The following history of the Wauseon Police Department is derived from several sources including old newspapers on microfilm at the Wauseon Public Library, the minutes of Wauseon’s village (and later) city council, the recollections of former police officer Horst Wudi, former chief Keith Torbet, and fire chief Rick Sluder (Sluder’s father, Larry Sluder, served as police chief from 1976 to 1990).
There are significant gaps in both the newspaper and council minutes. Most often readers need to “read between the lines” of the old minutes, as discussions dealing with personnel are not recorded. Some of what you read below is solely my conjecture. Where these occur, I note them.
Throughout the department’s early history there is confusion in newspaper articles and by council as to the title of the office we now know as Police Chief. On occasion, the position is eluded to as either “Marshal,” “Village Marshal,” “Sheriff,” “Policeman,” “Police Chief,” and even the dual “Marshal and Chief of Police.” It wasn’t until 1962 that the position was officially referred to as “Chief of Police.”
The plat for the Village of Wauseon was recorded on April 11, 1854. The first settlers began arriving in 1855, and the first village council meeting was held on Sept. 28, 1857. At that meeting, J.J. Robinson was appointed “sheriff.” There were no deputies.
There was no municipal building, so the council met in the rear of a local retail store. The police department had neither an office nor a jail. Conjecture: Robinson’s office was most likely his home.
Council minutes were sketchy, but the April 12, 1858, minutes do refer to Robinson as the “village’s marshal.” At that meeting, Robinson presented a review of his first few months in office. He noted one arrest with “no fees yet.” He also delivered a notice to George Matheny to “remove a dead hog and dog.”
On July 4, 1859, an unidentified man was arrested for drunkenness. He was “safely stowed away in Hunt’s Corn Crib until soberness returned the next day.” It cost the village five cents for crackers and one cent for salt. (Unknown if this was a payment to Hunt for use of his crib or food to sober up the inebriated celebrant.)
Robinson was replaced by Gilbert Oldfield, who served from 1861-65. Oldfield was the grandfather of Barney Oldfield. He submitted his resignation in 1865 so he could “enlist in the service of the United States,” presumably to serve during the final year of the Civil War. Records indicate Oldfield was replaced by Orrin Buzzell.
In 1864, the council received a petition for “necessary steps be taken towards building a ‘lock-up.’” The village leaders appropriated $200 for the project. Apparently, the structure served until 1885, when the Fulton County commissioners and village council entered a joint venture to build a “Cooperation Jail.”
The one-man police force continued, despite efforts to enlarge it. For instance, on July 16, 1870, with a population of nearly 1,000 residents, an optimistic village council hoped to expand law enforcement with the addition of two others. Council minutes recorded the following:
“Resolved by the council of the Incorporated Village of Wauseon, Ohio, that the resignation of Orin Buzzell as Marshal of said village, will be accepted by the council, if tendered.”
Conjecture: One would suspect that either the council and/or residents were unhappy with Buzzell’s performance, but no other detail is available.
This ordinance provided for “a police force not to exceed three in number, one of who shall be designated to act as Chief of Police.”
While the measure passed, it was subsequently repealed, and Orrin Buzzell continued as marshal.
Buzzell’s duties were probably minimal, and the office was most likely an honorary one, according to early Wauseon newspaper publisher Frank Reighard. The following account, provided by Buzzell, covers his services from March 1870 to March 1871:
· Served notice to the Board of Health for $1.50.
· Buried a dog for 50 cents.
· Posted notices for closing two saloons for $1.
· Performed extra duty at night and on special occasions for $1.
· Notified and assisted councilmen on five occasions for 25 cents.
April 8, 1871 – Appointment of W.T.A. Altman as a policeman.
May 5, 1871 – Altman is “granted privileges to shoot birds in his garden.” His monthly salary was set at $5.
June 8, 1871 – Council also hired Altman to light and maintain streetlamps at $10 a month. This necessitated filling the oil-burning lamps, lighting them by sunset, and extinguishing them at sunrise. About this time the village council began to hire residents as part-time or temporary “police deputies.”
June 5, 1885 – Council passed a resolution for its share of the costs needed for the construction of a “Cooperation Jail,” size 16-feet wide and 18-feet deep, height 10-feet above foundation, to be built of stone, iron and other necessary material, and fireproof with a wall 24-inches thick. Location was not mentioned.
1918 – Brief reference to a Robert Sweeny, again referred to as the village’s “marshal.”
(There are gaps in newspaper records and village council minutes during this period. What minutes are available in the archives at the municipal building are difficult to read; everything was handwritten in script and ink is fading on some pages.)
November 10, 1937 – William Ford asked to be relieved as marshal due to poor health. C.E. Gorsuch appointed to the position.
August 21, 1940 – Ten men hired to serve as “special police” during the annual Wauseon Homecoming.
February 1941 – Ed Lillich to act as village policemen at $100 per month.
January 1942 – H.W. Loveland appointed marshal. Days later, Loveland resigns as marshal and is hired as “special police,” at $24 per month, until a new Marshal is hired. The salary of a new marshal is set at $100 per month, $1,200 per year.
June 1942 – Loveland’s services as a special policeman discontinued because of cost.
July 1943 – Calvin Bixler hired for $22.50 per week. The village minutes do not indicate his title.
August 16, 1943 – Joe Davidson sworn in as a “special policeman” at 50 cents per hour.
June 1945 – William Lozier hired as a “special police officer” to serve as determined by council and receive 50 cents per hour. George Robinson also sworn in as a “special policeman” at no additional compensation.
September 17, 1945 – Lozier resigns.
October 1, 1945 – Clyde Marks hired to replace Lozier at same rate of compensation. Fifteen days later, he resigns.
