The first thing you wonder when you meet Dennis Walters is what to call him.
Call him lieutenant, his rank at Franklin & Marshall’s Department of Public Safety, where he has served the College for five years.
Call him chief. That was his title during the three years he served as chief of police in Millersville Borough and 12 years as chief inspector of the Amtrak Federal Railroad Police.
Call him friend. That’s what he is to the men and women he and his wife minister to as grief counselors.
Whatever you call Walters, it is clear that the 45-year veteran of law enforcement is the steady hand of experience in the Department of Public Safety.
Protect and Serve
“Someone once referred to me as the guy who couldn’t keep a job,” Walters mused.
Hardly. His posting may have changed numerous times over the years, but Walters has always been dedicated to public safety. He started as a patrolman in Upper Darby Township in 1963. In addition to his time in Millersville and with Amtrak, he has served with the Lancaster City Police.
He was once director of the consulting service at the National Fraud Center. And as a law enforcement consultant he taught investigative techniques to police agencies throughout the world. He was called on to track money laundered through South American banks that had been used to support the 9/11 terrorists.
In 2003, when his first wife became ill, Walters decided, “It was time to stop traveling.” She died later that year. To deal with the loss, Walters turned to grief counseling. It would become his second calling.
A New Challenge
The next year, Walters joined the Department of Public Safety to take charge of training and staff development.
“The last five years have been a transition period for Public Safety,” Walters said. “This was nothing more than a guard service. We’re becoming a professional law enforcement agency.”
Over the last several months, Walters has concentrated on helping the department earn accreditation from the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association. To get that accreditation, the department must meet 128 standards of professional conduct and procedures.
“We have the goal of being the best trained. It is up to me to determine that training,” Walters said.
The accreditation process usually takes two years to complete, but if Public Safety is successful in earning it, the department will be one of only three at colleges and universities in the state to be accredited.
To deal with the loss of his wife, Walters attended a grief support group at his church. There, he met Lois, who had also lost a spouse. They fell in love and were married. Now they run a support group called Grief Share to help those who have lost a loved one.
Lois runs her own support group, Widow 2 Widow,” for women who have suffered the loss of a spouse.
“We went through it, the loss of a loved one, and we feel we have a responsibility to give back,” Walters explained.
At home, Walters “dabbles” in toy trains and plays the Dobro resophonic guitar.
When he was a kid, he loved to play with toy trains. “Now that I’m old, I love toy trains,” he said, laughing. In the basement of his Quarryville home, he is building a track to run as many as six train sets at a time. The track features a full steel mill town. “It will probably never be finished,” Walters said. Like him.
At 67 years old, Walters doesn’t think much of retirement. “I’m not interested just yet,” he said. “There is still too much to do.”