Col. Ronald M. Sharpe, 64, a former Pennsylvania State Police commissioner and the nation's first black leader of a statewide police force, died Tuesday of cancer at his home in Menands, N.Y.
A native of Philadelphia, Sharpe was the only black person in his class when he graduated from the State Police Academy in 1962. He was assigned to recruit black state troopers at a time when only 26 members of the 3,500-person force were black. Gov. Robert P. Casey named Sharpe deputy commissioner in 1987, and commissioner the following year.
During his 3 1/2-year tenure, Sharpe was credited with instituting changes to reduce racial bias within the state police. He also established a canine drug enforcement team, reinstated the state highway motorcycle patrol and established a computerized fingerprint identification system.