Department History

Lower Swatara Township Police Department History

Lower Swatara Township is a first class township located in the southern end of Dauphin County in the state of Pennsylvania. Lower Swatara Township is located about six miles southeast of Pennsylvania’s capital city, Harrisburg. Lower Swatara Township is composed of about 14.6 square miles of land and water since it is bordered on its southern end by the Susquehanna River and on eastern side by the Swatara Creek. 

Lower Swatara Township has a long and rich history. The land the Township currently occupies once belonged to five Indian nations. The land was transferred by treaty from the Indians to William Penn in 1728. In 1729 the land became part of Lancaster County and the Township of Peshtank, which was later called Paxton. German and Scotch-Irish emigrants settled the area. Paxton was later divided into smaller townships and Lower Swatara Township was declared a township by an act of the Assembly of Pennsylvania on March 18, 1840. 

Lower Swatara Township’s name comes from the Swatara Creek. The Indians named the creek “Swatara” which translates from their language to, “Place where we feed on eels”. 

While it is known that Lower Swatara Township has had police officers for the township since early in the twentieth century, few records were kept and it is not clear when the Township hired its first police officer. It appears that prior to the 1950’s, the Township generally only had one or two officers at any given time and it is not clear if they were full time officers or part time officers. Full time police officers were on duty in the 1950’s and 1960’s. 

It was not until about 1970 that the Lower Swatara Township Police Department became a full time police department that offered police services around the clock. From the late 1960’s until 1975, the Lower Swatara Township Police Department grew rapidly from a few officers to ten officers. In 1975, the Lower Swatara Township Police Department consolidated with the Highspire Borough Police Department. That consolidation only lasted one year and in 1976, the Lower Swatara Township Police Department was reformed. 

From 1976 until 1990, the police department grew slowly back to the ten officer level of staffing. From 1990 to 1996 the department grew to thirteen officers. The staffing level remained at thirteen officers from 1996 until 2006. From 2006 until 2008, the police department again grew from thirteen officers to sixteen officers. From 2008 until the present time, the Lower Swatara Township has maintained the sixteen officer staffing level except for a brief period between 2012 and 2013, when it dropped to eleven officers. 

Prior to 1990, the police department only had Patrol Officers and a Chief of Police. Around 1990, the position of Detective was added to the department and in the early 1990’s, a second full time Detective was added. In 2006, the position of Sergeant was added and three Sergeants were promoted at that time. In 2007, the position of School Resource Officer was added.     

At the present time, we still have all these positions, nine Patrol Officers, three Sergeants, two Detectives, one School Resource Officer and the Chief of Police.