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Ronald Sharpe, first black commissioner of state police

PHILADELPHIA -- Colonel Ronald M. Sharpe, a retired Pennsylvania State Police commissioner who was the nation's first black leader of a statewide police force, has died of cancer. He was 64.

Mr. Sharpe, a resident of Menands, N.Y., died at his home Tuesday.

In 1987, Mr. Sharpe was appointed deputy commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police by then-Governor Robert P. Casey. When then-commissioner Major John Schafer died of cancer the following year, Mr. Sharpe was appointed to the top job.

''He worked very hard to pave the path that others now follow," said Colonel Jeffrey B. Miller, the current commissioner.

During his 3 years as commissioner, Mr. Sharpe was credited with instituting changes to reduce racial bias within the State Police.

He also established a canine drug enforcement team, reinstated the state highway motorcycle patrol, and established a computerized fingerprint identification system.

Mr. Sharpe retired as commissioner in 1991 to head the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's police force. He retired from that post in 1995.

He then served as a consultant for the Chester Police Department and for the security department of Lockheed Martin Corp.

Mr. Sharpe, a Philadelphia native, was the only black person in his class when he graduated from the State Police Academy in 1962. He was assigned to the police community relations division of the State Police in 1969 to recruit black troopers; at the time 26 troopers on the force of 3,500 were black.

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