EARLY PARKERSBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT - CIVIL SERVICE AND MINIMUM WAGE
Parkersburg Police Officer George Washington Taylor. 1890s
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The Old City Building
The Police Radio Broadcasting Station, atop of the city Building. the efficiency of the Parkersburg Police Department is recognized by federal agencies. Radio Equipped Cruiser Cars patrol the city. 1935
Early Parkersburg Police Department
Parkersburg has had a law Enforcement protecting its citizens from the time the town was incorporated Town Marshals, and town Sergeants and town guards. protecting its citizens. The legislative act passed January 22, 1820, which granted a charter to the city of Parkersburg, designated that “the collector or town Marshal shall be the conservator of peace within the limits of the corporation in like manner as constables are and for services as such, shall be entitled to the same fees as constables in like cases.”
an act was passed August 26, 1873, which authorized city council to appoint policemen. a town sergeant was head of the law enforcement agency in Parkersburg, and he remained head of the newly created police department until several years later, when an ordinance provided for the appointment of a chief of police.
Old council journals and municipal codes revealed that this form of law enforcement existed in Parkersburg until an act was passed July 24, 1857, which provided for the appointment of a town sergeant. Another act passed two years later, on March 11, 1859, provided for the appointment of a town guard consisting of ten persons by the president of the municipal board of trustees.
The guards, when employed on active duty, received one dollar a day for their services, and the town sergeant headed the department. The same act provided for special duties of the sergeant “on the Sabbath” when he was to preserve order in conformity with the religious observance of the occasion.
On August 26, 1873, another act was passed authorizing the mayor of the city and council members to appoint policemen for the creation of a police department. The town sergeant was designated as head of the department, but a decade later additional provisions were made for the appointment of chiefs of police.
A previous act of March 17, 1860, which changed the form of municipal government from a board of trustees to a town council, retained the sergeant but provided for the appointment of “such deputies as necessary”. The act did not state whether these deputies replaced the town guards which were named the previous year.
In 1889, the year the Sentinel was established as a daily newspaper, J. R. Mehen was serving as town sergeant in Parkersburg. He was just completing a two-year appointment, which became effective in April 1887, and he was replaced that year by H. L. Dils, who also served a two-year period and is considered the first actual chief of police. Mehen was then named to a special office known as city detective, which he filled until 1891, when the office was abolished, and he was returned to the police captaincy in place of Dils.
Police who served under Chief Dils from 1889 to 1891 were J. A. Muncey, James McNulty, A. C. Taylor, T. C. Rexroad and Robert Dyke, with former Chief Mehen as special detective. When Mehen returned to the captaincy in 1891, he appointed as his patrolmen James Conners, Thomas Burns, Henry Trissler, Thomas Hendershot and Harrison Dye
Prior to 1895, police had no vehicular equipment and brought their prisoners to jail “on foot” or in cabs. But on September 24, of that year, council enacted an ordinance providing for the purchase of light horse-drawn patrol wagons.
It was not until 1913, when the first mobilized piece of equipment was purchased for the police department – a Kissel Kar patrol wagon which was used for a number of years. Later, individual automobiles were bought for the department, but it was not until 1929, under former Chief Watson, that a cruiser car patrol system was installed. The old patrol wagon also used as a city ambulance, had been abandoned before the cruiser car system was inaugurated.
The Parkersburg Police Department has an efficiently trained force of twenty members, including the Chief of Police, Police Judge and Police Clerk. Before the new state-wide Civil Service Bill, the Department was under Municipal Civil Service this having been inaugurated in 1911 by former Mayor Allan C. Murdoch, however succeeding administrations seemed inclined to disregard the Civil Service requirements. However, in 1928 Mr. Murdoch was again elected mayor and one of his first acts was to see that the Police Department was again placed under active Civil Service. The Police Pension or Relief Fund was organized at that time and since then our present mayor, Honorable Herbert R. DeBussey, and the city council have been following the work begun under Mr. Murdoch's administration.
In 1930, the Police Communication System was placed in first class condition; call boxes were added, a new Gamewell Police Desk installed, and recall bells and lights placed at various locations in the city to add to the efficiency' of the department. Also in 1930, Police Department headquarters in the city hall were renovated, two additional rooms were secured including a show-uproom, known as "Unlucky 13" among those upon whom as efficiency has been demonstrated.
The Department has a well equipped Bureau of Identification, which is supervised by Officer C. W. Hylbert, president of Blennerhassett Lodge No. 79. Officer Hylbert has completed courses in different schools in various cities, and his efficiency is unquestioned. He is very conscientious in his work, and is always willing to lend a helping hand to any who ask for his assistance.
In 1934, Police Radio communication was installed by the department, where by instant communication can be effected with any other police department in the West Virginia net, as well as the Ohio State Highway Patrol. Three cruiser cars were equipped with receiving sets; this radio system being made possible by popular subscription by business men and manufacturers in the city who felt that they owed a debt of gratitude to the police department for the efficient manner in which they had protected their interests.
The Police Department through the cooperation of the Wood County Court has its own photographic equipment, supervised by Officer Joseph E. Beckett, who before becoming a member of this department was connected with the United States Government in this same line of work. Joe, as he is better known, insists on 13 being his lucky number; it seems that Joe was born on the 13th, his number is 13, and his photographic equipment is located in Room 13; therefore he feels that the number 13 holds no terrors for him. The average age of the members of the Department is between 33 and 35 years; the average length of service is approximately ten years. Being the fourth largest city of West Virginia, Parkersburg's Police Department feels that it compares favorably with any in the apprehension and conviction of criminals.
CIVIL SERVICE AND MINIMUM
The Fraternal Order of Police in West Virginia have two men to thank for the state wide Civil Service in this state; this having been effected by the efficient work of our national president, Henry B. Squires, of the Fairmont Police Department, and Vice-President Clarence Custer of the Wheeling Police Department.
During the last session of the legislature the two men worked hand in hand with their whole heart and soul for one thing, state-wide Civil Service for Police Officers in West Virginia. After meeting with a triumphant success in securing the passage of this bill, they succeeded in amending Sections 9, 10, and 14, Article 6, Chapter 8, of the 1931 Code of the State of West Virginia, making it mandatory that cities maintain and pay into the Firemen's and Policemen's Pension Funds or Relief Funds the sum of one cent on each one hundred dollars of real or personal property assessed, for each Fund. They also saw successful passage of a bill providing that in case of arrest for any violation of a municipal ordinance in which a conviction was secured in any municipality supporting a Policemen's Pension or Benefit Fund, that an arrest fee of one dollar should be taxed as part of the costs; this sum to go into the Policemen's Pension or Relief Fund.
I have no hesitation in stating that the Fraternal Order of Police in West Virginia owe a debt of gratitude to Brother Squires and Brother Custer for this magnificent piece of legislation by the West Virginia Legislature of 1937.
The Fraternal Order of Police is growing stronger and uniting more firmly from year to year; and the time is close by when they can go to the Legislature and demand a minimum wage law in West Virginia for their services rendered the municipality which they serve. It would therefore be well for each member to concentrate on this one thing for the 1939 session of the West Virginia Legislature; that is making it mandatory that the municipalities in the State of West Virginia pay their Police Officers a sufficient wage to enable them to maintain a decent standard of living. C. H. Watson, Chief of Police.
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