Former Port Orchard police chief dead at 62

Former Port Orchard Police Chief Joseph Leslie Mathews, Sr., who immediately preceded current Chief Al Townsend, died last Saturday at Harrison Memorial Hospital from complications related to a rare disease called calciphylaxis.

He was 62.

Mathews, noted for his forward-thinking and unswerving commitment to professionalism in the police force, shepherded the city out of its “Mayberry” days and ushered in a new era of technology-base policing.

In response, the officers under his command offered loyalty rarely seen in a police department that size.

“Where all the other agencies were tainted, we escaped all of that,” said Port Orchard Police Sgt. Mark Duncan. “We had very high standards of professionalism.”

Duncan pointed out that between the time Mathews arrived in Port Orchard as chief in 1984 and when he retired in 1999, only one police officer left the department to work elsewhere. The main reason, he said, was Matthew’s leadership.

“He was all about making everyone’s jobs easier through technology and education,” Duncan said.

Mathews put Port Orchard at the head of the pack by introducing modern, semi-automatic weapons and rifles years ahead of other departments. He also got the department its first computers and even proposed putting computers in all the police vehicles — a far-reaching dream only first made feasible in the last few years.

Mathews also helped create higher standards for new police officers by spearheading the effort to increase instruction time at police academies from 440 hours to 720 hours.

Mathews leaves behind his wife, Margie, who lives in Allyn. He is also survived by a son, Joseph Leslie Mathews, Jr. and a daughter, Kim McCarthy, who lives in Port Orchard. One of his step-daughters, Ann Welsh, and his step-son, Dan Welsh, live in Port Orchard as well.

A memorial service is planned for 10 a.m. this Saturday at Rill Chapel. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Olympic Peninsula Kidney Center in Bremerton.

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