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A job well done, Pleasant Hills chief calls it a career

| Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Submitted by West Jefferson Hills School District
Chief Edward Cunningham makes his final walk-through at McClellan Elementary School as he retires from the Pleasant Hills Police Department after 37 years, including six years as chief. photo: wjh sd

Pleasant Hills' top cop wouldn't give anyone advice he wouldn't follow himself.

“This is a profession and a vocation, not just a job,” said Edward Cunningham, who will retire at the end of the month after 6 years as chief. “Police make a big difference in peoples' lives and connect with the community.”

At age 64 and with 37 years on duty in the borough and four years prior with the Allegheny County police, Cunningham is ending a career into which he was born.

“It's in my blood,” said Cunningham, whose father and uncles were police officers.

His sons are members of the Pittsburgh Police Department. His daughter chose medicine for her life's work.

Cunningham couldn't have been happier to represent his community, and he went about his work establishing one-on-one relationships, starting with children. Each day, he paid a visit to McClellan Elementary School and Pleasant Hills Middle School, not just to visit with the administration but to walk the halls and get to know the students. He initiated this program about 20 years ago as a lieutenant in the department.

He called Friday's visit to the elementary school one of his career highlights.

“The kids gave me handmade cards and balloons,” he said.

That morning, Cunningham was greeted with cheers and thank you's as “Hail to the Chief” played over the intercom.

Throughout the years, teens have met him on the streets of the community and announced “You were my DARE officer in elementary school!”

Once the relationship is forged: “If they need anything, they can go to the police officers.”

For him, “The biggest gift the community can give is trust.”

William Trimbath, with 16 years on borough council, sees the chief in the brightest of lights.

“The chief exceeded our expectations …,” he said. “He instilled honor and pride on the entire police force. He was a true leader in the time he has served.”

Cunningham remembered performing CPR on a 6-month-old and delivering a few babies over the years. Because officers respond to every ambulance call, they are first on the scene.

A less happy moment while on the force was the case involving a quadruple homicide involving a woman and three children.

Cunningham plans to relax for a few months and settle into a no-shift routine — that is, until his wife, Tammy, presents her two-page “honey do” list.

While she is pleased to have her own private security, he's a little uncertain.

“I'll probably drive my wife nuts,” he said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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