James R. Schaefer, 68, served as Kennett Square chief from 1973-1977
By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, The Times
James “Jim” R. Schaefer, 68, of Forked River, N.J., a former Kennett Square Borough police chief credited with upgrading the department decades ago, died on Monday at his home.
Born in Schuylkill Haven, he was a graduate of Villanova University and served in the U.S. Marines Corp before becoming a Pennsylvania state trooper in 1968, working at the Avondale barracks. He became Kennett’s police chief in 1973, serving in that post until 1977.
Kennett Township Police Chief Albert J. McCarthy was working as a borough patrolman when Schaefer took over as chief. Calling him “an officer and a gentleman,” McCarthy, who later served as the borough’s chief, said Schaefer brought a passion for education and professionalism to the job, instituting policies that still exist today. “Times were changing, and the department needed to be modernized,” McCarthy said.
In addition, because Schaefer had worked drug investigations at Avondale, he wasn’t afraid to take on the dealers, McCarthy said. “He jumped right in with a two-fold approach,” McCarthy said. “Not only do you need to have special investigators, but you need to have patrolmen ready to enforce the law…Over time, that made a huge difference.”
Kennett Square Police Chief Edward A. Zunino recalled being hired by Schaefer in 1975. “I feel very lucky to have started in police work under Chief Schaefer,” said Zunino. “He always trained us to go the extra step in everything we did to insure that all bases were covered. He was a stickler for detail in police reports, which I learned and is carried on here at KSPD until this very day because of what Chief Schaefer taught us.”
McCarthy said he remembered Schaefer’s asking him about Zunino when he applied for a job. “He [Schaefer] was looking for someone who knew the community and would fit in,” McCarthy said, adding he and Zunino had gone to school together and that Zunino was exactly the kind of officer Schaefer was seeking.
Steve Little, a former borough officer, was also hired in 1975 under Schaefer. “I feel a great debt of gratitude to him for all the training he provided me,” said Little. “He was instrumental in professionalizing the police department.”
Little, who left the borough in 1980, worked for Schaefer at A & P for two years before the pair and another partner began a business that included private detective, loss prevention, and security services. Little, who bought Schaefer’s share of the business after he moved to New Jersey in 1983, said he still operates the firm, now called Chesco Security. He said Schaefer could handle multiple responsibilities with ease. “He was very dedicated to his job and family,” Little said.
Calling Schaefer conscientious, dedicated, and “one of the top law enforcement officers I have had the privilege and pleasure to work with in my 38-year police career,” Zunino said: “Chief Schaefer exemplified the true meaning of what a law-enforcement officer should be.”
After moving to New Jersey, Schaefer retired in 2006 after 28 years as director of loss prevention at A & P. He is survived by his wife of 42 years, Deborah Walls, a sister, two children, and a granddaughter.
A memorial gathering will be held on Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at Riggs Funeral Home, 130 North Route 9, Forked River. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Mr. Schaefer’s memory can be made to Wounded Warrior Project, 370 7th Avenue, Suite 1802, New York, N.Y., 10001.