By Natasha Leonard and Danielle Armour
Delray Beach Tribune
Charles A. McCutcheon, an educator and leader who had a distinguished career in law enforcement, died peacefully at his Boca Raton home on June 19. He was 83.
Mr. McCutcheon got his humble start in law enforcement in 1954 by accident.
The 22-year-old US Army veteran and his wife, Joan, left his hometown of Washington, PA, in their 7-year-old Studebaker for her parent’s house in Ft. Lauderdale.
The car had been burning excessive amounts of oil and the couple made it to Ft. Lauderdale just in time, family members said. With little money to make it back home, Mr. McCutcheon contacted a family friend who also was the chief of police in Washington, PA.
The chief strongly suggested Mr. McCutcheon stop by the Boca Raton police station to see then Chief W. Hugh Brown. Brown saw potential in him and gave Mr. McCutcheon his first police job.
Mr. McCutcheon worked as a deputy constable for two years and was transferred to the Boca Raton Police Department in 1956. He climbed the ranks having served as a detective, detective sergeant, lieutenant and assistant chief.
He reached the capstone of his career in 1970 when he was named the city’s fifth police chief, a tenure, which spanned 10 years.
“To me, McCutcheon was like one of those teachers you had in school that you respected and never forgot,”said retired assistant chief Philip Sweeting, who served a stint as interim chief. “Charlie McCutcheon was chief when I was hired….he swore me in as a cop. Unlike most chiefs he didn’t have an ego that got in the way of his decisions.”
On Mr. McCutcheon’s last day as the top cop, Mayor Jeff Milner declared “Charles McCutcheon Day” in honor of his outstanding work in the community and police department.
Sheriff Richard Wille then brought him on the department as chief deputy. In 1995, Gov. Lawton Chiles appointed him Palm Beach County’s 13th sheriff after Wille retired before his term finished. Wille had served as sheriff from 1977-1995.
Mr. McCutcheon retired in December 1996 after losing the Sheriff’s race to former FBI Agent Bob Neumann.
“He was a good guy to be around,” said Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, who knew him for 30 years. “We played golf several times. He was just one those guys where you meet him once and you like him, you know?”
He fought for competitive wages and benefits and was a stalwart supporter of education in policing, those who knew him said.
“He was big on education and professionalism, not only throughout the department but for the other agencies as well,” Bradshaw said.
Mr. McCutcheon genuinely cared for his community, not only the Boca Raton area but the entire Palm Beach County, Bradshaw added.
He also was a good role model for his two sons, Patrick, a commander with the Palm Beach County School District Police, and Michael, who retired as a sergeant from the Boca Raton Police Department.
Hal Shepard, a retired Boca Raton police lieutenant, did not work with Mr. McCutcheon but knew him for 30 years from visiting his home several times.
“He was the consummate gentleman,” said Shepard who started on the force the same day as Michael McCutcheon. “He always remembered your name and would always shake your hand.”
After Mr. McCutcheon retired his badge, family members said he spent years giving back to the community by teaching in the Criminal Justice Department of Palm Beach Community College and his Alma Mater Florida Atlantic University.
Mr. McCutcheon earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from FAU and a Master’s from John Jay College in New York. He also was a graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy and the US Secret Service School.
He was the past president of the Palm Beach County Police Chiefs Association and chairman of the Criminal Justice Advisory Committee at the Palm Beach Community College.
He also served as the vice president of Florida Atlantic University Alumni Association and was also a member of Cities in Schools and American Society of Public Administration.
A service for Mr. McCutcheon was on Saturday, June 23 at St. Joan of Arc in Boca Raton.
Along with his sons, he is survived by his two daughters-in-law Page and Clara, six grandchildren, Katie, Sean, Barre (Jonis), Chris, Karlie, and Michael; and two great grandchildren Skyler and Bo Michael.
In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to the Boca Raton Police Athletic League (PAL) in memory of Charles McCutcheon.
Natasha Leonard is a sophomore at Dreyfoos School of the Arts and Danielle Armour is a graduate of BAK Middle School of the Arts and Fort Lauderdale High School.