Stamford Historical Society Presents
Law & Order: The
History of the Stamford Police Department 1830-1956
a 2004 Exhibit and more
OF THE STAMFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT
the Occasion of the
FIRST GRAND BALL
of the Stamford, Conn., Police Force
Monday, April Nine, Nineteen Seventeen
For the Benefit of the Pension Fund
Department As It Was And As It 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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
now consists of the chief, two detective-sergeants, three desk-sergeants,
a matron, twenty-nine patrolmen, seven supernumerary policemen, and thirty
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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