Kevin Pancoast placed his hand on the Bible, raised his right hand, and repeated the words of Deptford Township Mayor Paul Medany with his sons flanked by his side. Later, both of his families, the ones that share his name and blood and the ones that are a part of the same police force, came up to the dais for a series of group photos.
In between, Pancoast, the newly sworn-in Deptford Township chief of police, had someone specific to thank.
“Dad,” he said, “this is for you.”
The standing room-only crowd erupted in applause for Pancoast on a night he likely won’t forget anytime soon. A veteran of the Deptford Police force for 25 years, Pancoast officially took over as the department head on Monday, March 4.
He succeeds William Hanstein, who retired after 32 years on the force, including the last 5 ½ years as police chief.
“As I told the mayor, I have very big shoes to fill,” the 51-year-old Pancoast said while at the podium after being sworn in. “I’m very excited for this opportunity, to move forward with the initiatives that Chief Hanstein has set in place.”
Hanstein stood in the back of the room and cheered on his former long-time co-worker, flanked by more than 50 other men and women in police uniforms. Fellow public service officials and friends filled the seats inside the township’s municipal building. The front row was populated by Pancoast’s family: his wife, kids, siblings, and his mom and dad.
“My wife, Diana, and I are very proud,” said 86-year-old Warren Pancoast, the new chief’s father and an Air Force veteran. “I’m sure he’s going to do a good job making the town safer and more secure.”
The younger Pancoast joined the Deptford Township Police Department in 1994.
He worked as a patrolman, then as a K-9 officer for 12 years, then onto the role of patrol sergeant before graduating to a detective sergeant in the detective bureau. Pancoast has been a detective lieutenant since 2012; he was promoted to captain last year.
“Law enforcement was always an interest … over the years it almost felt like a calling,” Pancoast said. “I think that’s what got me. … I had a blessed career. I really have no complaints. It’s been a great ride, and this is kind of the pinnacle of the ride.”
With a new title come new responsibilities. Chief among Pancoast’s goals for his new position is to continue to make strides in community policing, something Hanstein made a priority in the last half dozen years.
“That’s what’s inspired me,” Pancoast said. “The amount of support you’ve provided the police department over the years has inspired me to continue the community initiatives set in place. So whether it’s a township event or simply having an officer on patrol just saying ‘hi,’ that’s something we want to continue … keeping that line of communication open at all times.”
Before he headed out the door on his first official night on the job, Pancoast said he didn’t have any big parties or dinners scheduled. He was happy to keep the celebration low-key.
The highlight of the night came earlier, when he let his eyes take in the crowd of family, friends, and fellow officers, and realized it was an appreciation for a career done right.
“It was really something, looking at that crowd and seeing all of the people I’ve worked with over the years. To have them all in one place, it was great,” he said. “I’m just really glad I was able to have my mom and dad here, that was the big thing.”