EAST WHITELAND >> Eugene J. Dooley, the former Philadelphia police inspector who, during the course of an engaging career, led the investigation into the 1985 MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, served as Harrison Ford’s guide into the life of the city police homicide unit for the movie “Witness,” and later became chief of the this township’s police department, has died. He was 70.
His death was confirmed by Acting Police Chief Chris Yeager on Wednesday. It was unclear when he died, but Yeager said the township had been notified that morning. Dooley had been on leave from the township for some time.
Dooley was chosen to lead the department in 2002, following an exhaustive search. The township is among the larger municipalities in the eastern part of Chester County, with a population of more than 11,500 and miles of highway along Route 30 and Route 202.
“It’s very sad,” said Magisterial District Judge John Bailey, who first met Dooley when he took over as chief and Bailey was a ranking officer with the neighboring Tredyffrin Police Department. “We’ve always had a good working relationship. I knew he had been sick, but I was shocked to hear.”
Dooley’s storied carer began when he started as a police officer in Philadelphia after four years in the Army, and in 1982, as captain, was named commanding officer of the Homicide Division. He was in charge of 95 detectives and supervised more than 1,000 murder investigations. He became commanding officer of the 8th Police Precinct in 1985, then was named inspector one year later, and was responsible for police districts and detective divisions.
He rose to chief inspector in 1991 and retired as commanding officer of the patrol division in 1992, when he retired from the department.
He served for several years as the chief of the Rutgers University Police Department, then worked as a technical advisor with Columbia Motion Pictures in New York from 1995 to 1997, assisting in script and development for the studio.
He had been offered that position because of his background in the film industry – in the mid-1980s, actor Harrison Ford rode with Dooley for three weeks so the actor could prepare to play the role of a Philadelphia homicide detective in the movie “Witness.” From 1997 to 2001, Dooley owned and operated a restaurant in Margate, N.J.
His tenure in East Whiteland was marked by some controversy when it was discovered that in 2015 he had been on the receiving end of off-color emails from a former colleague, state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery, in a scandal that became known as “Porngate.” McCaffery, who met Dooley when both worked in the Philadelphia Police Department and became close friends with him, resigned from the court in 2014 after being suspended by his fellow justices in a dispute over the offensive emails.
Dooley, as a member of the state Judicial Conduct Board, recused himself from hearing a case involving state Supreme Court Justice Michael Eakin, who was the subject of disciplinary action before that body for a matter concerning the offensive emails.
The township commissioned a Philadelphia law firm to conduct an investigation into whether Dooley’s receipt of the emails constituted a violation of municipal policy. In the end, no disciplinary action was taken against him.
Funeral arrangements were not known at press time.
To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.