History Of The Clayton Police Department
The history of the Clayton Police Department is a most interesting one when you consider that in it’s existence, there have been only three full-time Police Chiefs until 1984. Let’s review this hiostory based on our research todate.
John Francis Green served as Borough Marshal in the middle thirties and on January 1, 1939, Mayor Philip B. Adams appointed Irving Wade Jeffreys as Chief Borough Marshal to replace Green. Jefferys served in that post through 1942.
Mayor Frank G. Cassiday on January 1, 1943, appointed Fire Chief Elmer Lovejoy to succeed Jefferys who left the department for a position at the New York Shipyard.
One may be interested to know that this writer, then serving his first year as a Justice of the Peace in 1942, served under Jefferys as a Special Officer. I volunteered my services at no cost to the Borough and was assigned to weekend duty at Wilson Lake and to curb speeders at the intersection of East Academy Street and Downer Road.
In those days, the Wilson Lake area attracted many visitors due to the park attractions and swimming facilities. One of the main attractions on weekends was the hot air balloon ascensions sponsored by and featuring “Reckless” Johnson and his wife Ruby. This feature drew large crowds which often led to disorders some teen-age fights.
This problem made my job more difficult; however, I relied on the Malaga State Police to assist whenever they were needed. Jefferys and myself could not handle such crowds who became so unruly.
As a young police officer, I never issued a summons, but merely warned speeders and stop street violators at the hazardous intersections, the scene of many serious accidents.
Lovejoy served as Borough Marshal for two years and in 1946, Mayor Frank C. Meyers appointed Stanley R. Groff as Chief Marshal. Groff held the post for one year.
In 1947, Howard W. Vail, a local Constable who served many of the court papers, was appointed Chief Marhal by Mayor Meyers and Borough Council. As the work increased, Council approved the appointment of Louis Taylor as a Borough Marshal to assist Vail. Taylor left the department in August of 1951 to accept a position at DuPonts and Pfrommer succeeded Taylor.
In 1955, the administration of Mayor Clarence Edwards introduced and adopted an ordinance establishing Clayton’s first full time and organized Police Department in the history of the Borough.
Howard Vail was then named Chief of Police of the new department and Pfrommer’s title was changed to patrolman. Soon thereafter, the Borough purchased it’s first police car. The Borough also appointed several special police officers who served part-time, particulary on weekend duty.
Chief Vail, the first full time police chief, retired in 1958 and Sgt. Fred Pfrommer succeeded Vail as Chief that same year. Pfrommer retired in 1981 after serving the community 30 years, 23 years as chief.
I was personnally acquianted with each of these men who assisted me greatly in my newspaper work which began in 1936. My news beat in the southern end of Gloucester County included Clayton, and in those days there were many intereswting stories written about the Community.
In those earlier days when Clayton did not have an norganized police department, the officers used their private cars for which they reimbursed for their expenses. The officers kept and a record of the hours they worked on duty and were paid an hourly rate for their services
The Police Headquarters was located in a small room at the back of the small police building recently demolished to make way for the new Municipal Building.
The town did not have police radios and iin the event an officer was needed, residents were advised to call a certain telephone number assigned to the occupant residing in an apartment over the municipal building.
To summon an officer on duty, the party answering the telephone, would merely press a button which would turn on a red light installed on the front of the brick building.
Through an agreement with the Borough and the telephone company, the occupants of the apartment received special compensation on their phone bill for this service to the community.
It was not at all uncommon for a local resident to chase around town looking for an officer on duty when the red light was on for an extended period of time, especially in an emergency.
I remember one night when there was a minor accident on the highway and the occupant of one of the two cars involved insisted that we call the police. No one was injured. I asked one of the local firemen to stay at the scene while I tried to locate the Borough Marshal on duty. Since the accident was not serious, State Police were not needed.
The red light was switched on, and, after waiting five minutes in front of the municipal building, I decided to go looking for the officer since I knew where his favorite stop overs were.
My first instinct was to drive to the mayor’s home and sure enough there was Chief Lovejoy’s car aprked outside Mayor Meyer’s home. The chief was having a meeting with the mayor. He quickly jumped into mhis car, sped to the scene and investigated the accident. There were no citations issued.
Major emergencies were usually handled by State Police from the Malaga Barracks who were on regular patrols in the area. Malaga Barracks were only about four miles away.
State Police were often called in by local police to assist then on such emergencies as our police were not equipped to investigate crime, major fires or auto fatalities in the community. Of course, there was very little crime in those days and I know of many local residents who never though of locking their doors when they went to bed at night.
This history was written by Alex C. Alampi, November 30, 1984.