by Richard D. Baker
In the late 1800’s, Austintown Township’s population was climbing towards 2,000 people. The township contained the villages of Austintown Center, West Austintown, Smiths Corners, and Ohltown. A part of the village of Mineral Ridge was also within the township.
By the early 1900’s, the township continued to grow in population. The villages of Austintown Center and West Austintown had populations of some 250 inhabitants each. Among the first Justices of the Peace serving the township in this era were James Russell, John Carlton, and William Truesdale.
In 1915, voters of the township passed a bond issue for a centralized school building, and a high school was organized. Elsewhere in the world, the 12th World Series was played between Boston AL and Philadelphia NL in which Boston won four games to one and the first transatlantic radiotelephone call was made to the Eiffel Tower. This same year, the voters of Austintown Township elected the first recorded constable to serve the township, Herbert Dehoff. Dehoff receives 163 votes of about 225 cast in Austintown’s three precincts. The elected constables were considered “fee constables”. Their primary duty involved serving the orders and writs of the duly elected Justice of Peace. For each legal process served or delivered, the constable received a fee. The elected constable earned no pay from the township at all and was there to almost uniquely serve the Justice of the Peace.
The Growing Years
After World War I, Austintown’s population was approaching 2,000 and by the early 1920’s the Wickliffe area began to develop. By 1921, school enrollment had climbed to about350 and the voters were now electing two constables to serve the township. In that year, IF. Blaemire and F.M. Ohl were elected with 298 and 406 votes respectfully. The practice of electing constables continued into the late 1950’s, with constables running for election just as the county sheriffs are elected today. The term of office was two years. Other early elected constables included; F. Hoffner, Ray H. Shaffner, William A. Walzel, C.F. Doty and Fred Habger.
This form of law enforcement apparently worked well into the 1940’s with the elected constables working with the township “JP” or Justice of the Peace. One longtime JP of this era was BJ. Rosensteel.
Soaring through World War II, the township continued to grow. Amongst the growth came new problems for the township face including a number of taverns catering to the workers from the then booming steel mills. The minutes of the July 7th, 1945 Austintown Township Trustees meeting record that the trustees were upset with “[the] sheriff being called out several times due to loud noise and general disturbances” at township taverns. The elected constables were on call, and now did some patrolling, but they still mostly served the JP serving orders, warrants and civil papers for fees. The county sheriff was still responsible for dealing with most serious crimes within the township during this time.
On August 19, 1946, the two elected constables , John Grubis and Arthur Young, who would later go on to be elected a township trustee, attended the trustees meeting. Minutes of that meeting indicate they “were present in regard to being paid for policing the township.” The minutes continued “Mr. Grubis said they [Grubis and Young] spent a lot of time driving all over the township and received very little for such police work. He said as constable he wouldn’t average over five dollars a week.” A motion was made by Trustee Gaylord Evens and seconded by Trustee W.J. Shiveley, that as of January 1, 1947, the constables be “reimbursed by the trustees for policing the township.” Thus, on the 6th of January 1947,a resolution was passed by the Board of Trustees of Austintown Township to appoint Grubis and Young as police constables, and that they be paid “the sum not to exceed $22.50 each per month.” The trustees cited “the dire need of police protection” in this resolution, which made Grubis and Young the first paid police constables of Austintown Township, while they remained elected constables as well. Township trustees were quick to direct the constables to problems within the township. A July 21, 1947 letter to the constables, from the trustees, stated “that due to the many complaints received by the trustees in regard to wide open gambling within the township, we feel that it now becomes the duty of the township constables, who are now on the township payroll, to see that this [gambling] is discontinued.” The paid constables lasted one year. In January 1948 they were not rehired, and the township returned to elected constables working for fees only. This lasted until 1951, when trustees appointed Jack G. Bishop as the first full-time police constable.
Into the 50’s
By February 1952, Bishop was earning a salary of $350.00 per month plus an allowance of$125.00 per month “for expenses” as the township still did own a police car. Trustees cited the cost of additional gasoline being used by Bishop for the allowance. In August 1952, trustees hired Donald R. Terry as a “telephone operator and watchman” at “the” fire station -there was only one then, at 5340 Mahoning Ave. This made Terry the first “dispatcher” although there was no police two-way radio at the time. When a call was received and the constable was patrolling, a card would be hung in a window at the fire station. When the constable would drive by and see the card, he would stop in and get the details of the call. This practice went on for several years until Civil Defense radios were purchased for police use.
