Retired police chief dies after fall from National Harbor dock


Law enforcement officers in New Jersey were mourning the passing of former Medford, NJ. police Chief Steven McGarvey, who died June 3 after falling from a boat dock at National Harbor.

Steve was a cop’s cop, Medford police Chief Anthony Canale said about McGarvey’s death. He left an indelible mark on this agency. We as an agency are very saddened by his loss.

The accident occurred at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, where McGarvey, 55, was to attend attending last weekend’s yacht show with his wife and another couple, Canale said.

Officer Henry Tippett, spokesman for the Prince George’s County Police Department, said McGarvey was working on the rear of his yacht, which was docked off Waterfront Street at the harbor, when he slipped and hit his head, then fell into the water.

A friend of McGarvey’s saw him fall and dove in, but was unable to find him in the murky water, Tippett said. A Washington, D.C., Fire Patrol boat and a dive team found him and pulled him from the water about 30 minutes later. He was rushed to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

McGarvey served in the Medford, Mass. Police Department for 27 years. He was hired as an officer in 1973, but actually began working in the station several years earlier as a 17-year-old janitor. He rose through the ranks and served as chief during his last five years with the department. He retired in October 2000.

During his career in Medford, McGarvey created several programs in the department, including the creation of tactical response and dive teams.

McGarvey was also a graduate of the FBI’s National Academy at Quantico, and was the recipient of several commendations and valor awards for his actions as an officer.

In 1978, McGarvey, who was then a sergeant in the department, negotiated the surrender of two armed bank robbers who held a teller hostage at a branch office of a Burlington County bank.

McGarvey was also among several officers who helped rescue a wounded officer during the 1975 sniper massacre of a crazed local resident. McGarvey also rescued a trapped motorist from a burning car in 1980.] He was a real hero to a lot of people, Canale said.

After his retirement, McGarvey remained active as a licensed physical trainer and kept in touch with the police officers he once led. He was still a familiar face in the police station, Canale said. He prided himself in keeping himself in unbelievable shape and he came into the station frequently to use the equipment here.

Burlington City Police Chief John Lazzarotti said McGarvey was an admired leader for officers across the county. A lot of us looked up to him when we were coming up through the ranks, Lazzarotti said. He was a good leader and you always knew you’d get a good decision out of him.

Levinsky writes for the Burlington County Times. Used with permission.