The history of the Hampden Police Department began in
1965. This is when the full-time police
department was established, but law enforcement in the Town of Hampden can be
traced back to as early as 1878. The
Town of Hampden was originally a part of the Town of Wilbraham, known as South
Wilbraham. The residents of the South
Wilbraham area wanted a local community center for gatherings other than in
Wilbraham proper. These residents voted
for the approval to build such a center.
On October 8th, 1850 a parcel of land was purchased by the
residents of South Wilbraham from the Town of Wilbraham. The deed for this land was notarized by the
local Justice of the Peace, Stuart Beebe.
This was significant because on the land Academy Hall was built. Academy Hall was a community school and
meeting center for the local residents.
Once Academy Hall was built, it was determined that the
residents of South Wilbraham would meet there on Monday nights. As a result of these meetings, the idea of
South Wilbraham to separate from Wilbraham and form their own township was
realized. The township was to have its
own governing body and its own law officers.
These officers would be empowered as constables.
The position of constable was an elected one. All constables were elected by town residents
for a term of three years. A constable
was a representative of the law and had the duties of enforcing the laws,
notifying and warning the inhabitants of the township, and getting those
qualified to vote in elections and other town affairs to do so.
On March 28, 1878 the South Wilbraham region of Wilbraham
became the Town of Hampden. The town
residents elected three members to the Board of Selectmen to oversee the town
government. It was also determined that
these selectmen would be the governing body of the police. They were duly titled as the Police
The first law enforcement officer of Hampden to be elected
was Nelson V. Chaffee. Mr. Chaffee was already
the constable of the former South Wilbraham area when it was part of
Wilbraham. He was joined by two more
constables in the following year of 1879.
These two other elected officials were A.F. Ballard and John Q.
Adams. It was determined that the Town
of Hampden needed three constables to serve the large area of the town.
The constables would serve civil processes and employ police
powers 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
They would patrol the main roads on foot or horse back and were usually
summoned by the town residents or selectmen if their services were needed. As a part of their duties, the constables
would issue fines for violations of the laws.
These fines were in the form of citations. These citations were presented to the Board
of Selectmen at a Monday night meeting for payment by the violators. In the case of criminal offenses, these
violators were transported to the Police Court in the City of Springfield. Hampden did not have any lockup facilities
and had to pay Springfield a free for the lockup and incarceration of
For the period between 1888 and 1920, telephone communications
were being set up throughout most of Hampden.
A telephone system was established to notify the constables of any calls
for service. During the day, The Board
of Selectmen would receive all calls at the Town Hall. They would then call the constables. During the night, the constable on duty would
receive the calls directly at his home.
In the year 1921, the Massachusetts State Police Uniformed
Division was established. Shortly
thereafter, a barracks was located in the neighboring Town of Monson. These troopers were issued patrol cars. A part of the State Police duties was to assist
the town constables. The constables
would call the State Police to transport prisoners to Springfield Courts as the
constables did not have their own patrol cars.
The town was growing and the crime rate was increasing. In 1926 it was voted the Town of Hampden
would hire two special police officers to work with the three constables. These special police officers had police
powers only when on duty or when assigned to a special detail. They could not service civil processes and
they were not employed, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, like the
constables. They were effective in
fighting crime so the town continued to hire more special police officers.
Beginning in 1932, the town hired one
additional special police officer about every one or two years up until
1954. In 1954, it was decided the town
would try to maintain ten special police officers to assist the three elected
constables. These special police offices
and constables all had police telephones in their homes. The selectmen would call whoever was on duty. That officer would then respond to the call
in his own private vehicle.
In 1965, a special committee was set up to investigate the possibilities
of establishing a full time police department for the Town of Hampden. An announcement was placed in all the area
newspapers. The announcement stated that
the Town of Hampden was accepting applications for the position of a full time
Chief of Police. The town received 40
applications and a test was administered by the State police in the Hampden
Town Hall. The three constables and the
ten special police officers would all work for the Chief of Police.
