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Department History

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 Commission. 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 inmates. 

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 year.

  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    webmaster@hampdenpolice.com