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Prior to the official establishment of the Borough of Sayreville Police Department our community relied on constables for public safety. At the turn of the century the two men who held this post were Henry Boyler Sr. and John Hart Sr.
In the event an unruly person had to be jailed provisions were made in 1906 to use the carriage house of Mr. August Rhode. The carriage house was located to the rear of what is now (999) Main Street at the north corner of Dane Street. Historical documents provided by the Sayreville Historical Society list men known as Pound Keepers on the same page as both the members of the Constabulatory and Judiciary. Some believe these were the stalwart citizens called upon to monitor prisoners in the municipal lockup when it was needed.
When Sayreville was officially organized as a Borough on January 1, 1920 the constables were still the only source of law enforcement. During that year Mayor Quaid appointed Chris Keegan and John Rhatican as Police Officers. At the same time the Borough Council appointed Max Mueller, Harry Olsen, and George Gross to form the nucleus that would become the Sayreville Police Department. [Other sources cite appointment dates for Keegan as March 6, 1918and Gross as August 18, 1918 though this might be their appointment as Constables] Sensing the need to accommodate the needs of a growing community Mayor Clark proposed both the installation of street signs and the formal establishment of a Police Department. On June 7, 1922 the ordinance was adopted. The recognized date of the inception of the Borough of Sayreville Police Department is January 1, 1923. On June 6, 1923 the Department added two additional Officers when Jacob Frischknecht and John Crimmins were appointed. Crimmins resigned his appointment on August 15, 1923 and was immediately replaced by John Rhatican. In August of that year George Gross was appointed Chief of Police.
On March 4, 1925 Russell Sprague resigned his position. It is unclear if he was one of the remaining constables or was at some point appointed as a Police Officer. The void left by his departure was filled by John Visneiski who along with Jacob Frischknecht were teamed up to form the Department’s first motorcycle squad. In his history of Sayreville Joseph T. Karcher noted that they were often seen cruising the highways and byways looking smart in their leather puttees.
The stock market crash in 1929 brought the Great Depression to America and like many other towns and cities, Sayreville was affected. The financial picture was so bleak and the municipal government in such dire straits that in 1931 the members of the department volunteered to donate two percent of their wages back to the Borough. On December 27, 1933 Chief Gross was temporarily replaced by Acting Chief Olsen. In the first documented on the job injury for one of our Officers Chief Gross sustained a broken ankle in the performance of his duties. While the circumstances of the injury are unclear he eventually returned to full duty.
The seat of the local government at this time was the original municipal building which is located adjacent to the current Borough Hall. While we know that there were jail cells in the basement of the building apparently there was not other space to adequately house the Police Department. Mr. Karcher detailed Mayor Dolan’s recommendation that space be made available to the police in the Borough Hall. He noted that as of 1935 the Recorder held Court in one corner of what was not much more than a corridor and the Chief of Police kept his desk in an opposite corner.
Despite the financial challenges still making growth difficult the Mayor and Council appointed Officers Joseph Fritz, Neil Chevalier, and Fred Weischadle. Apparently the number of rank and file had increased to the extent that an additional supervisor was needed. On March 16, 1938 Harry Olsen was promoted to become the first Sayreville Police Captain.
In 1943 the department grew from nine to eleven men with the addition of E. Melvin Hartman and John Markulic on April 7th of that year. In addition the Mayor and Council appointed what may have been our first civilian employees when James T. Creamer and Henry Holthhausen assumed their duties as desk clerks. Later in the same year George Garbowski and Phillip Farley were appointed to the same post. Many Boroudh men served overseas during World War II and the mid forties saw the return of Sayreville’s heroes. In 1945 the two Sayreville Police Officers who served overseas, Fred Weischadle and E. Melvin Hartman, returned to their duties patrolling the streets of the Borough. The Blue Star Banner attesting to their service is displayed proudly in our current Public Safety Complex.
The post war world brought with it many changes and in 1946 the rules and regulations were revised and implemented. Keeping pace with the modern conveniences that were realized because of war related industry and research Mayor McCutcheon in 1948 called for the acquisition of two way police radios and the introduction of competitive examinations for hiring new police officers. On a sad note, on August 23rd Sayreville’s first Police Chief George Gross died. In 1949 Chief Harry Olsen was appointed to fill the vacancy and on February 16th the addition of three additional officers was approved by the governing body.
As the department continued to sustain growth the need for another level of supervision arose. On June 15, 1949 Officers Frischknecht, Rhatican, Fritz, and Chevalier were appointed the first Police Sergeants. On New Years Eve 1951 the Sayreville Police Department marked another early milestone with the retirement of Officer Chris Keegan. Born in 1883 he held the distinction of being the first appointee of the Sayreville Police Department. He proudly served the residents of our community for over 38 years. His grave is in Old Calvary Cemetery behind Our Lady of Victories R. C. Church on Main Street.
In 1953 Frederick Weischadle was promoted to Sergeant due to the resignation of Joseph Fritz and Sergeant Rhatican retired. As the fifties progressed and Sayreville continued to grow by leaps and bounds the Mayor and Council appointed six additional officers on June 2, 1954. Joining our ranks were Joseph Kilcommons, Edward “Sledge” Slesinski, Edward Boyler, Joseph Szatkowski, H. F. Buchanan, and Edward Wodarczyk. 1955 brought more changes. Officer John Markulic died on June 29th and Sgt. Frischknect retired.
Vincent Lasko was promoted to Sergeant and Richard Litz was appointed as an Officer. Keeping pace with the growth of our municipality, Officers Benjamin Boehm, Edward Rappleyea, Ronald Connors, James Guilfoyle, Stanley “Butch” Swider, and Francis Seamen were appointed to the Department in 1956.