On April 4th 1966 the Board of Selectmen
announced that William G. Joy was the Chief of Police for the Town of
Hampden. Chief Joy was given a budget of
$19,545 to outfit his department. He
purchased the first patrol car that year and had it equipped with a mobile
phone. The Chief had a desk in the
selectmen’s officer at the town hall during the day where he dispatched his
officers in the patrol car by the mobile phone.
Whoever had the patrol car that night, that officer would take the
call. These early mobile phones were not
only available to the police but the public as well. If the line was busy, the dispatched call
would not go through to the patrol car.
As a result of this, Chief Joy established a system of red lights on the
front porches of the officers’ home and at the town hall. If the patrolling officer saw a red light on,
he was to stop there and inquire as to where he was to be dispatched to.
In 1966, the first full time officer was
appointed, Robert Newton. Officer Newton
was also assigned to the newly established Palmer District Court. All their court cases were tried in
Palmer. Chief Joy prosecuted all
department cases himself.
In 1967, The Hampden Police Department purchased it first
radio system. It operated on an AM
frequency band. It was mostly inadequate
for the hilly area around Hampden. Chief
Joy would operate the system during the day from the town hall. At night, he would operate the radio from the
kitchen of him home. He had an antenna
mounted on the roof of his house for reception.
The one patrol car was equipped with a radio to receive calls and to
transmit back to the Chief. That same
year, Chief Joy began teaching instructional classes to reserve officers. Upon completion, and passing the exam, they
became special police officers. This
title would later be replaced with the title of reserve officer.
The Hampden Police Department was given the basement of the
town hall to build a police station in 1968.
George K. Stone was also appointed as a full time police officer that
The department now had a full time
Chief of Police, two full time police officers, and fifteen special police
officers; now call reserve officers. All
these officers, including Chief Joy built the police station and installed the
first ever Hampden Police Department holding cell.
More improvements and changes were added to the Hampden
Police Department in the 1970’s. The
police radio was boosted by adding a power station on top of Burleigh
Road. The police department purchased
its second police car, also equipped with a radio in 1970.
A major change was that Chief Joy suffered a
heart attack and had to retire in 1971.
Officer George Stone was appointed as Acting Chief of the Police and
later appointed as Chief of Police in 1972.
As town prosecutor was hired in 1971.
He prosecuted all the police cases at Palmer Court. At this time, there were three full time
officers and twenty reserve officers working under Chief Stone. Chief Stone was also a member of the Board of
Directors of the Regional Drug Task Force.
In that same year of 1972, Chief Stone was able to secure a communications
grant. He changed the AM radio frequency
to a more power VHF FM frequency.
Through this same grant, he was able to establish a separate frequency
to a radio system for all police departments in the Hampden and Hampshire
county areas. This system became known
as the Western Massachusetts Law Enforcement Channel, or WMLEC. This radio system was designed so that
officers from all over these counties were able to contact each other via
radio. The system was not fully functional
until 1974 and is still used today.
Other significant events came about in the middle seventies and early
eighties. Some of these were in 1975 the
Hampden Police Department received a grant from the Governor’s Highway Safety
Commission in Boston. With this grant, a
radar unit was purchased for one of the patrol cars, and a breathalyzer unit
for the station. Another significant
event, 1976 was the departments’ third marked patrol car. The first ever full time sergeant was
appointed in 1978, Officer Donald Bouchard was appointed to this position. At this time the department had a Chief of
Police, a sergeant, four full time officers, and fifteen reserve offices.
In 1996 there were not three sergeants, six full time
officers, twelve reserve officers and the Chief of Police. That same year Philip J. Adams, a sergeant at
the East Longmeadow Police Department became the Chief of Police replacing retiring
Chief Stone. In 2002, Chief Adams
retired and Douglas Mellis, a sergeant from the Longmeadow Police Department,
was appointed the new Chief of Police.
In 2005, Chief Mellis became the Chief of Police in the Town of East
Longmeadow and Sgt. Farnsworth was chosen to serve as the next Chief of Police in
the Town of Hampden.
NOTE – I would like to thank john DiMaio (a former Hampden
Police Officer and currently a law enforcement officer in Florida, for
gathering these facts. If you believe
that this information is inaccurate or if you find any errors in the above content,
please email at email@example.com