Tracking the early beginnings of policing in Newark, some 340 years ago, the first recorded Act establishing police protection was in January 1668 when the townspeople chose Thomas Johnson to “Beare the office of Constable in our Towne for the year ensuing.” Johnson served as Constable for five years until 1673. During Johnson’s tenure, a “side-partner” known as John Wed was also chosen to serve.
The year 1681 marked the beginning of the Watch at Night where two men were appointed to patrol the town at night. Among the Constable’s responsibilities were two very familiar duties; first, preventing crime and second, preserving the peace.
By March of 1773, two constables were required to maintain peace and harmony in Newark. Electing both Isaac Ogden and Sylvanua Baldwin as Constables, their measure, considered by many to be an extravagance, was soon to increase, and by 1783, nine citizens had been chosen to serve. As the town’s boundaries grew, Newark was divided into four watch districts. Seven Watchmen were appointed for night patrol. The daily pay for each of these Watchmen was one dollar and the “Term of Duty” commenced at 9:00 p.m. until dawn.
In April 1836, the town of Newark was incorporated. After 170 years as a Village and Town, Newark became the third oldest major City in the United States.
Newark’s first mayor, William Halsey, was elected April 11, 1836 and among his first official acts, established the “City Watch.” The City Watchmen’s duties defined by ordinance was to “Faithfully patrol the streets and said districts, to watch said City, and apprehend and detain until daylight, all offenders against the peace and all suspicious persons whom may be found lurking about the streets or alleys at late or unreasonable hours of the night.”
It was ordered that the City Watch consist of twenty-four men and one Captain of the Watch who would be responsible for ensuring that all Watchmen did not “Quit their stations, sleep on their posts, or neglect their duties.” George C. Sindle, became the first ranking officer, appointed June 8, 1836 as Captain of the Watch.
In 1845, the City Council authorized the supply of twenty clubs for the Night Watch. Included in this legislation, the Watchman’s salary was identified as one dollar per night from April 1st through November 1st, and one dollar-twelve and one-half cents for the remainder of the year. The Captain of the Watch received the same wages plus twelve and one-half cents per night.
In 1854, a distinguishing badge was authorized and furnished to the City Watchmen. Fashioned as a star inscribed with the title “CITY WATCH”, these badges were worn on the outside breast of the coat. Twenty-five badges were purchased at one dollar each, with the cost being incurred by each individual Watchman.
October 28, 1854 marks the day the first Police Officer met his death at the hands of an assailant. Records reflect only that, “Police Officer Maxwell Badgley a brave and efficient officer, was without provocation, treacherously acted upon and murdered.”
The year 1855 brought further uniformity to members of the City Watch. On February 2, the City Council adopted a Resolution authorizing the City Policemen to “…uniform themselves at their own expense.”
The Constables, which had now become the day “Police Department” and the Night Watch, who patrolled the night streets, were separate Departments and remained so until their merger in 1857.
In 1856 the Council approved the expenditure of $7,462.00 for the Police Department and $14,458.00 for the Night Watch Department totaling $21,920.00. In April of 1857, the Night Watch and Constables were merged and became the Newark Police Department.
In the 330 plus years since Sir Robert Treat led his group to the shores of the Passaic River, the City of Newark has grown to become a truly great American Metropolis. A population of 276,000 residents swells to over one million during the daytime. Sophisticated management techniques have replaced the Captain of the Watch. Newark, the Renaissance City, continues to chart its course towards its place as one of America’s premier cities.