The Abington Township Police Department – Where Superheroes Meet

The COPS Office is pleased to feature the October 2016 winner of the Community Policing in Action Photo Contest: The Abington Township Police Department. The winning photo features Officer Roger Gillispie with a young superhero during the city’s local fall festival.

Every year for the past 20 years, a week before Halloween, residents of Abington Township, Pennsylvania get to don their costumes in exchange for candy. The Fall Festival, which is a collaboration between the Abington Township business community and the C.A.P.T. (Citizens and Police Together), draws thousands of youth and their parents together to trick-or-treat in a safe environment. The youth not only get to wear their costumes and grab candy, they also get to interact with Abington Township public safety personnel.

When little Rory Dougherty, dressed as Batman, saw Officer Roger Gillispie, he was eager to speak to him. “He came up and wanted to say hello, but when he got there he seemed to have lost his voice,” laughed Gillispie. “He froze up and just looked at me.” Though dressed as a superhero himself, little Rory stared up at Gillispie as if he were a superhero.       

The Fall Festival is one of many engagement activities for Abington Township officers and the community. Other popular community events and programs include the 24-Hour Relay Challenge, a fundraiser with the sole purpose of bringing the community together; the Citizen Police Academy; and D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).

“In the early 1990s, Chief Bill Kelly spearheaded the [community policing] philosophy within the department and he created our Community Policing Division,” said Lt. Kelley Warner, Commander of the Community Policing Division. “The community policing philosophy is indoctrinated in the department.”

The Community Policing Division is responsible for crime prevention, youth-oriented and community-based initiatives, the Traffic Safety Unit, D.A.R.E., the Youth Aid Panel, the Police Athletic League, and linkage with community groups. It is composed of officers who work in diverse positions within the department and includes a number of civilian employees.

“Even though there are officers assigned to that division, the whole office has to achieve it [community policing],” said Lt. Warner. “We’re inclusive of the patrol division because when there’s a crime trend, they can help us. Social media comes out of our division, because it’s about getting the word out.”

The department’s community engagement efforts have been so successful that in 2013, it was recognized with the IACP Community Policing Award.

“Our motto is to protect and serve with pride,” said Gillispie. “That’s just what we do here. We consider ourselves a part of the community.”  

Abington Township, which is a suburb of Philadelphia with approximately 55,000 residents, won recognition as one of “100 Best Communities for Young People” five times by America’s Promise Alliance. Known for its excellent schools1 and relatively low crime rates, Abington Township is an attractive community for families and a great place for children.

“I don’t think we’d be here without Chief Kelly’s direction and leadership,” shared Lt. Warner when asked for any closing thoughts. “He’s spearheaded the community relationships and this has helped officers’ quality of lives. He makes sure that we feel good about what we are doing. We would be remiss without mentioning that. He plans to retire next year and he’s done a lot in terms of program development in his time here.”

The COPS Office congratulates the Abington Township Police Department for being one of the 12 winners of the COPS Office 2016 Community Policing in Action Photo Contest and for its commitment to community policing.

Written with contributions from Abington Township Police Department Lt. Kelley Warner, Commander of the Community Policing Division; Officer Roger Gillispie; and Melissa Gargan, Director of Youth Programs. Photo courtesy of the Abington Township Police Department.

Najla Haywood
Special Contributor
The COPS Office


1 National Blue Ribbon Schools Program,” accessed September 8, 2016,

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