The Coastal Star

 

Charles A. McCutcheon

 

By Christine Davis

BOCA RATON — Charles A. McCutcheon, 83, of Boca Raton, who served as Palm Beach County sheriff and Boca Raton police chief, died at home on June 19.  

His long career in law enforcement began as a patrol officer in Delray Beach in 1954. In 1955, he worked as a deputy constable in Palm Beach County. He joined the Boca Raton Police Department in 1956, and served as a detective, detective sergeant, lieutenant and assistant chief before becoming the fifth police chief for the city in 1970.

Mr. McCutcheon served as chief until 1980, and then joined the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office as undersheriff for Sheriff Richard Wille. In February 1995, Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed him the 13th sheriff of Palm Beach County following Wille’s retirement. McCutcheon served as sheriff until he retired in Dec. 31, 1996.

“How much can you say about someone so near perfect?” Wille asked.  “He was consistent, true and loyal, more than anyone I ever met. He was really concerned about his employees and his friends. He was a great administer and a wonderful friend.”

Chief Rick Jenkins of the North Palm Beach Police Department worked with Mr. McCutcheon for more than a decade. “He was my undersheriff and my mentor,” Jenkins said. “He was a class act, the first police executive to bring higher education to law enforcement. He recognized that education for policing was critical in the 1960s, and he pushed it in the ’70s and ’80s. He’s responsible for professionalizing South Florida policing.”

Mr. McCutcheon’s sons Michael and Patrick followed their father’s lead with careers in law enforcement. Michael was with the Boca police for 28 years. Patrick is a commander at Palm Beach County School District Police Department. 

Born in Washington, Penn., on Sept.  4, 1928, Mr. McCutcheon went into the Army after high school and worked as a surveyor in the Philippines. When he returned, he went to Washington Jefferson College.

“In 1953, he, my mother, and my brother, Michael, came to Boca Raton on vacation and they decided to stay,” his son Patrick McCutcheon said.

“My dad never thought about being a cop before. It’s kind of ironic. He always liked to tell the story that he ran out of money when the car broke down and couldn’t get back to Pennsylvania.”

“A friend of my dad’s was a chief (chief detective Joseph Sobansky) back home, and suggested that my dad check with Hugh Brown (who was then the Boca Raton police chief). My dad met him, and he got my dad a job.”

Mr. McCutcheon received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida Atlantic University and a master’s degree in public information from the John J. College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York.

He was a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy and the U.S. Secret Service School. In 1968, he was one of nine officers chosen nationwide to study law enforcement for a year as a fellow of the U.S. Department of Justice under the Law Enforcement Act.

Mr. McCutcheon was preceded in death by his wife, Joan. 

Funeral services were held on June 23 at St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton. The family has suggested that donations may be made to the Boca Raton Police Athletic League in memory of Charles A. McCutcheon.

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