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Harpers Ferry chief ends 21-year career

December 30, 1999

Harpers Ferry chief retiresBy JULIE E. GREENE / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. - It's the people he's met on the job during the last 21 years that Harpers Ferry Police Chief Charles W. Wyndham Sr. said he'll miss the most.

Wyndham retired Thursday, cleaning out his office at the 1000 Washington St. police department.

"I'm going to miss the people. I made a lot of friends in 21 years," he said.

"The citizens have been good to me. I really hate to leave. There are a lot of good people around here," said Wyndham, 60, of Ranson, W.Va.

Wyndham didn't want to retire, but he said health problems forced him to make the decision three weeks ago. Wyndham has diabetes, high blood pressure and some trouble with his balance, most likely due to arthritis, he said.

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Mayor Walton "Kip" Stowell will serve as acting police chief for the town until a new chief can be hired, said Town Councilwoman Linda Rago. There are three full-time officers in the department besides the chief.

Rago said Wyndham has been a constant in Harpers Ferry.

"I think he's given a lot of loyalty to the town of Harpers Ferry. We always knew he was going to be there," Rago said.

Wyndham started working for the department in March 1979 as a dispatcher.

After seeing police chiefs and officers quickly come and go, he decided in 1980 to become a police officer. Wyndham was named chief in February 1988.

Over the years Wyndham met Jimmy Carter, Nancy Reagan, President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.

The police department also has met with police officers and citizens from across the nation who have left a wall of mementos behind. The wall by the department's front door is covered with patches from police departments all over the United States, including Phoenix, Houston and Hawaii County.

While he enjoys meeting some of the approximately 750,000 tourists a year that visit the historic area, Wyndham said they do cause some traffic problems for a town that has little available parking.

"We don't have a lot of crime," said Wyndham, whose department is also contracted to cover Bolivar, W.Va.

Over the years, Wyndham has seen an increase in domestic violence and calls for drunken driving, he said.

Wyndham said the incident that stands out the most during his career was a shoot-out near the Harpers Ferry train station on Oct. 9, 1992, with a man police believed had stolen a car in Baltimore and fled to West Virginia.

Alan P. Newman of Wheaton, Md., was later sentenced to five consecutive life sentences for four homicides and one attempted murder.

"He's the only one I had to shoot at," Wyndham said. Newman was captured without being shot.

The worst part of the job has been lawsuits by people Wyndham encountered while trying to do his job, he said.

Wyndham has an Oct. 17, 2000, jury trial date in U.S. District Court in Martinsburg, W.Va., for a lawsuit brought by a Martinsburg man who alleges Wyndham threatened him on Aug. 1, according to court records.

After 20 years as a police officer Wyndham said he's not sure what he'll pursue next.

"I'll probably end up with a part-time job," Wyndham said.

But that won't happen until he takes a month off to relax.

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