Upper Darby's Michael Chitwood reflects on career, laughs off retirement rumors

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December 18, 2013 8:40:17 PM PST
He is Upper Darby's top cop, he is almost a regular on television and in the newspapers with his colorful descriptions of crime fighting, and now Michael Chitwood is the subject of a book called 'Tough Cop.'

"I'm lucky in that I can say I love what I do as much today as I did in 1964," Chitwood said.

Mike Chitwood was sworn in to the Philadelphia Police Department in April of 1964 and shortly thereafter received his first commendation.

He would go on to become the department's most decorated cop, earning more than 70 commendations for valor, bravery and heroism.

"I attribute my successes all through my career on other people," Chitwood said.

Back in the day, in the local media and public, he became Philadelphia's popular personification of "Dirty Harry."

"I think it was a combination of different aspects the media picked up on and dubbed me that," Chitwood said.

But then he went from a 'make my day' equivalent of Dirty Harry to 'Mike the Negotiator' who didn't even carry a gun.

"There was a reason I didn't carry a gun, number one, I was never the greatest shot in the world," Chitwood said.

Eventually he was ordered to carry a gun and was promoted to the homicide unit.

That's where he took over the cold case of Holly Maddux. She disappeared in the late 1970s. Ira Einhorn, a cult-like figure, was long suspected in her disappearance.

"So I took the investigation home and I read it and said, 'My god! This guy killed her,'" Chitwood said.

Armed with a 37-page search warrant, Chitwood and his team went to Einhorn's house where they focused on a closet and a steamer trunk.

"I come to the steamer trunk and I could smell like a decayed body," Chitwood said.

As Einhorn looked on, Chitwood began to dig through the trunk.

"And then I went up there, there was her hand sticking out. I turned to him and said, 'Looks like we found Holly.' And he said, 'You found what you found' and he turned around and walked away," Chitwood said.

Then, there was the first and only case that made him cry: the 1981 rape and murder of 12-year-old Nicky Caserta.

"The case that changed my life, changed the course of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do," he said.

Caserta was raped in her Catholic school uniform and stabbed to death. 25-year-old Hank Fahy would later be charged. Chitwood was attempting to read his confession on the witness stand when he broke down.

"And I said, 'You know what? How many more shootouts can I get involved in? How many more dead bodies do I want to see? I'm 37, 38 years old,'" Chitwood said.

Chitwood would go on to become chief of the Middletown, Bucks County Police Department. At the same time, he was going to night school, the FBI Academy, Temple University, and even Harvard to get more education.

He then went on to Portland, Maine where he spent 17 years as chief before becoming Superintendent of the Upper Darby Police. And yet, Philadelphia's most decorated cop was never named a Philadelphia police commissioner. But he says he's not disappointed and understands the politics.

"I'm a very high visibility guy and, in some cases, that visibility hurts me even though it's positive, it hurts me," Chitwood said.

And as for rumors the 69-year-old lawman plans to retire soon?

"Retirement is not even in my vocabulary. There may be people who wished I'd retire, but I'm not," Chitwood said with a laugh.

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