By the time of the Civil War most New England towns had “peace officers” called constables. Generally speaking New England towns relied on social pressures rather than aggressive law enforcement methods to maintain law and order. The peace of the community was preserved through fear in the minds of those tempted to violate it that they will be caught and punished.
The constable was armed with powers of quelling breaches of peace, arresting without warrants and imprisoning. In Medfield, the constables were elected by Town Meeting. They had to be of good character and a resident of the town. No salary was attached to the position.
As the population of the town was small, they knew all the inhabitants. Residents were all bound to obey their powers and to aid and assist them whenever called upon. In short the constable was a public officer, well known in the community and exercising an indispensable governmental function. Strangers could not long remain in the community without their knowledge, nor could little go on without coming to their ears. This combination of official authority with intimate knowledge of the character and habits of the members of the community was well adapted, in these earlier times, to preserve a wholesome respect for law and order and to foster the belief that violators of the peace would be marked and punished.
There were also “Night Watchmen,” who were in charge of the watch during the night hours and examined all persons walking about after ten o’clock as to what their business was and where they were going. People giving unsatisfactory responses were secured until the next morning when they were brought to the nearest justice of the peace for examination.
In 1879, Medfield’s four constables were H.F Bullard, Edmund Bullard, C.E. Baker and Bennett Wilson. In the town budget the total police budget included $196.70 for detective services and $ 6.00 for special police services.
In 1880, three truant officers were appointed by the selectmen in addition to the four constables elected by town meeting. The truant officers were to make sure all youth, required to be in school, were in school. If not it was the duty of the truant officer to roundup those “skipping” and return them to school.
In the 1880 town budget, were also line items for night watchmen. George Keyes was paid $198.00 George Weaver, $21.00 G.A. Newell $16.50 and Solon Curtis $219. In 1894 the number of constables elected increased to five. David Meany was listed as Night Watch and received $364.00 for his services.
A committee was formed and reported to a special town meeting on July 31, 1894 reporting that the lockup area in the basement of town hall was inadequate and that the town should move the lockup upstairs in town hall to the room formerly used as a barber shop and purchase two iron cells.
In 1895, town meeting followed the advice of the Committee on Lockup and built a new room for the police station and lockup on the first floor of Town Hall. The new quarters featured two steel cells and convenient quarters for the officers. Due to the building of the new State Insane Asylum in the north end of town (Medfield State Hospital), selectmen appointed Edwin Ellis special policeman at the grounds of the asylum. His salary was paid for by the state.
In 1896, the town returned to having four constables, one night watchman and one special police officer and in 1897 David Meany’s position was changed to Night Watch and Keeper of the Lockup, reflecting the town’s new lock up facilities.
In 1922, Medfield selected its first Chief of Police. Police Officer Cornelius McKeown was given the job. McKeown walked a beat from the Peak House to Vine Lake Cemetery several times a day. As he did not have a vehicle of any kind, he often used a bicycle or hitched a ride to get from place to place.
As chief, McKeown made 17 arrests in 1922: Ten for drunkenness, two for being drunk and disturbing the peace, one for driving under the influence, one for assault and battery and one for vagrancy.
On September 1, 1924, Cornelius McKeown stepped down as Medfield’s first chief of Police. He said that the most difficult part of being chief was battling the rumrunners during Prohibition. McKeown’s pay, when he left as chief, was $1,459.90; his pay was 98% of the entire police budget.
After McKeown retired, George Wooley was appointed chief from September 1 to December 31, 1924. Wooley reported that since he took over in September he had investigated 35 complaints, in which three arrests were made. One was for the murder and robbery committed in the Town of Sherborn by James Mortimer, age 19. There were four stolen automobiles recovered and 12 doors found unlocked in buildings in the nighttime and secured. He said that owing to the increase in automobile traffic, he recommended that a traffic officer be appointed, to be stationed in the square for the protection of the school children before some fatal accident occurs.
Wooley was replaced as chief on January 1, 1925 with Harry Davis, who remained chief until February 1, 1926. Davis resigned to accept a job with the Norwood Garage. He was replaced by Coleman J. Hogan. Chief Hogan would stay as chief in Medfield for almost the next 30 years retiring on November 30, 1955. He would purchase a house on Miller Street and watch a small rural town grow into a suburban community.
Chief Hogan was born in Boston and served on the Boston Fire Department from 1910 to 1917. He then enrolled in the Police Department and served as a mounted officer. When the Boston Police went out on strike in 1919, Hogan also went out on strike. He then joined the Railroad police with the NY, New Haven and Hartford RR. He later went to Walpole as a patrolman before becoming Medfield’s chief. During Prohibition, Chief Hogan captured nine rumrunners from 1926 to 1929. He himself patrolled all 44 miles of Medfield roads six nights a week in a car.
