Watchung Police Department History

The Watchung Police Department was formed on May 28, 1926. Councilman Richard L. Bellis was appointed Chief. The department at this time was made up of volunteers and Mr. Bellis's position was comparable to today's Police Commissioner. At the same meeting, Councilman Bellis requested the purchase of 25 police shields and 50 summons books. The Council passed the request unanimously. In June, Emile Perrett offered a Model T to the Mayor and Council for $1.00 per year to be used as a police car. They graciously accepted Mr. Perrett's offer. Since the first car did not have a radio, calls were taken by Mrs. Texier, who lived across the street from Borough Hall. When she received a call, she would turn on her porch light and the Police returning from their half hour rounds would stop in and take the call. On December 26, 1926, the council passed an ordinance "establishing a police department for the regulation, control and management of a police force." At the reorganization meeting of 1927, Mayor Corey requested an actual force be created with paid Officers and a Chief.

It wasn't until 1935 that Watchung had two (2) paid Police Officers. Al Schmeyer, who was a Sergeant was paid $27.00 per month and Elmer Nunn, who was a patrolman, was paid $25.00 per month. At the March 11, 1937 council meeting, Elmer Nunn was appointed Chief at an increase in salary to $1,200.00 per year.

Chief Nunn served until October of 1941 when he was forced to resign due to poor health and Sgt. Schmeyer took over the position of Chief. Earlier in 1941, a motorcycle was purchased for $125.00 for patrols and a 2-way radio was installed in the patrol car.

Ralph Barrett took over the position of Chief in 1952 after having been on the force since 1936. During his tenure in 1965, the Police moved their operations across the street to the Texier House. Frank Wright assumed the position as Chief in 1968.

During the 1970's, the Mayor and Council began discussions on providing a more suitable home for the Police Department. In 1976, Donald Laing was named Chief and he was followed by Richard Ryan in 1977.

With the untimely death of Chief Ryan in 1984, George King became the Chief, and in 1989 an ordinance was passed allocating the money to build a new facility. An architect was hired to design an addition to the back of Borough Hall.

In 1991, a fire at the Texier House moved the Police to a temporary quarters in a vacant building at Lockheed on Route 22 and accelerated the plans for new headquarters. Unfortunately, a small group of vocal residents protesting the construction sent the council back to the drawing board. In 1993, the Somerset Street property became available and plans began again for a new building. With the final demolition of the Lockheed building, the Police moved again, into temporary trailers next to the fire department. In 1997, Robert S. Reilly became the Chief and today the Watchung Police Department finally has a new home.