Falls Police Chief Reflects on 48 Years of Service
Police Chief Bill Wilcox’s last day in the office is Aug. 31.
Falls Township Police Chief Bill Wilcox cannot recall what triggered his love of police work and his nearly lifelong pursuit of a law enforcement career.
“Probably when I was in grade school,” Wilcox said, remembering a visit a trooper paid to students at Our Lady of Grace Catholic School. “I just always knew that my career path or my goal in life was to be a policeman.”
The Penndel native had been attending college for general business when some friends returning from the Vietnam War mentioned that the Falls Township Police Department was hiring. In April 1973, Wilcox took the test to become a police officer.
“The next thing I know I was in the state police academy,” he said, adding that he took night courses to finish college while enrolled in the academy.
Wilcox, who will work his last day on Aug. 31, began his career with Falls Township Police Department on July 9, 1973.
“My entire career has been here in Falls Township. I’m just lucky,” Wilcox said. “When I came up here, I knew nothing about Falls Township. Probably it was a good thing. I had no expectations. I just knew I wanted to be the best policeman I could.”
Early in his career Wilcox worked in undercover narcotics with the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office. Knowing he wanted to go into the investigative field, he applied himself and soon advanced to detective. He later became a supervisor and was promoted to sergeant, eventually becoming lieutenant. On Oct. 17, 2007, Wilcox became the police department’s top cop with his promotion to police chief.
“I wanted to try my ideas out,” Wilcox said of returning to college to obtain his master’s degree. “I knew I wanted to head a police department.
He was offered two chief positions. At the time, his mother-in-law was ill, and Wilcox opted to stay local. Soon after, then-Chief Neil Harkins resigned from the Falls Township Police Department. The Falls Supervisors asked him to serve as acting chief before naming him Chief of Police.
“Everything was timing in life,” Wilcox said.
During his time as chief, Wilcox created the Coffee with a Cop initiative, which brings the community together with police to discuss concerns over a cup of coffee. He also spearheaded the Chief for a Day program, which highlights fifth-grade students and gives them an inside-look at running the police department.
“The goal of all these programs is communication,” Wilcox said. “You want to get across that you’re listening to their needs, you’re listening to their wants. Sometimes you’re listening and you try their solution and it doesn’t work. You want them to know that you do care and you are listening.”
Even as he looks to a future following his police career, Wilcox said he will still be there, still listening, still ready and willing to lend a hand.
“I’ll still be a police officer. I just won’t be arresting people,” he said. “When they put me in a box that’s who I’ll be. I’ll be a police officer. It sounds a little morbid. It’s who I am.”
With 48 years of policing under his belt, retiring does not come easy.
“At some point in time you have to say when is enough?” Wilcox said. “You’ve got to give other people the opportunity too.”
The Falls Supervisors have appointed Lt. Nelson Whitney to serve as interim chief effective Sept. 1 and as police chief effective Jan. 1, 2021.
Wilcox intends to take some time to decide what his post-police life will entail. Having more time to spend with his wife, their four children, and grandchildren is a top priority. He also plans to continue coaching Pennsbury softball next spring. And, more than likely, the self-proclaimed “car nut” will show some of his hot rods – including a 1948 Chevy that he refurbished entirely – at car shows or cruise nights.
“I have a wonderful life,” Wilcox said. “I have no complaints.”