A decade ago Michael Cummings left Doylestown Borough Police Department to become chief of police in New Hope.
Since then, Cummings, who retires this month, has been credited with shepherding the department through years of change while allowing his calm, approachable demeanor to infuse it with a sense of family.
His interest in law enforcement was nurtured as a young man through a program at Temple University that attracted members of the Philadelphia Police Department.
“The federal government was encouraging police officers to get higher education. Half of the Philadelphia Police Department were there,” said Cummings, who added he met officers and learned about the job. “Hearing these stories, and the things these guys were doing appealed to me.”
He spent 32 years in Doylestown.
“I had a discussion with the police chief there and he had no intentions of leaving soon, he was comfortable in his position,” Cummings recalled. “So I had to make a choice. If I really wanted to try to attain my goal of becoming a police chief...I would have to move to somewhere else.”
Cummings called his switch from Doylestown to New Hope “seamless.”
New Hope Borough Manager, Peter Gray noted Cummings’ time in Doylestown factored into his hiring at New Hope.
“It was also very important that he was already familiar with law enforcement, court rules and procedures applicable to the county,” said Gray.
Early in his New Hope tenure Cummings worked to improve organization within the department. One example was his system to better track tickets.
Tickets, according to Cummings, were stacked, wrapped with rubber bands and stuck in a drawer.
“You had to search for the date if you knew the date it was issued. There was no way of looking up a name off a tag,” said Cummings.
The chief contracted with a company for handheld ticket readers.
As chief, Cummings was also responsible for the department’s accreditation. New Hope is one of 19 boroughs in the commonwealth that carry state accreditation.
“It was almost a two year process and basically we went through accreditation without any issues,” said Cummings. “Now we’re keeping up on it, and it makes us professional and keeps us current on any changes.”
Accreditation takes a lot of work by a lot of people.
“All the officers here participated and embraced it,” he said.
The chief is also proud of the 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Team training his full-time officers received that have helped them in crisis situations and in their day-to-day encounters. According to Chief Cummings, the officers “really enjoyed” the training and many said they wished they’d had it all along.
Karen Kerins, the chief’s administrative assistant, said Cummings promoted three full-time officers to corporals, hired two full-time officers and 10 part-time officers.
“Chief Cummings has always displayed a sense of family within the department allowing all of us to approach him with ease,” said Kerins. “That sense of calmness and family in addition to his many stories he has shared from his 47 years of police work on a daily basis will be greatly missed by all of his staff.”
Cpl. Candice Tremblay was Cummings’ first full-time hire.
“Many times over the years, I needed advice with work or in academia, and Chief Cummings would always be there to listen patiently and provide guidance,” said Tremblay.
Cummings created a family among his team, and truly provided a sense of connection to those who worked with him, she added.
“Chief Cummings was instrumental in the positive morale within our department, which has created a close-knit group over the years,” said Tremblay.
Cummings’ career included time as a K-9 handler, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, and D.A.R.E officer.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to keep myself motivated to do the job” said the chief. “I’ve always been somebody who likes to do different things. Sitting in an office for eight hours a day would’ve driven me out of my mind.”
Cummings’ retirement plans include time with his wife and some travel.
“I turned 70 and it’s just time to enjoy life a little bit more,” he said.
Still, Cummings said there was never a day where he didn’t enjoy coming to work and that he’s thankful for the council and the borough for supporting the department and any changes they needed to enact.
Among those changes was the updating of its use-of-force policy and taser directives in the wake of an incident in which a prisoner was wounded in a cell at the police station when a now-retired New Hope officer fired his gun, reportedly thinking it was his Taser. The incident led to a lawsuit that was ultimately settled for about $750,000.
According to Gray, Cummings’ last day hasn’t been finalized but the search is on for a new chief. While it won’t be limited to Bucks County, Gray said the borough looking for candidates that have “experience with municipal and law enforcement procedures and settings which are similar to the borough and Bucks County in general.”
The chief “will sorely be missed with regard to both his leadership and experience,” Gray said.