In September of 1965, due to activism from Bethlehem Township residents, a municipal police department was formed. At that time a retired Pennsylvania State Police Corporal, John E. Uditis, was hired as the department’s first Chief of Police. It was the responsibility of Chief Uditis to hire and train one full time officer and five part time officers. The Department officially began serving the public on January 1, 1966 providing part time policing for the Township’s 14.7 square mile area and its approximate population of 7,000 residents.
Chief Uditis worked the day shift, Monday through Friday, from 7am until 3pm. Ronald L. Clause (1966-2000) was hired as the department’s first full time Patrolman, working from 3pm until 11pm. He was also on call from his residence for emergency situations during the nighttime hours. Saturdays and Sundays were covered by part time officers.
In 1970 Bethlehem Township Police began 24-hour patrols of the Township with its full and part time staff. At that time there were five full time officers who were supplemented by numerous part time and special police officers. By 1993, all the part time and special police had been abolished and the department was fully staffed with professionally trained full time officers.
Chief John Uditis retired in 1977 after a 40 year law enforcement career; 28 years with the Pennsylvania State Police and 12 years as Bethlehem Township’s first Police Chief.
In 1977 Joseph K. Barner was appointed as Chief of Police. Chief Barner served the department for 25 years, retiring in 1999 after his election to the office of Magisterial District Judge for Bethlehem Township.
In December of 1999 Daniel G. Pancoast was appointed as Chief of Police. During Chief Pancoast’s tenure, the township and police department experienced tremendous growth. The population of the township doubled due to increased residential and business development. As a result, the police department more than double the number of officers serving the community to meet the increasing demands for police services. Under Chief Pancoast the department worked hard to become an accredited law enforcement agency. As an accredited agency, Bethlehem Township Police Department is one of a small percentage of law enforcement agencies in the Commonwealth to receive such recognition. Accreditation is awarded by the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission to those agencies that demonstrate they maintain the high professional standards, ethics, practices and training expected of a progressive law enforcement agency.
Chief Pancoast served for 43 years with the department, 23 years as Chief of Police. The longest serving police officer & the longest serving Chief of Police in the department’s history, Chief Pancoast retired in April 2022.
Gregory J. Gottschall was appointed Chief of Police in April 2022 upon the retirement of Chief Pancoast.
Chief Gottschall has 30 plus years of service with Bethlehem Township Police Department. He supervises a department staffed with 35 full time officers, one civilian administrative employee, one property and evidence technician and two civilian school crossing guards. The police department serves a township population of nearly 26,000 residents. The Department consists of the Chief of Police, one Captain, three Sergeants, five Corporals, two Criminal Investigators and 23 Patrol Officers.
Special services provided by the Department include a K-9 program, Police Motorcycle Unit, Motor Carrier Safety Unit, Community Police Programs, School Resource Officers at Freedom High School & Bethlehem Votech, a Citizens Police Academy and the Regional Sobriety Checkpoint program. The Bethlehem Township Police Department is an accredited law enforcement agency, receiving its initial certification of accreditation from the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission in 2013.