Police History

Although the Cheektowaga Police Department was officially formed on July 1, 1932, law enforcement started with the first town board meeting on April 16, 1839. At that time it was resolved that two constables be elected, they being James M Green and Nelson Warner. In 1841 it was raised to three elected constables and in 1843 it was raised again to four elected constables. As a very rural farm community these constables were enforcing laws that prohibited cattle, horses, hogs, sheep or geese to run at large. In 1873 another constable was added to act a game constable. By 1900 in addition to the five elected constables other constables were appointed by the town board and were known as special constables. With the town growing and more constables needed the town board also needed more control over them. On June 3, 1901 a Chief Constable, Albert F Carl was appointed. On October 7, 1901 the board adopted rules for the governing of constables. On August 4, 1902 it was brought to the attention of the board that their chief constable did not live in the town, but in the city of Buffalo and he was asked to submit his resignation. Constables at this time were paid on the fee system, which is a fee for each arrest, a fee for each court appearance and mileage. This bounty system was not ideal for law enforcement and complaints against constables grew along with the number of constables appointed. By 1922 it was apparent that much more control was needed over the constable force, so on February 6, 1922 Amedeo Cappola was appointed chief constable over the appointed constables and these constables were given districts to work in. In May 1922 constables were required to file sureties in the amount of $500.00. and in June 1922 constables were issued badges.  On January 1924, Amedeo Cappola was appointed chief over all elected and special constables.

On February 21, 1927 the town board held its first meeting in the newly built town hall. The town hall now provided a court room and a police building with a lock-up. In January 1928 all constables were required to have a standard uniform approved by the town board and the chief constable position was eliminated with constables put under a Board of Justices System. On February 20, 1928 the chief constable position was reinstated and Amedeo Cappola was again appointed Chief. John Mersmann was appointed lieutenant constable.

On April 30, 1928 the constable force was changed to a salaried force which was necessary under the fee elimination laws. Salaries were Chief – $2200.00 per year, Lieutenant – $2000.00 per year and patrolmen – $1800.00 per year. In May 1928 three Harley Davidson motorcycles were purchased and the constable force was on 24 hour duty. In June telephones were sought for installation in the police department and in September three used Harley Davidson motorcycles were purchased.

1928 Kozlowski & Lauer

Louis Kozlowski and Charles Lauer 1928

January 11,1929 – Depew Harald – Officer John Bauer of the Cheektowaga Police force was deliberately run down and fatally injured last Thursday evening shortly after 6 o’clock when he attempted to stop a car, the occupants of which resembled two bandits who at that time were sought by the Police of the County, for the shooting of Officer Smith of the Buffalo Police Department. Officer Bauer detailed to patrol the Walden district of Cheektowaga, was about to return to the Town Hall to report off duty. When the driver of the coupe noticed the officer watching them, he immediately started his motor and drove east on Walden steadily increasing his speed. Bauer took after them and passed the car twice and signaled them to stop, but each time the command was ignored.  At the approach of the bridge at Harlem Road, Bauer again drove in front of the speeding car and signaled it to stop.  Instead of obeying the order, the driver ran his motorcycle off the road. He died at 1:50 o’clock Friday morning. The funeral was held from the late residence on Pine Ridge Road, Tuesday afternoon. Interment was at Ridge Lawn Cemetery.  In June 1929 the chief was authorized to trade in the three used Harley Davidson motorcycles for three new ones, giving the department 6 new cycles.In November 1929 a new police call box system was installed throughout the town. It was the latest signal system that was used in various cities in the country. The call boxes which have a flasher and a buzzer are located at Cleveland and Harlem, Genesee and Pine Ridge, Genesee and Transit, Genesee and Union, Walden and Hoerner, Broadway and Harlem, Broadway and Indian, Clinton and Meadowbrook, William and Harlem, Bennett and Harding and Union and Groell.

