In the near century since, both the amount and tenor of police activity has changed, and a display at the Glen Rock Library showcases the ways the town and its law enforcers have evolved.
Glen Rock Police Sgt. Dean Ackermann had collected police insignias since childhood, and his interest continued when retiring officers passed down a collection of old equipment to him after he joined the force 27 years ago.
He displayed the collection—old holsters and radios; badges, mug shots and old department photos—in a miniature museum at the old headquarters, and now in a display put together by the Glen Rock Historical Society, the public is getting a peak.
“Like anything else it’s a part of the town’s history,” Ackermann said. “A lot of people are interested in where we came from.”
Part of the display comes from the archival research of Detective James Calaski, who’s gone through old blotters to pull police calls that give a window into the lives of borough residents during the department’s early years.
That history shows a dramatic evolution in law enforcement since the founding of the borough.
After two decades of patrol by marshals armed with a gun, badge and cuffs and paid a fee for each arrest they made, Ackermann said, the town began to realize that a growing population necessitated a more regular, professional force.
The straw that broke the camel’s back, he said, was a 1915 train robbery along the Erie Railroad line. According to a New York Times report from the period, “posses in automobiles” were called upon after a gang of five attempted the theft of silk from the train, dueling with the marshals as the “fusillade aroused the whole town.”
The other early police work of the department shows tie-ins with national history as well: a 1921 Harristown Road shootout with prohibition-era booze runners, or a bulletin that the Lindbergh baby kidnappers had been spotted boarding a New Jersey train.
And it demonstrates the way police work has changed. A Rodney Street resident that reported her dog, Rover, was missing in Nov. 1921 was informed that Rover “had been the cause of much annoyance” and that the chief had dispatched an officer to send him “to the ‘Happy Hunting Ground’ of his forefathers.”
Police have changed their approach quite a bit over the years, Ackermann remarked.
More historical pieces from early 20th century Glen Rock police work will continue to be on display through September in cases around the library, and the exhibit gives a glimpse into life beyond the department.
“Looking back at the history of any police department gives you an idea of the development of society and of the community,” Ackermann said. “The police department gets involved with everything that goes on in town, in one way or another.”