Join  |  Official Historian  |  City of Stamford  |  Blog  |  About Us
Jewish Historical Society  |  Civil War Roundtable  |  Contact Us


The Stamford Historical Society Presents

Law & Order: The History of the Stamford Police Department 1830-1956
a 2004 Exhibit and more

The Police Department As It Was And As It Is, 1894-1917
Chief of Police Wm. H. Brennan
Police Sergeants
Bureau of Dectives
Members of the Department
Mrs. Seraphina Klahre
Police Pension Fund


Issued on the Occasion of the
of the Stamford, Conn., Police Force
Monday, April Nine, Nineteen Seventeen
For the Benefit of the Pension Fund

Marcus Research Library

Cover of brochure for the first grand ball 1917The Police Department As It Was And As It Is

graphic of letter t
HERE is so much to commend and so little to condemn in the history of the police department of the city of Stamford that the historian's task is an agreeable one. The department is one of the good things of the municipality that should be praised freely.

Stamford may well be proud of its police organization. In, these days of unrest and stress, it is comforting to know that this branch, of the municipal government is so excellent. It is the purpose of this book briefly to record the progress and improvement in the system since it was organized.

The police department of the city of Stamford is comparatively a young institution. It began with the organization of the city government – May 7, 1894. For many years previous to that epoch in local history, the borough form of government prevailed here, and police protection was afforded by borough policemen, regular and special, and by town constables. There was no chief of police and the police department was under the general supervision of the chairman of the police committee of the borough, who, as a, rule, was a busy business man. Necessarily such system lacked the efficiency one expects today.

George Bowman, a man who had shown talent for organization, as head of the borough fire department, was the first chief of police. He was appointed May 7, 1894, and he retained the two offices – chief of police department and chief of fire department – until his death, September 14, 1903. William H. Brennan, his successor as chief of police, was appointed August 14, 1905.

Seven patrolmen – Daniel Hickey, Edgar A. Toms, Edward O'Brien, A. Lincoln Clarke, Richard Armstrong, William E. McMahon and William F. Nevins – comprised the police force when the borough government was abandoned and George Bowman was appointed chief of the city police department. Of these, the only man who has been continually in the service ever since is William F. Nevins, now a desk-sergeant. Patrolman Daniel Hickey failed of re-appointment in 1894, but was appointed in 1895, and has been continuously in the service since. Patrolman William E. McMahon resigned in 1899 and was re-appointed in 1904. Although he had not been a borough patrolman, the service of Patrolman Arnold Kurth dates from 1894. The borough policemen who were not retained when the city department was organized were Edgar A. Toms, Richard Armstrong and Daniel Hickey. Politics played a part, it is said, in the rejection of Mr. Hickey.

Stamford was more or less in swaddling clothes during the regime of Chief of Police George Bowman. The growth and progress of the police department during those years were not so marked as they have been during the past decade. Nevertheless, considerable progress was made, a notable step forward having been adoption of the three-platoon system for street men.

The department has been brought to a high state of efficiency since William H. Brennan became chief of police, and much of the credit for this is due him.

When Chief Brennan took command of the police force, as acting chief, it was comparatively small in number, lacking in officers and equipment, and was governed by a more or less obsolete system of general rules. All this has been changed and today, notwithstanding that it is yet far too small in number and is very inadequately housed, the department undoubtedly is the peer of any police system in a city of the size of Stamford.

The department now consists of the chief, two detective-sergeants, three desk-sergeants, a matron, twenty-nine patrolmen, seven supernumerary policemen, and thirty special policemen.

All appointments as patrolmen are made from the ranks of the supernumerary force which, at present, is limited by law to ten in number. A charter amendment now pending fixes the maximum number of supernumeraries to fifteen. The method of appointing supernumeraries is similar to that formerly governing the appointment of patrolmen, except that no supernumerary may be over 30 years of age. Supernumeraries are subject to the call of the chief of police and they do much special police work and substitute work for regular policemen.

The special police are also subject to the call of the chief of police. They act chiefly as watchmen of banks, stores and factories. A charter amendment now pending would increase the maximum number of special policemen from 30 to 100, and another amendment would give the mayor the power to appoint an indefinite number of special policemen in time of emergency, for a limited period of service.

The equipment of the department includes a combination ambulance and patrol automobile, an auxiliary automobile, a motorcycle and five bicycles. Ere this book comes from the press, it is expected, two more motorcycles will be added to the equipment. Motorization of the department has increased its efficiency. Especially effective general work, as well as the regulation of automobile traffic, has been done by the mounted men of the department. The motorcycle is, of course, superior in this work, but the more humble bicycle has been used to excellent advantage.

There are also a lungmotor, which is credited with having saved a number of lives, and a surgical table. The table facilitates surgical treatment of prisoners whose injuries are not serious enough to warrant sending them to the hospital.

Fritz, the police dog 1917And there is Fritz, a Belgian hound about a year old, which was presented the department in the summer of 1916, and which is rapidly developing into an efficient police dog. Fritz accompanies the desk-sergeant on his nightly tour of inspection of posts and in these tours does considerable inspection of his own accord.

