History of the Wilbraham Police Department

Through most of Wilbraham's years, as it was in all small communities, constables were elected by the people of the Town. In most instances, however, the duties of a constable were limited to specific functions such as posting warrants for Town meetings and other non-arduous work. Major crimes in the Town of Wilbraham were handled by the County Sheriff, his deputies and, in the past 30 years, by the Massachusetts State Police. A constable in the Town of Wilbraham had considerable power as an officer of the law, and Wilbraham had a few of them. For many years after the turn of the century, the constables kept law and order in Wilbraham.

Among the most colorful local constables was the late Agustus F. "Gus" Friend who also served as deputy sheriff for many years. In some sections of this community, he was known as "Mr. Gus," and he was always greeted as such by law-breakers and others who had observed demonstrations of his prowess. It has been often said of Gus by police associates that he was one of the most fearless men they had ever known. Gus had a flair for breaking up brawls, no matter how many were involved, and his only weapons were his fists. He came to know every inch of the Town during his 30 years in police work, and his assistance was of immense value to the State Police in clearing up many crimes. Gus resigned his duties in 1943. The last local man known to hold an appointment of Deputy Sheriff was the late George Egan. Townspeople who remember when constables were active recall that their biggest chore of the year was the duty they performed each night before the 4th of July. They were kept on the go by pranksters. They issued warnings more frequently than they made arrests and ended their tour at the Old North Wilbraham Fire Station by having breakfast with the firemen and commiserating about their busy night.

In May of 1955, the Board of Selectmen, acting as Police Commissioners, had appointed supplementary uniformed Special Police to set up temporary local patrols in cooperation with the State Police (Monson barracks). Through a generous contribution of time and effort on the part of the Colonel James P. Powers, Routed. USA, this program was executed with minimum expense and had earned the commendation of the Massachusetts State Police. In 1958, the Regular Force consisted of a Captain Robert C. Dietz, four patrolmen, Gardner Files, William Pollitt, John Chrzanowski and Stephen Lopata and one Reserve Officer. In addition to the regular force, the Department had an auxiliary force of 28 members organized under Civilian Defense for emergency duty. Patrolman Ernest Bacon retired March 1, 1958 after many years of efficient, able and friendly police duty to the Town. A pistol range was also constructed by members of the force on property owned by Robert Converse. A weekly firearm instruction program had been instituted in which regular and auxiliary officers received training on a competitive basis. The auxiliary police revolver team placed first in the New England Police Revolver League matches that year.

In 1959, the Board of Selectmen made the Wilbraham Police Department a full-time police department, appointing William Pollitt as the Town's first Chief of Police and full-time officer. Along with Chief Pollitt the Regular Patrolmen were Gardner E. Files and John J. Chrzanowski; and the Reserve Patrolmen were Stephen E. Lopata and Alton McDonald. William Pollit served as the Police Chief for three years when he suddenly passed away on December 23, 1962.

Upon the death of Chief Pollitt, the Board of Selectmen appointed Sergeant John Chrzanowski as the acting Chief of Police. The Selectmen then, after reviewing applications, appointed John S. Leary of Hampden as the Town's 2nd Chief of Police, then a member of the Massachusetts State Police. Chief Leary assumed the duties of Chief of Police in early January 1963. The Selectmen had also appointed another full-time patrolman, Terrence T. Reidy, who took part in training provided by the State Police Academy. At this time, the police force still did not have 24-hour coverage for the Town.

In 1964, the police force made a great stride forward with the addition of a second cruiser, giving the community additional coverage. Another patrolman, Alton L. McDonald, was appointed from the reserve ranks by the Selectmen. Chief Leary had recommended that two full-time patrolmen be added, which would give the Police Department the manpower to have at least one man on the road during each of the 24 hours.