In photo left to right, adults: John McGowan, Jr., Mont. Co. Commissioner Val Arkoosh, Mont. Co. Commissioner Bruce Castor, Scott McGowan (son), Karen McGowan (wife), Commissioner/Chair Shapiro.
Children: Chief McGowan's grandchildren.
Posthumous Community Service Award
Recipient: Chief John J. McGowan, III
Nominator: Amy Charles, Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center of Montgomery County
Driven by his need to serve, 19 year old John J. McGowan, III enrolled in the criminal justice program at Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences. He began his Montgomery County law enforcement career with the Lower Moreland Police Department in 1974. John worked in the Patrol and Investigation Division before retiring in 1992 as a patrol sergeant. During his tenure at Lower Moreland, John graduated from the prestigious FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia and went on to earn his master’s degree in criminal justice from St. Joseph’s University. Following his retirement from Lower Moreland, he became the police chief and public safety director for East Norriton Township.
In 2004 in Montgomery County there were 52 police districts, thousands of reports of child abuse annually, and often strained working relationships between child welfare workers and prosecutors. The criminal justice system was an intimidating and unfriendly place for a child who had been the victim of abuse, and victims of child abuse were being re-traumatized by having to tell their story over and over again to a variety of investigators, including school and medical personnel, law enforcement and child protection professionals.
At the time, Assistant District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman was prosecuting child abuse cases in Montgomery County and saw a pressing need to improve the treatment of young abuse victims. She decided to devote her efforts to establishing a Child Advocacy Center (CAC). The major obstacle to realizing this goal was getting all the professionals involved to agree that a CAC was necessary. This is where Chief John J. McGowan, III, was instrumental. Chief McGowan spent 18 months tirelessly speaking to the police chiefs in the 52 police districts about the need for their support of a CAC in Montgomery County. He was met with some skepticism, but in his persistent, persuasive way, he eventually convinced each and every one of his law enforcement colleagues to endorse the concept and sign a Memorandum of Understanding, which committed them to attending and participating in the Forensic Interview of a child at the Montgomery County CAC.
Chief McGowan traveled the county to meet with legislators and business and community leaders to obtain seed money to start the CAC. He made it his personal mission to find a location to house the advocacy center. He lead a committee that was able to convince others that an 18th century farmhouse on state park grounds would be the perfect location. In September 2009, the Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center of Montgomery County opened its doors thanks to Chief McGowan’s advocacy and determination.
Sadly, Chief McGowan’s life ended only 9 months after the Center opened when, on June 18, 2010, his motorcycle was involved in an accident with another vehicle. As a tribute to his legacy, numerous awards have been bestowed upon those who have continued the Chief’s commitment to the children in the community. The room inside Mission Kids where the multi-disciplinary team holds meetings and watches forensic interviews has been named the “Chief’s Room”. Every year Mission Kids presents the Chief John McGowan Kids’ Hero Award for raising awareness and combating child abuse to a volunteer in Montgomery County. In 2010, Chief McGowan’s family and friend’s established the Chief John J McGowan III Memorial Scholarship Foundation to preserve his memory.
On behalf of victims of crime and the victim services field, we would like to honor Chief John J. McGowan, III and feel that this award is a fitting tribute for his innovation, collaboration and unfailing commitment to victims of crime.