On December 29, 1929 the state commission inspected the Cheektowaga lock-up facilities. The town has been averaging 180 arrests per month. The lock-up containing six cells for men and two detention rooms, one of which has a cell for women and a large room for lodgers passed the inspection, but the hiring of a matron for women was recommended.

The 1930’s began with the depression and the mandate provided by the NYS Hickey Law which required certain towns in Erie County, Cheektowaga being one of those towns, to form a civil service protected police department by June 30, 1932.

On April 23, 1931 the board authorized the purchase of two new Chevrolets and two new Ford police cars. All were to be equipped with special bumpers, wheel locks and sirens. All the cars were to be numbered and lettered Cheektowaga NY Police.

On May 4, 1931 the board authorized the purchase of two new Harley Davidson motorcycles, model VL-74 equipped with full electrical equipment, maxi speedometers, speedometer lights, jiffy stands and sirens.

On May21, 1931 the Depew Herald featured the Cheektowaga Police Department with photos of the chief inspecting the officers and vehicles. The article says that Cheektowaga Police now have four scout cars and six motorcycles, with four officers on duty at all times. (see old photo album) On November 16, 1931, after the Democrats had lost the election and control of the board, they created the mandatory police department required by NYS law. This new police department had a chief, Lieutenant and fourteen patrolmen with salaries set out for each.

1931 Inspection

 

The fireworks began on January 1, 1932 as the new Republican administration took office with the first move being to rescind the resolution enacted on November 16, 1931 creating a police department. This being the height of the depression, the new administration was not about to give up the plums of appointing police officers, a very steady job and protected by civil service.

The previously appointed Chief Amedeo Cappola was demoted to patrolman and a new Chief Charles Wolford Jr. was appointed. The previously appointed Lieutenant John Mersmann was also demoted to patrolman. The fourteen previously appointed patrolmen were reappointed plus four new patrolmen. The salaries of all were reduced drastically except for the new chief, Peter Weber and Frank Zalemski (the new supervisors brother). The department now had 18 patrolmen and a chief. This was more then was needed and they now had until June 30, 1932 to remake the department the right size. Many charges and dismissals would be taking place.

Lost in all this was that the first police matron, Gertrude Pelloth, was hired on a per diem basis of $5.00/day.

Over the next six months Arthur Barrett, John Carr, Peter Rohr, Amedeo Cappola and Marvin Davidson were dismissed. John Carr, Marvin Davidson and Amedeo Cappola would join the Erie County Sheriffs Department. Martin Molik and Stanley Fenske both resigned and would join the Sloan Police Department.

On June 30, 1932 the new Cheektowaga Police Department was created with said appointments to take effect at midnight June 30, 1932. The new police department consisted of:

Chief of Police, Charles Wolford Jr. – $175.00/month

11 Patrolmen; Peter Weber, Frank Zalemski, Charles Lauer, John Mersmann, Stephen Choinski, Joseph Huber, Walter Przepiora, John Bogacki, William Mendel, Louis Kozlowski and Christopher Klenk. All at a salary of $120.00/month.

1932 Chief Wohlhford group

On September 7, 1932 the board authorizes two acting lieutenants on the force, Frank Zalemski and Peter Weber.

On September 27, 1932, the Sloan Police Department joined the Buffalo PD radio net and are the 15th unit in the net. The Sloan Department has two officers at this time Frank Carr and Martin Molik. On April 6, 1933 the Sloan Department changed back to the fee system of paying police and hired Lt. Harold Lang and patrolmen Stanley Fenske, John Piekarski and Louis Blaskowiak.

On January 1, 1934 the first town board consisting of councilmen was installed. The board was controlled by Democrats, with Republican Supervisor Chase Zalemski still holding office. The new board moved quickly and appointed Stanley B Malanowicz Chief of Police at a salary of $2,100.00/yr. and John Mersmann as acting Lieutenant with a salary of 1,800.00/yr. Stanley Malanowicz was the owner of Steeleys Tavern located at 15 Halstead in Sloan. He was also the town Democratic Chairman. The board also hired Viola Goetz as police matron and Bertha Reformat was hired to feed the prisoners.

