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Hometown Chief

Jonathan Wharton

You can hear the pride in Jonathan Wharton’s voice when he talks about Upper St. Clair, Pa., his home for more than 40 years.

He got a job on the township’s police force when he was just 21 years old — not quite finished with his bachelor’s degree, but “qualified” for the job. In 1991, that meant he was over 18, had a driver’s license, and hadn’t broken any laws.

“That’s all that was required then,” Wharton says. “Now, if you want to progress in a law enforcement career, education is everything.”

Today, Wharton is the chief of police in Upper St. Clair, a role he assumed in August 2018, just three months after he earned a master’s degree in legal studies with a concentration in criminal justice from Cal U.

As he climbed the ranks — sergeant in 2012, lieutenant in 2017 — Wharton realized his level of education needed to keep pace.

“In today’s world, you have to have those credentials,” he says. “But just as important, the master’s program taught me a lot about different viewpoints, being a better manager. I’ve learned so much that is going to help me.”

Dr. Christina Toras, professor and legal studies program coordinator, attended Wharton’s swearing-in ceremony.

"Recognizing the unique value of our program, where criminal justice is studied through the lens of law and public policy, Chief Wharton has astutely prepared himself to tackle the challenges facing today's police departments and to otherwise excel as a law enforcement leader."

It’s a privilege, Wharton says, to have achieved the rank of chief after almost 30 years on the police force in a place he’s lived most of his life.

“I’m proud of where I’m from, and I’m proud of the people who live here,” Wharton says. “There’s a rapport with the community — ‘Hey, here’s someone who grew up here and wanted to stay put in their town.’”

— By Wendy Mackall, communications director at Cal U

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