The Corners
Glens Falls Police Department 
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Last updated 12/09/11

 

 

SOURCE:  The Glens Falls Times, Centennial Edition, April 24, 1939

Glens Falls Police Department

        The first settlers arrived at The Corners in 1763.   The first village constable, Harrard Green, was elected at the first village election in 1839.  The population was 1289, and the community had gone 76 years without a constable because in those early frontier days, not only was crime different, but the citizens had a different perspective on law and order.  When times were hard, it was not uncommon for the community to get along without a constable until times were better.   As a result, constables did not last long.   Between 1839 and 1860, the taxpayers elected 12 constables, although in 1854, 58 - 60, the position of constable was not funded.  The major problem of law enforcement in those early days was stray pets and stray farm animals.  In 1861, the taxpayers voted money for a pound master instead of a constable, stray animals being a greater issue than theft.  For the next three years, 1861- 63, they preferred the pound master.  He performed some of the same duties as a constable, but his title indicated where the town's priorities lay.  

NOTE:  Calvin Robbins was a pound master.   See Stone City Biographies

       Daily events changed services, however, and officers were appointed to meet emergencies.  The Great Fire of 1864 burned a large segment of the business section, and $200 was voted to pay special officers for services during and after the fire.  In 1865 - 67, the community had neither pound masters nor constables, but in 1869 two constables were approved for regular night time patrol duty at $2 a night.  So things went, on again, off again.  The police operated according to the vagaries of citizen economics.  In 1877, the money to pay policemen was defeated by a six-vote margin.  In 1878, a smaller police budget was defeated by a larger margin.  In 1879 and 1880, the appropriation carried but in 1881, the same-sized budget was defeated by 13 votes.  Early on, the village was divided into three police districts.  One included the area west of Glen Street, a second encompassed the area between Glen and Ridge Streets, and the third the was the village east of Ridge.  Each district was patrolled by an officer from 9 pm until 4 am.  Although the automobile was a long way in the future, the village had two traffic regulations: one prohibited racing or immoderately driving any animal on the streets; the other fixed a fine for leaving any team or horse untied or unattended in any street.  Strays were a big problem.  Things changed again in 1882, with the appointment of four policemen who lasted for several years.  These four men raised money for uniforms and became the first uniformed police in Glens Falls.  In 1897, the population of the village was 10,000, its five policemen were paid $41.68 a month, and the chief got $50.  They lacked job security, however.  Civil Service was unknown and membership in the police was a matter of the spoils system.       
     
One year the police were democrats, the next republicans, depending on local politics.  A policeman lasted through a change of city administration if he had strong political backing and had pleased the right people on both sides.  A patrolman was expected to deliver votes, as well as safe streets.
  The spoils system lasted until 1908, when the village became a city, and the police department was placed under civil service.  Civil Service insured policemen of steady employment, regardless of which political party controlled the municipal government.  A retirement system also dates from 1908.   In 1944, the police were placed under the N. Y. S. . Retirement System.  
     
The first chief of the City's Police Department was Fred Jenkins, appointed by the first Board of Public Safety.
  As the city grew, so did the number of crimes needing thorough and confidential investigation, a need that changed the nature of police work.  In 1911, Patrolman Cornelius Kennedy was appointed the city's first detective.  Patrolmen Fred. St. John became the city's first sergeant in 1924.
Under Chief Culver, appointed in 1933, other improvements came to the department as well.  It acquired a tommy gun, a gas gun, a rifle and shotgun, and added a teletype machine.  During Culver's administration, the department also added its first policewoman.
  Claude Stewart became the city's identification and fingerprint officer in 1929, and began a local fingerprint and photo file. 
 
     
The first police car, a Plymouth touring car, was acquired in 1930.  The police car ended the rather awkward system under which the local police used taxis to answer calls and pursue investigations.
  In 1939, the police force consisted of a chief, two captains, three sergeants, two plain clothes men, six regular patrolmen, thirteen special patrolmen, three school crossing patrolmen, and a secretary.  By 1947, the department had two police cars, both equipped with two-way radios, and two captains, one for the day and one for the night hours.  From chasing stray dogs to fingerprinting felons, the police force has changed with the times and will continue to change as the times direct.

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