On May 7, 1934 the board created a permanent position of lieutenant and appointed John Mersmann provisionally and requested the state civil service commissioner schedule an exam for that position. He apparently passed the exam and on November 19, 1934 he was appointed lieutenant permanently.

On May 2, 1935 the Sloan board changed their Police Department to a salaried force and reduced the number of officers to three.

On August 5, 1935 Cheektowaga extended the use of their facilities for use by the Sloan Police Department for telephone and dispatching of car #130.

On January 1, 1936 the Republicans had regained control of the town board and appointed Walter Marynowski Chief of Police. They also hired three telephone operators for town hall.

On August 5, 1937 the Sloan board tied on a vote to abolish the Sloan Police Department. This was the beginning of an effort that would continue off and on until it finally ended in September 1978 when the five remaining Sloan Police officers were transferred to the Cheektowaga Police Department.

On Sunday August 21, 1938 Sgt. Peter Weber was struck by an automobile while directing traffic at Union Road at Broadway. He suffered five broken ribs and two broken legs, he would not return to the force.

Walter Przepiora 1939

During WWII the Cheektowaga Police lost the services of 4 patrolmen who served in the military for the duration of the war.

In April 1945 Sgt. Charles Lauer was placed in charge of the newly created accident prevention and traffic bureau created in the police department. The heavy increase in traffic within the town over the last few years was the reason for the change, said Chief Marynowski.

In April 1946 the chief announced the first formal training for the police department which was an eight week program at Buffalo Police Headquarters. The training program was to be instructed by the FBI.

In September 1946 the department announced the purchase of a three way radio communications system. This system now enabled the radio communication not only from headquarters to the cars, but from the cars to headquarters and car to car.

In January 1946 a detective bureau was formed in the department. In addition to investigative work the new bureau will begin taking, checking and classifying fingerprints which up to this time was done by the Erie County Sheriff’s Department.

On January 1, 1948 Benedict Holtz was sworn in as town supervisor giving the Democrats control of the town board. There first act was to appoint the new supervisor as police commissioner, then they nullified all acting rank in the police department and rescinded the appointments of all special police and requested they turn in their badges and equipment.

On February 2, 1948 the board created the position of captain of police and requested a civil service exam for the position. They also created the positions of three detectives, (Bernard Kistowski, Frank Enser and Stanley Szymanski) one detective sergeant and four uniform sergeants (Charles Lauer was appointed). They also authorized the supervisor to fill these positions from the ranks of patrolman.

On March 15, 1948 a request was made to Erie County to conduct a non competitive exam for captain and at the same time appointed John Mersmann permanently to that position. This promotion probably never takes place, because on April 19, 1949 the board once again creates the position of captain in the police department. The board again requests an exam for the position but restricts the exam to lieutenants with three years service. (John Mersmann is the only Lt. on the force). Mersmann is appointed acting captain pending results of the exam.

On August 2, 1948 the board created five positions of detective sergeant and the supervisor at that time announced the names of the new sergeants as John Carr, Martin Pick, Louis Kozlowski, Joseph Huber and Stanley Szymanski.

In January 1949 a new switchboard was installed in town hall. Previously all calls were handled by the police department telephone operator who also dispatched police vehicles.

On August 8, 1949 the board authorizes the chief to erect signs in such a manner as to inform the public of the location of police headquarters.

The board also attempted after a civil service exam had been given to promote three officers to lieutenant. The resolution failed due to lack of a second.

From an article in the November 10, 1949 Cheektowaga Times;

The Town of Cheektowaga has a very efficient and modern police department, composed of 35 patrolmen, three police dispatchers and a matron under Chief of Police Walter J Marynowski and Supervisor Benedict T Holtz as Police Commissioner.

