Assistant Chief John Gardner Appointed Next State College Police Chief
“The last time we did this was 23 years ago in 1993 ,” Borough Manager Tom Fountaine said as he ushered in a new era. He emphasized the importance of the day as he formally introduced the new State College police Chief John Gardner on Tuesday afternoon. Gardner, the current Assistant Chief, will take over on September 1 as Chief Tom King begins his retirement.
Fountaine highlighted Gardner’s leadership in the police department and community involvement since he was hired in 1990, including serving as assistant chief for the past three-and-a-half years, chairing the department’s internal affairs conduct and procedures review board among other internal committees, coaching youth basketball and baseball, and volunteering with the Special Olympics.
“Throughout his career he has demonstrated leadership in the department, he has conducted himself with integrity and has demonstrated strong ethical and moral character in his professional affairs as well as in his personal life,” Fountaine said.
With the State College police, Gardner has been a patrol, field training and bicycle patrol officer, background investigator, criminal investigator, detective and supervisor and commander of several divisions. Over his 26 years with the State College Police Department, he’s held the ranks of officer, detective, corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and chief.
“Chief King, you set the bar extremely high for this department and this community, and I aspire to do likewise,” Gardner said as he took the mic. “We’re about to embark on a new journey with new leadership. Some things will change but many will not.”
Gardner gave ample thanks to the people that have helped him on his way to becoming State College police Chief, then he delved into his own beliefs and goals.
“We will continue to operate under the philosophy of community policing. The importance of community policing is more critical now than it has ever been. We will continue to build on existing relationships…reaching out to all segments of the community with a specific emphasis on underrepresented populations,” he said.
He acknowledged that the State College Police department has not been successful in hiring a diverse staff in the past, but emphasized that going forward, it must work harder to be successful, referencing the Task Force on Policing and Communities of Color’s most recent report. “Our goal will always be to do what we can at each call to make the situation better, not worse.”
Gardner’s last points harped on the importance of accountability, transparency “even during the most difficult times,” and police safety. He said most people who enter law enforcement do so to help others, and to serve the community police must take care of each other first, and one of the goals of his time as chief is to make sure officers are always mentally and physically healthy while mitigating risks.
In his closing statement, he thanked the community and police at local departments before a Q&A session broke out.
When asked about challenges he anticipates with policing the university specifically, he said “we, as a police department, keep getting older, and they keep staying the same age,” in what we’re hoping was the most unexpected Dazed and Confused reference ever. He elaborated that maturation is a process and most 18-23 year olds aren’t there yet, and said policing in a college town, especially State College, is “not for everyone.”
He said he hasn’t yet given much thought to the Borough Council’s decision to lessen penalties for marijuana possession, and to comment at the moment would be unwise.