History of WPD

Westfield Police Department 1890 Department Photo

Members of Westfield’s first police department are shown in this 1890s photograph.
From left to right: Thomas O’Neill, John Knapp, Elmer Woodruff, James Harrison and Cyrus Wilcox.

Westfield was originally formed as a “Township” on January 27, 1794, and was subsequently incorporated as one of New Jersey’s initial group of 104 “Townships” by an act of the New Jersey legislature on February 21, 1798.  

Westfield was re-incorporated as a “Town” pursuant to Chapter 14 of the Laws of 1903, passed by the New Jersey legislature on March 4, 1903.   

While historical documents demonstrate the existence of a “police force” in Westfield well before its incorporation as a “Town,” the “Town of Westfield Police Department” was formally established by General Ordinance No. 9 of the General Ordinances of the Town of Westfield, which was entitled “An Ordinance for the appointment and regulation of a Police Force” and passed and adopted on June 15, 1903.  The content of that ordinance was as follows:

Section 1

“That from and after the going into effect of this ordinance, the Police Force of the Town of Westfield shall consist of three regular and as many special policeman as the Board of Police as hereinafter constituted may from time to time deem necessary and by resolution declare.  The regular police shall be appointed by the Board of Police and confirmed by the Council at a regular meeting, and shall hold office until removed for lawful cause.”

Section 2

"That the Chairman of the Council and the Police Committee of said Council shall constitute and be known as the Board of Police of the Town of Westfield, and said Board of Police as so constituted, shall possess and exercise full authority to establish and cause to be executed such rules and regulations for the government and efficient working of the entire force of said town, prescribe such penalties for enforcement of the same and issue public notices as may by the said Board be deemed necessary to secure the greatest possible protection to the person and said property of citizens and the supremacy of law, peace, health, order, morality and temperance throughout the town; provided, nevertheless, that any such rule or regulation may be annulled and set aside by the Council at any regular meeting.”

Section 3

That the regular and special policemen appointed by virtue of this ordinance shall constitute and be recognized and obeyed as the town police, and shall possess and exercise all police powers conferred by the laws of this State: and when on duty they shall wear such dress or badge as the Board of Police may designate.”

Section 4

“That each regular policeman shall receive as full compensation for his services the sum of $60 per month, payable monthly.”

Section 5

"That in the event of sudden emergency, the Board of Police shall have the power to call the special policemen into active service, and during such service the pay of such policemen shall be twenty-five cents per hour for services actually required and rendered.”

Section 6

“That this ordinance shall take effect immediately.” 

General Ordinance No. 18, which was entitled “An Ordinance to amend an ordinance entitled An Ordinance for the appointment and regulation of a police force,” and passed and adopted on March 28, 1904, provided for the creation of the position of “Chief of Police.”

Section 1 of the ordinance read: “That from and after the going into effect of this ordinance, the police force of the Town of Westfield shall consist of a Chief of Police and two Patrolman, and as many special police as the Board of Police as in hereinafter constituted, may deem necessary, and by resolution declare the Chief of Police and Patrolman shall be appointed by the Board of Police, and confirmed by the Council at a regular meeting, and shall hold office until removed for a lawful cause.”

Additionally, pursuant to Section 2 of the ordinance, the compensation for the Chief of Police and regular Patrolmen was fixed at seventy dollars ($70.00) and sixty dollars ($60.00) each per month respectively. 

General Ordinance No. 30, which was entitled “An Ordinance to establish, regulate and control a day and night police force, and to regulate and define the manner of their appointment and removal, their duties and compensation,” and passed and adopted on June 19, 1905, provided for the further establishment, regulation and control of both a “day and night shift police” and regulated and defined “the manner of their appointment and removal,” as well as “their duties and compensation.”

Section 1 of the ordinance read: “There shall be established a day and night police of the Town of Westfield, in the County of Union, and that such police force (excluding officers) shall not exceed more than one policeman to every one thousand inhabitants in said Town of Westfield, and that no policeman or police officer shall be removed except for neglect of duty, misbehavior, incompetency, or inability to serve.”

Section 2 of the ordinance read: “The police force of the Town of Westfield shall consist of a Chief of Police and as many regular and special policemen as the Board of Police, as in hereafter constituted, may deem necessary and by resolution declare.  The Chief of Police and policemen shall be appointed by the Board of Police, and confirmed by the Council at a regular meeting, and shall hold office until removed for lawful cause.”

As Section 5 of the ordinance read: “The Chief of Police shall be the recognized head of the Police Department, and all orders and instructions to members of the police force shall be made through him.  He shall have the power to designate night and day beats, the hours of duty and the policemen who are to patrol the various posts; he shall have the power to suspend for cause from duty without pay any subordinate member of the department until after a final hearing and disposition of any charge or charges that may be made against him.”

General Ordinance No. 55, an ordinance to amend an ordinance entitled “An ordinance to establish, regulate and control a day and night police force, and to regulate and define the manner of their appointment and removal, their duties and compensation,” which was passed and adopted on April 15, 1907, established the position of “Sergeant of Police.”

As the ordinance read: “The Sergeant of Police shall have charge of the Police Headquarters and command over the members of the police force, subject always to the orders of the Chief of Police, and shall, in the absence of the Chief of Police, be the acting Chief.  He shall possess and exercise all the police powers conferred by the laws of this State.”  His compensation was initially fixed at “seventy dollars ($70.00) per month.”

General Ordinance No. 159, a supplement to an ordinance to amend an ordinance entitled “An ordinance to establish, regulate and control a day and night police force, and to regulate and define the manner of their appointment and removal, their duties and compensation,” which was passed and adopted on April 21, 1913, established the position of “Lieutenant of Police” in the police department’s chain-of-command.

As the ordinance read: “The Lieutenant of Police shall have charge over the police headquarters and command over the members of the police force, subject always to the orders of the Chief of Police, and shall, in the absence of the Chief of Police, be the acting Chief.   He shall possess and exercise all the police powers conferred by the laws of this State.”  His compensation was initially fixed at “ninety-five dollars ($95.00) per month.”

Pursuant to General Ordinance No. 160, also passed and adopted on April 21, 1913, the Sergeant then became “subject always to the order of the Chief of Police and the Lieutenant of Police, and shall, in the absence of both said officers, be the acting Chief.”  Westfield’s first Chief of Police was Thomas O’Neill, who served from 1904 until his removal from duty in 1915.  

As reported in The Westfield Leader on Wednesday, June 9, 1915, Chairman Affleck of the Police Committee charged Chief of Police O’Neill “with misconduct, neglect of duty, and disobedience of the just rules and regulations established for the Police Department of the Town of Westfield, in that, he was, on the third day of June 1915, intoxicated while off duty, in violation of subdivision 1, section 13, of General Ordinance No. 30, entitled “An Ordinance to establish, regulate and control a day and night police force, and to regulate and define the manner of their appointment and removal, their duties and compensation,” as amended by General Ordinance No. 133 adopted April 17, 1911.”

Chairman Affleck further charged that Chief O’Neill "did on the fourth day June 1915 . . .  willfully disobey an order of the Board of Police, delivered through the Chairman of the Police Committee at 8:30 p.m., that he the said Chief of Police, should appear forthwith before the said Board of Police at their meeting then and there being held in Town Hall, in violation of subdivision 3, of section 11, of the General Ordinance No. 30 aforesaid.”   

Chief O’Neill was subsequently found guilty of the charges preferred against him by Commissioner Affleck and was dismissed from the force following a hearing, which was held at a special meeting of the Council held in Town Hall on the following Thursday evening at 8 o’clock.

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