There is a traffic division, which handles traffic at accidents, fires, at school crossings, at parades, funerals etc. The men are well trained in accident prevention work.

The department also has a qualified first aid division and the men take regular examinations in first aid work. The first aid inhalator squad is credited with saving many lives each year.

Latest division to be added to the department is the detective bureau, with all the latest equipment for fingerprint work and crime detection. Cheektowaga Police now have a modern three way radio station which greatly increases the efficiency of the department and enables the force to cover widespread territory more easily.

Ten patrolmen are regularly on duty from 1 AM to 9 AM, 12 from 9 AM to 5 PM and 11 from 5 PM to 1 AM. Two detectives are on duty from 9 AM to 5 PM and one detective from 6 PM to 1 AM, with the chief on call at all times.

The shifts were recently changed to facilitate protection of six school crossings and also to handle early morning traffic. Formerly, shifts were from 8 to 4, 4 to 12 and 12 to 8. There are three police dispatchers, one for each shift. a matron is on call at all times. All regular policemen must pass civil service examinations. The department keeps up with all the latest methods of police work as practiced throughout the nation, according to Chief Marynowski. The force has seven scout cars and three motorcycles. All cars are equipped with three-way radio which enables the men to communicate with police headquarters, police headquarters to the cars and car to car. The police department is located in the basement of town hall, Union Road and Broadway.

On January 2, 1950, Bernard Kistowski was appointed lieutenant, the first lieutenant appointed since 1934. Helen Kosin was also appointed police matron.

On February 1, 1950 four more lieutenants were appointed; Frank Enser, Benedict Kostrzewski, William Graham and Stanley Szymanski. The new lieutenants now each supervised a shift, with one for relief and one supervising the detective bureau. With these new appointments the present system of permanent badge assignment was started. previously badges were recycled as officers left.

In November 1950 former police Chief Charles Wolford was tasked with forming an auxiliary civil defense police force of 160 men in the Town of Cheektowaga.

In April 1951 traffic enforcement caused the chief to assign seven patrolmen to motorcycle duty and the board authorized the purchase of two new Harley Davidson motorcycles and requested the town justices to convene court during the day and evening.

On 12 February, 1952 the town board accepted the resignation of a 6 year veteran patrolman who was charged in connection with an alleged $20.00 “shakedown” In April the officer pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and was fined and spared jail.

According to a Cheektowaga Times article of 24 April, 1952 the Cheektowaga Police Department over the last 25 years had investigated over 35,000 cases and has records for each arrest over that period.  In 1951 the department handled 3,000 criminal cases.  The present department consisted of 35 officers, 3 dispatchers and 1 matron.

On 7 July, 1952 the town board adopted the 25 year pension plan for officers. In February 1953 Officer Christopher Klenk would be the first officer to retire under the new pension plan; unfortunately he would suffer a heart attack and die in November 1953 at the age of 64.

On 17 November, 1952 the town board accepted the resignation of Chief Walter Marynowski and provisionally appointed Captain John Mersmann Chief and requested a civil service exam be given for the position.

On 30 December, 1953 Daniel Weber was appointed Detective Sergeant at an annual salary of $4,250.00. On 17 November, 1958 Daniel Weber would be granted a leave of absence to November 16, 1959 and would also be appointed councilman to fill the unexpired term of Councilman Niebert.  In November 1959 Mr. Weber would lose the election for councilman and would be reinstated to the police department as patrolman. Mr. Weber would be elected town supervisor in November 1963 and would be granted a leave of absence for 1 year beginning on 12 November, 1963 and would not return to the police department.

On 18 November, 1954 Detective Harold Kuehlewind was elected president of the Cheektowaga Police Club for the fourth consecutive year. Detective Kuehlewind is also the vice-president of the Western NY Police conference. In August 1955 he was elected president of the WNY Police Conference. In June 1958 Detective Kuehlewind would be elected president of the 50,000 member New York State Police Conference and later in the year Cheektowaga Police would host the state convention at the Statler Hilton.

