trust and respect between police and the public, who would then collaborate to address crime challenges.

Those who have worked closely with Kennett Square Police Chief Edward A. Zunino, whose letter of retirement was accepted by Borough Council on Monday, Aug. 1, said that he could have written the primer on community policing. Moreover, they agreed that his lasting, positive impact could not be understated.

“He was an officer who intuitively recognized the importance and benefits of a community policing philosophy long before such programs were formally organized,” said former Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll.

Carroll said he worked with Zunino over many years as he rose in the ranks from patrol officer to detective to lieutenant to chief.

“His respect for the community he served, and fair treatment of the defendants he investigated and arrested, were a product of how he believed all people should be treated,” Carroll said. “His interviews were more effective because he could establish rapport with defendants. If you read a transcript of his conversations with a defendant, you would not know whether he was talking to a homeless guy or a business executive because he treated everyone the same.”

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Kennett Square Police Chief Edward A. Zunino (from right) joins Lisa DiPietro to help her late father, Mike DiPietro, celebrate his 100th birthday in 2013.

Chester County Judge Patrick C. Carmody, a former prosecutor who worked with Zunino in various roles for more than 20 years, agreed.

“What set Ed apart is his combination of work ethic, humility and quiet strength,” Carmody said. “The other police officers, prosecutors, victims, and defendants knew they were dealing with a fair person who would work relentlessly to get to the truth, all the while protecting the public. I was thrilled when Ed became Kennett Square’s police chief and feel our county has been blessed to have such a fine public servant working for them. He will be greatly missed.”

Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Richard H. D’Ambrosio, who heads the Avondale barracks, said Zunino maintained an excellent working relationship with the state police, and he called Zunino’s retirement “a huge loss for the community.”

New Garden Township Police Chief Gerald R. Simpson labeled Zunino's retirement “truly bittersweet.” He acknowledged that Zunino had earned “well-deserved rest” after dedicating his entire life to his community and profession. “Chief Zunino will be hard to replace, and it is a sad day for Kennett Square,” Simpson said.

“Ed comes from a generation of police officer that rarely exists anymore,” Simpson continued. “Ed was motivated to help others in need without thought of personal gain. Ed didn't need all the technology that we so rely on today to serve in this career – he has something that served him better: instincts, people skills and an admirable work ethic."

Born and raised in Kennett Square, Zunino joined the Kennett Square Police Department in 1974 as an auxiliary officer. He became a part-time officer in 1975 and graduated from the police academy later that same year. He was hired full time in 1976 and has been the borough’s chief since 2007.

Kennett Square Police Chief Edward A. Zunino Jr. chats with state Sen. Andy Dinniman

Kennett Square Police Chief Edward A. Zunino  chats with state Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19, during the borough's 2016 MLK Breakfast.

Carroll noted that Zunino’s jurisdiction contained the kind of cultural diversity that has fueled distrust between the police and minority groups elsewhere. Zunino’s “leadership and the trust the community had in him” helped prevent that, Carroll said.

In his various roles, Zunino has remained involved in myriad community activities, whether he was celebrating the 100th birthday party of a longtime resident or supporting the anti-drug campaign of a grieving parent.

The founders of the Historic East Linden Project, now known as the Joseph & Sarah Carter Community Development Corporation, credit Zunino with helping them to turn a drug-infested neighborhood into a vibrant, peaceful community. Zunino now serves on the CDC’s board.

Five years ago, Zunino and Theresa Bass, the president of the Carter CDC, came up with the idea of putting a distinctively local spin on National Night Out, a national initiative that advocates community policing.

On Tuesday, Aug. 2, the Sixth Annual Kennett Square National Night Out will be observed, an event that fosters fun interaction between officers and children in the community. Activities have ranged from exchanges of trading cards to interviews to police vehicle tours. This year, Kennett Township will also participate, and Zunino will be one of the speakers.

Kennett Square Borough Councilman Ethan Cramer, also a CDC board member, said that Zunino has always practiced both good policing and genuine kindness simultaneously. "That combination has been the constant that held our diverse community together for decades," said Cramer. "He has been a positive presence in all residents' lives, whether we knew it our not, because he set the tone for civic life in Kennett Square."

Addressing Borough Council at Monday’s meeting, Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick said he was privileged to have worked closely with Zunino for the past six years.

“He worked tirelessly to solve crime, lead the department, and serve the community,” said Fetick. “The chief’s retirement is a big loss for the borough, and yet I wish him well in his retirement. I also want to pass along my thanks and appreciation to his wife, Lois, and family as they, too, have sacrificed during the chief’s service to the borough.

“The borough has big shoes to fill when it comes to selecting the next chief,” Fetick said. “Ed Zunino has certainly left his mark on the Borough of Kennett Square, and we are a much better community because of his service.”

Cramer echoed that sentiment. "We'll never replace him, but he built a strong department and a strong community that will find ways to continue his work and sustain his legacy," Cramer said.

 

 

 

 

 

2013 National Night Out.

 

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