George Deuchler Jr., 94, city police official

April 23, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

George H. Deuchler Jr., who joined Baltimore's Police Department as a beat patrolman and rose through the ranks to become its deputy commissioner during a career spanning more than three decades, died in his sleep April 16 at his Pasadena home. He was 94.

"There is not enough time in the day to tell people how great this man was. He was a great police officer and gentleman," said William V. Treherne, a retired Baltimore police sergeant. "The only thing he missed was being commissioner, and I don't think he ever wanted it."

Mr. Deuchler was born in Baltimore and raised on Ridgely Street, the son of a saloonkeeper. He was a 1927 graduate of Polytechnic Institute and worked for several years as a surveyor on the Prettyboy Dam project.

"His father wasn't big on education, and the only way he'd let him and his brother go to Poly during Prohibition was for them to make the home-brew that he sold," said his daughter, Linda L. Beechener, retired principal of Diggs-Johnson Middle School.

Mr. Deuchler joined the force in 1935 and was assigned to the Northern District, where he walked a beat long before the city police put patrol officers in cars.

He joined the Army in 1939 and served as a military police officer in the Pacific. After being seriously injured during an enemy air raid on New Guinea, he was sent back to the United States and discharged in 1944.

He resumed his career with the Police Department, and during the next 20 years served in every police district in the city.

Mr. Deuchler was promoted to sergeant in 1949 and lieutenant in 1954. He attained the rank of captain in 1960, the year he was named commander of the Eastern District. The next year, he took over as commander of the Central District.

"While serving at Central, he was responsible for the safety of the Beatles during their 1964 visit to the Civic Center. He wasn't a person who did favors, and it wasn't a surprise to me that he didn't arrange for me to meet them. I was 18 at the time and certainly wanted to," his daughter said.

On another occasion, Mr. Deuchler was in charge of security for the filming in the Baltimore area of two episodes of Route 66, a popular early 1960s TV show featuring two young men, played by Martin Milner and George Maharis, who toured the country in their Corvette.

In 1965, he was promoted to the rank of inspector and put in charge of the Internal Investigation Unit.

After a major reorganization of the Police Department that was suggested by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 1966, Mr. Deuchler was appointed the department's first deputy commissioner of patrol. The veteran officer was praised at the time for being a master of investigation, interrogation and command.

"He is known for his sure-handed approach to policing and for his ability to make a decision and act," The Evening Sun reported.

Mr. Deuchler was known for working long weeks and late hours, and earned 10 police commendations and a Bronze Star for his role in the investigation of a string of felonies.

"George was a down-to-earth guy who never showed any favoritism. He was also the most honest man I've ever met. He loved being a police officer, and as the old saying goes, `You don't marry your wife; you marry the department,'" Mr. Treherne said. "What made him a great police officer was because he had lots of experience. He didn't like sitting behind a desk and wanted to be out on the streets. He also had great informants."

If an officer had to be reprimanded, it was done in private, Mr. Treherne recalled.

"George wasn't stern; he was straight, and that's the difference. If he needed to talk to you about a problem, he called you in. He liked the men and they liked him," he said.

After retiring in 1967, he moved from Ellerslie Avenue to a home on the Magothy River, where he enjoyed a quiet life of gardening and pursuing his love of carpentry.

Mr. Deuchler was a member of Magothy United Methodist Church.

Services were Monday.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 59 years, the former Edna Louise Ward; a brother, Charles Deuchler of Ferndale; two sisters, Madaline Kaiss of Elkridge and Alice Frick of Parkville; and a granddaughter.

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