Police Department History

Old photo of police

The City of Monmouth has had some form of law enforcement since its inception. While Monmouth was still a village, the village council, realized a need for someone to enforce the rules and ordinances of the newly formed town. On December 24, 1836, the council appointed Yost Huffman as the first village constable. Yost must have been a carpenter as well because on April 18, 1839, he was given a contract by the council to build hooks and ladders for use in case of a fire.

In the early years of Monmouth's history, much of the constable's time and expenses came from animal complaints. One of the first ordinances was a leash law and an order for the constable to "shoot on sight" any vicious or possibly mad dog. Most of the expenses came from the dog pound and the hog pound. Many entries in the early records show reimbursements to the constables for lumber used to build and expand the pounds.

Monmouth was incorporated as a City in 1852, and the title of constable gave way to City Marshal. James Finney was appointed to that position at the first City Council meeting and served for two years. Many of Monmouth's marshals had other jobs. Sometimes they would serve as marshal, return to their job, and then become marshal again. Reuben Branes, for instance, was appointed in 1854 and then again in 1859. Joseph A. Boynton was a detective, according to an early city directory, but he took the job of City Marshal in 1858 and 1869. Seth Smith filled the post in 1861 and again in 1867. James Lorimer was an auctioneer who served as marshal from 1862-1863.

Oscar D. Wilcox served as City Marshal in 1872 and 1874-1875. Wilcox was also the Warren County Sheriff at one time. He served as an alderman for the third ward in 1899-1900 and was a city fireman for 21 years. Wilcox owned the Wilcox Stone Contracting Company and was considered one of the best stone masons of his time.

In 1887, the City built a prison in the 100 block of North Main. Previously, the City had used the county jail for its prisoners. Other officers worked above the fire station in the 100 block of East 1st Avenue. The Monmouth Police force first appeared in uniform on July 19, 1893. The City purchased a horse and patrol wagon for the department in July of 1897.

In 1915, the prison was torn down and the site was used for City Hall until 2000. When the Police Department moved to its new station, Marshal Sloats was Chief of Police. Ed Sharp was Sergeant and Isaac W. Giles was the desk Sergeant. Officers at the time were Bert Hall, Fred L. Martin, W.H. Meier and C. S. Picket.

Up until the 1970s, officers did not have radio communication with the department. When a call came in, dispatch would turn on a red light on the Public Square. When the red light was on, officers would return to the station to get their call. At this time, officers also worked part of their day as ambulance drivers.

In June of 1989, the Police Department moved again to 600 South Main Street to share the Public Safety Building with the Fire Department. In May of 2009, the City of Monmouth completed construction of a new police building at 500 South Main Street.

Law enforcement has changed dramatically over the years, as has the Monmouth Police Department. The department currently employs 20 full time officers as well as one Public Service Officer and 13 full- and part-time civilian employees. The department has a fleet of eight equipped squads including a new animal control vehicle in 2010.

Written by: P.H. Bennett, former MPD Sergeant

Edited by: Julie Richardson, MPD Administrative Assistant