March 1946 – Bert Riches hired as a policeman for $150 per month ($1,800 per year).
April 1946 – Paul Teel hired as a policeman at $175 per month ($2,100 per year).
August 5, 1946 – Teel recommends purchase of a police car. He also expresses his desire to be appointed the village’s Marshal.
August 19, 1946 – Paul Teel is appointed chief of police and marshal. He is paid $200 a month ($2,400 annually).
November 1946 – Teel receives 8 cents per mile fuel reimbursement for using his personal vehicle. The village did not yet own a police car.
June 1947 – Teel reports his uniforms are “worn out.” Council approves $75 for replacements.
June 1948 – Marshal Teel receives $75 a month mileage allowance. The deputy marshal’s salary set at $624 a year.
September 1949 — The council considers discontinuing the night watch program. (This individual was responsible for checking unlocked doors in the downtown business district, and the program, itself, dates to the late 1800s.) After some discussion the council decides to continue the program, which will continue until the 1970s.
May 8, 1950 – A petition by the Wauseon Exchange Club is presented to council for ‘round-the-clock police protection. The petition asks that a force of three policemen be established. The council, however, took a cool attitude toward the proposal for financial reasons.
In the first place, they pointed out, the village cannot afford the salaries for such a police force; secondly, as soon as law enforcement officers are designated as policemen the village must then pay into a police retirement fund, amounting to approximately $1,500 per year. Instead, some members of the council turned a critical eye on the present marshal, with a view toward more thorough patrolling for traffic enforcement on the streets.
Aug. 16, 1950 – Village Marshal Paul Teel issues a warning that children under 16 may not operate motor vehicles, and especially motor bikes on the public thoroughfares. Operators of every type of power-driven vehicle must have an operator’s license, Teel said.
October 1950 – An appropriation not to exceed $1,000 was approved by the village council for the construction of an elevated structure over the sidewalks at the corner of Fulton and Elm streets to serve as a police observation station. The booth is to be seven feet by eight feet and will be above the sidewalk in order to give an unobstructed view in four directions. It will be equipped with a telephone. (At a future date this booth would be moved a block south on Fulton Street and repositioned in front of the present Chamber of Commerce office. Prior to becoming the Chamber’s office, that building was a public restroom.)
April 21, 1952 – The council officially forms a “Police Department,” with Marshal Teel paid $3,360 a year with a $75 per month car allowance; the deputy marshal received $795 per year and supplemental police officers (as needed for special events) receiving 75 cents per hour.
July 1952 – Teel presents council with plans to build a police station on grounds of the New York Central Railroad. (No other mention in future minutes about the proposal, which was abandoned in favor of installing the police department in the Municipal Building in 1964.)
August 1953 – Teel asks for a typewriter for his office. Council will investigate different machine costs.
December 1954 – Council wants a special appropriation in the 1955 budget to purchase the village’s first police car – a maximum of $2,500. However, no car is purchased until March 1956, at a cost of $1,743.88.
February 1957 – Discussion to add additional police officers held. No action taken. Currently, there are only two full-time officers.
May 1957 – Radio in police cruiser needed to be repaired.
February 1958 – Council approved a study to determine hiring a third full-time officer and decided it needed to replace the existing police cruiser.
May 1958 – New cruiser purchased. Teel asked for $12 to put lettering on its sides.
December 1958 – Teel requested pay raise. Discussion tabled.
March 1960 – At some point the first cruiser had a traffic radar. The council now okayed purchase of updated radar equipment, not to exceed $995.
April 1960 — After serving as the village’s marshal for 14 years, Teel tendered his resignation, effective May 31.
June 1960 – Paul Connin was appointed the new marshal and chief of police at $390 per month ($4,680 per year). Earl Lillich was assigned the position of deputy marshal at $350 per month ($4,200 per year).
December 1960 – Connin got an okay to purchase a rifle and fingerprinting kit.
April 1961 – Connin resigned. Carl Rouse appointed deputy chief and placed in charge of the department for a six-month probationary period. In October, he was appointed Marshal.
January 1962 – Rouse re-appointed as police chief. The title “Marshal” is finally discontinued in future council minutes.
September 1964 – The police department moved into the new municipal building on Clinton Street. Offices located on second floor.
December 1966 – The police pension funds ($7,839) are transferred to the State of Ohio.
November 1970 – The department added a sixth officer in order to provide two-man protection between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m., seven days a week.
February 1972 – Decision made to abandon and tear down the downtown police booth.
May 1972 – Plans underway for a proposed firing range, to be installed in the basement of the municipal building. (This project was abandoned in January 1974 because of cost of a bullet catcher and ventilation system.)
August 1973 – Plans approved to convert a second-floor rest room in the municipal building into a police laboratory.
March 1973 – Council asked Chief Rouse to hire a person for two hours each day to maintain police records.
December 1976 – Chief Rouse, who served as Wauseon’s chief for 15 years, retired. Assistant Police Chief Hugh Nifong was appointed to the post.
March 1977 – Department given approval to appoint two sergeants at 30 cents per hour more than regular patrolmen.
April 1978 – Nifong retired, and Larry Sluder appointed acting chief, with Paul Arruda his assistant chief.
July 1979 – A police property room was installed in municipal building.
November 1979 – The first official patch for uniforms and the sides of patrol cars was unveiled.
August 1990 – Police Chief Larry Sluder, who had been on medical leave, resigned. Assistant Chief Paul Arruda appointed as his replacement by Mayor Curt Fauver.
Anyone with more information on the history of the Wauseon Police Department is welcome to e-mail Krumm at [email protected]