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History of the Department

Established 1897


From the organization of the Borough originally known as West Farms, in 1873 until 1911, a police committee of three members appointed by the Warden and Burgesses (the local governing officials) had charge of the local police.  Constables performed police duty until 1897, when the first uniformed policeman Robert W. French was appointed.  In 1898, the second member, John M. Loomis was added to the force.  He became a Sergeant in 1901 and was made the departmentís first Chief on May 12, 1908.  On that day, Robert W. French was promoted to Sergeant and eventually became the second Chief on June 24, 1921.

From 1904 to 1912, the West Haven Police Department had one mounted officer, Walter N. Scranton. His beat was along the waterfront from Second Avenue to the Milford Town line at Oyster River.  One of his duties was to retrieve hot-air balloons that had been released from the "White City" of Savin Rock. 

  Click Here for a history and pictures from Savin Rock  

On May 21, 1924, Harry W. Tuttle was appointed Chief and made many improvements to the department, which included modernizing equipment.  Under him a Detective Bureau was established, traffic lights were installed on main highways, an ambulance-patrol car was purchased, one motorcycle patrol, and three squad cars were added.  In 1930 Chief Tuttle installed the Henry fingerprint system, a modification of the Bertillon system and also added photographic equipment.

By 1938, the department increased to a total of 88 members, due to a large degree of the development of Savin Rock as an amusement resort.  Since that time, the department has increased to 119 members.

Originally, patrol "beats" in West Haven were mostly walking beats where a policeman would be assigned a certain area of town to patrol by foot.  These walking beats allowed the policeman to become a fixture in the area and lead to close ties between the public and the police department.  As the years progressed, these walking beats were eventually replaced with patrol cars to allow for quicker response to calls for service and easier access around the city.

Under Chief Michael Kelly the department underwent many changes and technological advances. These advances have included the establishment of the bicycle patrol unit, mobile data implementation, computerizing all divisions of the department including the processing of arrestees and addressing quality of life issues.  Chief Kelly also saw that the mobile patrol officers exited their vehicles more to re-establish the close ties with the community that the old walking beats had previously done.  Along with the bicycle patrol unit, this has lead the department to return to its roots in community based policing.

To see a photo history of the police department, please click the "See Us Now" or "See Us Then" menus to the left.

HELP! The department is looking for donations of additional police memorabilia for our web page.  Photographs and articles can be electronically scanned into the computer and incorporated into the page. We greatly appreciate any material you may have that will help tell the story of the West Haven Police Department.  Please forward all information / items to Officer Martin Garcia.  All contributors will be acknowledged on our web page. HELP!


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