3 January, 1956 – Helen Kosin was appointed police matron at an annual salary of $1,100.00.

3 June, 1957 the Town of Cheektowaga appoints 5 new patrolmen in anticipation of providing 24 hour security at the Buffalo Airport. The first contract would be signed later in the month and the town would begin security on 1 July, 1957.

July, 1957 Cheektowaga police recruits were attending the first recruit class conducted by the Erie County Sheriffs Department.

1 December, 1959, 5 year Patrolman Richard Siudzinski resigned to accept the position of Chief of Police in the  7 man department in Canastota NY.

4 January, 1960 the town board adopts a 50% co-pay for Blue Cross medical insurance for all town employees. On 16 January, 1961 the town resolved to pay the full premium for the Blue Cross coverage.

24 March, 1960 Chief of Police John Mersmann expects to have traffic radar within two weeks which will be operated by two man teams.

22 September, 1960 the town board accepted a gift from Westinghouse Electric of a K-9 dog for police work. The dog “Pal” was presented in November with Patrolman Ralph Gardener assigned to train the dog with Buffalo Police.

30 September, 1964 Chief of Police John Mersmann retires from the department and the town board appoints Lieutenant Graham in charge of the department until an exam for the position can be given and a new chief appointed. The department at the time had no captains and the chiefs exam would be restricted to the departments 5 lieutenants.

In April, 1965 the town board agreed to a central fire alarm office that would temporally be located at Forks Fire Station. A civil service exam will be called for to hire dispatchers for the office and the office will eventually be integrated into the police department.

21 February, 1966 the town board passes a resolution going on record against the establishment of a Metropolitan Police Force in Erie County.

21 February, 1966 Benedict Kostrzewski is appointed Chief of Police at an annual salary of $9,100.00. He is the only one of the five lieutenants to pass the chiefs exam.

!8 April, 1966 the town board creates four additional positions of police captain which with the one vacancy created by the promotion of John Mersmann that was never filled opens five vacancies. The following were then appointed after the results of the civil service test; Bernard Kistowski, John Gruber, Leonard Smolarek, Thaddeus DeFredricis and Robert Morris.

2 May, 1966 After finding that the Erie County Civil Service Department made a mistake and failed to credit Lt. William Graham with passing the captains exam the town board created another position of captain in the police department and appointed William Graham to the position.

7 July, 1966 the town board approves the construction of a new police building at a cost of $856,000. The building will supposedly provide space for 136 police officers, new court facilities and space for the central fire alarm office.

7 November, 1966 Joseph Kornecki Jr. is appointed as a police dispatcher effective immediately on a provisional basis.

21 August, 1967 the town board resolves to communicate with the Governor of NYS about the loopholes in the new NYS Penal which will become law on 1 September, 1967.

January, 1968 fire dispatchers are the first to move into the new police-courts building.

13 February, 1968 Cheektowaga Police move into their new building. An open house and dedication is planned for Saturday 24 February with music, oratory and colorful ceremony. Music will be provided by the Cheektowaga Central School Band, 250 state, county and town leaders are expected to attend with speeches and presentations. The affair will end with a buffet for invited guests from 5-7 PM.

4 March, 1968 the town board creates the 4 addition lieutenants positions and appoints 4 patrolmen to those positions.

1 April, 1968 the town board appoints 3 patrolmen to the rank of captain.

1 August, 1968 the town again went on record opposing the creation of a Metropolitan Police force in Erie County. The referendum will be on the ballot on election day 5 November, 1968.

A bid sticking point is that it would be mandatory and towns would not have a option.

20 January, 1969 appointed as police matrons are Dolores Summerfeld and Helen Borowiak at annual salaries of $1,050.00 each.