By Tony E. Windsor

After a 37-year career in law enforcement, Laurel Police Chief Danny Wright has decided to retire, as of March 1, eight years to the day that he came to Laurel as the new police chief. He was appointed chief following the retirement of former Chief Jamie Wilson, who retired with 20 years of law enforcement service. It was after Wilson retired that the town began a national search for a new police chief.

The town enlisted the help of the Delaware Police Chief’s Council in the hiring process. The Police Chief’s Council helped to review applicants and offer recommendations to the town’s Personnel Committee. The committee then made its recommendations to Mayor and Council. According to Laurel’s town charter, it is the job of the mayor to make a final recommendation and put it before the full town council

In February of 2016, Mayor John Shwed announced his decision to appoint Wright, who at the time had retired following 28 years with the Delaware State Police. Before becoming a Delaware police officer, he also served with the Ocean City, Md. Police Department.

Laurel Police Chief Dan Wright (left) is retiring from the Laurel Police Department on March 1, eight years after being appointed by Mayor John Shwed. Wright has had a 37-year career in law enforcement, including 28 years with the Delaware State Police. One of his accomplishments has been working with the town of Laurel on a project to renovate a portion of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Elementary School building to house the police department. Here he confers with project contractor Randy Radish of R.W. Radish & Associates. The two were at the project site which boasts 13,000 square feet of space with 15 rooms, seven bathrooms, one juvenile and two adult holding cells and male and female locker rooms and showers. The project is hoped to be complete sometime this year. Photo by Tony Windsor

During his time with the Delaware State Police, Wright served as an Assistant Supervisor, Chief Investigation Officer, Team Leader, Tactical Planner and Coordinator for troopers and detectives, and a K-9 Officer. He has also served as a certified instructor for the Delaware State Police Academy for 24 years and participated in the planning and execution of over 1,000 high risk tactical operations including hostage incidents, armed barricaded situations, high risk warrant service, high risk vehicle stops, dignitary protection, and surveillance assignments. 

A major proponent of community policing, Wright made it a point to meet with citizens and businesspeople and ensure that the police department maintained a visibility in its operations. “It is important that the police department operates with transparency and in a spirt of community policing,” he said. “It is imperative that the police have the community’s support.”

Calling it the “Mayberry Effect,” Wright said gaining the trust of the community residents and business owners helps the police department do its job even better. “In order for the police to be viewed in a positive light, they must be seen doing positive things,” he said. “Having a strong bond between the community and the police department benefits everyone 100-fold.”

While Wright has been pleased to see several grassroots initiatives come into fruition in the Laurel community, including “One Laurel” and “Operation West Laurel” (OWL), he hopes that there may also be opportunity for the entire community to come under one umbrella and embrace change as a unified entity. “I came to Laurel with a desire to promote what I call the ‘Mayberry Effect,’ which is having the police department engage with the residents and businesses in the community and all of us work together to address any concerning issues that affect people throughout the community. I am, however, also extremely proud of the efforts of the people who are working in the various initiatives and are committed to making Laurel a safer community,” he said.

Wright pointed to the recent efforts that have been waged by the citizens of west Laurel and the town to meet the challenges of gun violence that have taken the lives of three young people in the community. The newly formed Operation West Laurel has been active in working with the police department, town and area residents to push for more public safety measures to help protect youth.

Wright pointed to the fact that there have been no serious incidents of violence in west Laurel over the past several months since OWL formed.

Capt. Tyler Bryant of the Laurel Police Department shared the sentiments on behalf of his fellow officers and administrative personnel regarding the retirement of their chief on a social media post. “In 2016, Chief Wright hit the ground running as the Chief of Police; advancing the department into the 21st century by beginning much needed upgrades to the department’s fleet (vehicles), adding in-car cameras and being one of the first agencies in the state to adopt fulltime use of body worn cameras,” he said. “He then focused his attention on staffing and was able to increase staffing to the department which yielded the ability to have a K9 program, School Resource Officer Program and full-time Criminal Investigative unit. 

“Chief Wright always remained focused on advancing the department and in 2020 successfully moved Laurel PD into the list of state accredited agencies. His drive to focus on community oriented policing led to our agency hosting Junior and Citizen police academies to broaden our reach to our public in a platform that had never been attempted by the Laurel Police Department.

“Chief Wright’s final and ultimate goal is set to be achieved later this year with the department moving into a larger state of the art facility in the retrofitting of Dunbar Elementary facilitating the new location of the Laurel Police Department. Chief Wright has served the town of Laurel with honor and will undoubtedly be missed. The impact he has left on our department and the town will last for generations.”