All police cases are tried before the City Court judge and accurate record is kept of every arrest and the disposition of every case. This work is done at present by the police matron, Mrs. Seraphina Klahre, who is also secretary to Chief Brennan. The original files are kept in the fire-proof vault in the City Court suite. All the records are card-indexed.

The first police headquarters of the city of Stamford were established in the Whitney Building, Canal Street, on May 12, 1894. On July 31, 1896, department headquarters were moved to the Quintard Block, second floor, in Main Street, and, on April 1, 1907, the police department occupied quarters in the new Town Building.

The executive offices at present are in the City Court suite of the building; the detective department is housed in it cubby-hole on the mezzanine floor; the desk-sergeants' quarters, the garage, the patrolmen's locker room are in the Bank Street basement, connected by passage-way with the city lockup, which is in an isolated wing of the building. Male prisoners are confined in the basement of the lockup, female prisoners in an upper room. There is also a dormitory on the third floor of the lockup. The department chauffeur sleeps there. On the floor above is a store room.

There is no place at headquarters for drill or target practice and the department members go to the State armory in South Street once a week for this training. They have made commendable advancement in military drill and their marksmanship has improved remarkably since Chief Brennan introduced these aids to efficiency. A standard police pistol – .38 Colt – is used by the department.

It was in 1895 that the police department acquired its first patrol wagon. The horse was broken to duty by Owen McMahon and Patrolman James J. Heffernan was the first driver. For four years Patrolman Heffernan answered all patrol calls and then Patrolman Walter P. Williams was appointed and was assigned to help him. In 1904, Special Officer Thomas F. Hyland was assigned as driver. Special Officer William E. Gounoud succeeded him and, when Mr. Gounoud was appointed patrolman, in 1907, Charles F. Hoffkins, a special officer, became driver. In March, 1909, Mr. Hoffkins resigned and Special Officer Dennis Reardon, now the department chauffeur, succeeded him. Mr. Reardon Was appointed a regular patrolman in March, 1916, he having been given a patrolman's salary rating in 1913.

Until the city lockup now in use was acquired, the lockup was in a stone building off Canal Street and Quintard Place, owned by the Matthew F. Merritt estate.

Except the chief of police, the detective-sergeants and the chauffeur, the department members work in eight-hour shifts. There are nine police beats, five of which are patrolled 24 hours daily. The others are patrolled principally during the night season. At 1 a. m. daily, the desk-sergeant calls in the patrolman from the West Waterside beat and, leaving the latter at the desk, makes a round of the beats then under patrol.

Each patrolman has one day off during the month and every member of the department is allowed ten days annual vacation, with pay. The chief of police is allowed 14 days vacation, with pay. An improvement that Chief of Police Brennan has advocated for many years, but which the Board of Finance has not yet seen fit to grant, is the Gamewell police telegraph system with red-light attachment for each police box. The system now in use is believed by Chief Brennan to be inferior. It was installed by the Southern New England Telephone Company in 1905, and it comprises 17 call stations connected by telephone with headquarters, and five red lights, placed where they are most useful. The red lights are operated at police head- quarters and, when they flash, any patrolman in sight hurries to the box and gets in touch with headquarters.

One of the greatest improvements wrought in the police department in recent years has to do with the regulation of traffic. A system of traffic rules suggested by William Phelps Eno, a traffic expert of international reputation. was adopted here in 1913, when the Traffic Board was created by charter amendment, and it has served as a model for many cities of the country. Stamford was the first city to adopt Mr. Eno's revised traffic rules. Chief Brennan is especially proficient in solving traffic problems, as has been frequently demonstrated during the past five years. At present, four patrolmen have stationary traffic posts – Atlantic Square, Main and Pacific Streets, St. John's Park, and Atlantic and State Streets.

The Traffic Board comprizes the mayor as chairman, the chief of police, and the members of the police committee. It has full power in the matter of regulating traffic in the public streets.

Twice in the history of the department has death removed a police official. Chief of Police George Bowman died September 14, 1903, and Mayor John M. Brown passed away December 10, 1915. In his official capacity as ex-officio superintendent of police, Mayor Brown had close relations with the chief of police and the department members and everyone in the department felt his death a personal loss. He was mourned as an upright, lovable man and a just official.

back to top

Introduction to the Exhibit
History of the Stamford Police Department
Annotated Timeline
The Political Life of a Connecticut Town 1868-1893
Police Department 1909 (The Daily Advocate)
The Police Department As It Was And As It Is 1894-1917
A History of the Stamford Police Department, April 1946
List of Constables 1865-1892
Police Roster 1894-1917
Staff images as of 1917
Police Roster 1953
Police Committees 1830-1956
Testimonial Dinner & Dance 1970 for Alexander J. Koproski, Sr.
Police Anchor Club Brochures
Police Department Website
Fallen Heroes Memorial Page
Stamford Police Association