In 1926, due to several automobile accidents, a flashing beacon was installed at Main and South Streets.
Coleman Hogan remained chief of police until November 30 1955, when he retired.
He was replaced by Nick Gugliotta, who was “officer in charge,” while the search went on for a new chief. The previous year, Officer Gugliotta was suspended from the force on charges of assault and battery.
Gugliotta testified he stopped Paul O’Brien, a former Medfield resident and charged him with driving under the influence. Gugliotta claimed O’Brien hit him in the chin and resisted arrest, forcing him to strike O’Brien three times in the head with his night stick. But a witness, in the police station at the time O’Brien was brought in for booking, testified that Officer Gugliotta got into a verbal argument with O’Brien at the station, grabbed O’Brien by the arm and then hit him over the head. The witness called Selectman Chairman William McCarthy, who called fellow selectmen, Joe Marcionette and Joe Roberts, all of whom reported to the police station. A verbal argument then broke out between the selectmen and Gugliotta and according to selectmen; Gugliotta assaulted Chairman McCarthy and used profane language.
Gugliotta was suspended for 30 days but appealed. In court, Gugliotta was cleared of the assault charge on O’Brien after other witnesses testified they saw O’Brien hit Gugliotta first, when he was being questioned after his car had been stopped. During another hearing, the selectmen also dropped their charges against Gugliotta and he was re-instated with all back pay.
It was not until 1959 that a new chief was appointed, with the appointment of Allan Kingsbury as chief. Kingsbury served until 1967 when he was relieved of duty. He was fired by the Selectmen after a hearing, where he was charged with mismanaging police affairs, keeping improper payroll records and misapplying department funds. He was replaced by Nina Iafolla, as “acting chief.” There were 10 police officers on the force in 1967.
Chief William Mann was appointed permanent chief in August of 1969, Chief Mann was a native of the area, born in Millis and had lived in Medfield since he was in the first grade. He became a full time permanent patrolman in the Medfield Police Department in 1959 and assumed the position of Chief in 1969. In 1970 the organization under Chief Mann included two sergeants and ten patrolmen, who used two police cruisers.
By 1971, Chief Mann was calling for the building of a new police station citing inadequate space and outdated cells in the town hall location. During the 1970’s bomb scares at the high school, vandalism throughout town and drug usage was wide-spread in Medfield. A third police cruiser was added in 1973.
On September 16, 1977, the new police station opened next to the fire station on 110 North Street, moving from the former station in Town Hall. In 1977, a third sergeant was added to the force.
In 1980, the first dispatch, Leslie Kleczek, was hired for the police department. Also by 1980, the police department now had four police cruisers. An unmarked car was added in 1987.
In 1989, Chief William Mann retired after 30 years of continuous dedicated service. Under Chief Mann’s tenure, the department grew, reflecting the growth of the town. In addition to seeing the reality of a new police station, Chief Mann devoted a great deal of his energy to drug and alcohol abuse prevention. Officers became specialized as detectives, prosecutor and safety officer. The Chief and his safety officers worked closely with the School Department.
Richard Hurley of Westwood was then appointed chief.
In 1990, Officer Thomas McNiff completed his first year as the D.A.R.E. Officer, bringing a uniformed police officer into the school for 17 weeks. In 1994, Medfield became the first town in the state to install Enhanced 911. Thanks to a grant, the first Medfield Police Bicycle Unit came into being. Officers Burton, Garvey and Carmichael served in the downtown area and in areas where the cruisers could not go.
In 2000, tragedy struck as Medfield lost its first officer “in the line of duty.” Officer Daniel McCarthy, a three and one-half year veteran was struck and killed by a motorist while directing traffic in Millis. In 2002, Officer Robert Naughton died in a kayaking accident in Maine. Officer Naughton had been a police officer for 27 year and a court officer for 10 years. In 2003, Sergeant Ronald Kerr died, after serving the town and the police force for over 32 years.
In 2006, Chief Richard Hurley retired after 16 years of dedicated service to the Medfield police force and the community. Among many other things, Chief Hurley had greatly expanded and improved communications and cooperation between the police and the school department.
Medfield native Robert Meaney was hired as chief. Officer Meaney had served in both the Medfield force and the Wellesley Police force before becoming chief. In 2009, Chief Meaney saw one of his goals achieved when lab top computers were installed in the cruisers enabling the officers to have critical pieces of information immediately available to them.