In 1953, the State of Ohio enacted law, which for the first time defined the roll of a township constable. Section 509.10 O.R.C. stated the following: “each constable shall apprehend, on view or with warrant, and bring to justice all felons, disturbers, and violators of the criminal laws of this State, and shall suppress all riots, affrays and unlawful assemblies which come to his knowledge and shall generally keep the peace in his Township.” This law remains in place today.
The 1955 budget of Austintown Township allowed $6000.00 for “police constable” expenses. In March of that year, trustees appointed a second constable, Vaughn N. Woodworth. The township continued to struggle with growing pains that year. In September, trustees sent a letter to Sheriff Langley requesting him to “deputize police constable Bishop so that he could make arrests and help increase traffic law enforcement on [then] State Route 18.
The constables gained a third part-time constable in March 1956 and their space in the Mahoning Ave. fire station was now being referred to in documents as “Office of Police Constables”. Since the men were not “police officers” under Ohio definition, this was technically correct. By law, they were constables working from a “constabulary”. Their office in the fire station would remain into the late 1970’s, and their title as “Township Constable” remains to this day.
The budget for the Office of Police Constables was increased to $11,000.00 in 1957, and by April of that year, there were four constables. Edgar Hoffman and James H. Hazlett Jr. were hired that month. Hazlett would go on to later become Chief of Police. This was apparently just in time considering the newspaper headlines of the day. “Raid Near City Dump Nets 11O-Gallon Moonshine Still” read one headline of an undated Youngstown Vindicator story. The December 7,1957 Youngstown Vindicator held the headline “Meridian Rd. Club Raided; 13 Arrested”. Another headline in the April 10, 1958 Niles Daily Times read “Big Time Bookie Joint Raided in Austintown”. Another undated Youngstown Vindicator headline gave the details “Grab Green Moonshine, Man, Woman in Raid”.
Again in 1958 the budget for constables was increased -now to $15,000.00, reflecting the growing need for police protection in the township. In January 1958, longtime constable Jack Bishop resigned to become a Deputy U.S. Marshal. His resignation created controversy when township trustees met in a special session to fill the vacancy. The minutes of that February 13, 1958 meeting shows that the trustees received 11 applications and that “approximately 35 persons” attended the meeting. The group “entered into a discussion criticizing the lack of information on all applicants as to general qualifications such as place of residence, experience, etc.” Trustees decided to postpone the appointment and take written applications from each candidate “stating their qualifications.” Further, trustees made a motion to have the applications screened by a five person committee, with the mission of narrowing the list down to just three applicants. Prior to this, the elected constables had simply been appointed also as paid
police constables. There had been no guidelines or qualifications let alone a written application. This action sat in motion minimum standards for appointed police constables for the township.
In an interview with former trustee Ken Zinz, James H. Hazlett Jr. reflected on these days, and how an officer was trained. Hazlett commented that the Ohio State Highway Patrol most often gave the early constables advice in matters. However the bulk of the training was “on the job.”
A milestone was reached in September 1959 when at a special session, the constables “presented the trustees with the keys for anew 1959 Dodge Pursuit Police Cruiser purchased by the constables from the receipts of a benefit show.” Austintown now had its first police car. Up to this point, constables had continued the practice of using their own cars. When on duty, a magnetic sign was placed on the door which read “Police Constable”.
The late fifties also saw the constables wearing a standard uniform, which they had to buy on their own. Headwear was an “eight point” hat, which was used with the state trooper style “Sam Brown belt” worn on the outside of the uniform jacket. The uniform itself was gray. The shoulder patch was the same design as worn by officers today with the exception that it read “Austintown Constable” rather than “Police”. The “bird” in the center of the patch is actually a Falcon in tribute the Austintown Fitch High School football team. The Falcon would later appear on door decals in the early 60’s in a design that was used for more than 35 years and only recently changed.
The 1950’s were a period of immense growth for Austintown and for law enforcement serving the township. The lone constable grew to six, which continued to be static from 1959 to 1961.
Going into the 60’s the newspaper headlines changed from moonshine to bombs, burglaries, bandits and guns. “Bomb Hits Restaurant, Blast May be Warning from Mob”; Capture 4 in Burglary at Loblaw Inc; “Hold-Up Note ‘Have Gun Will Shoot”‘; “Bandit Robs Dairy Here”; and “Constable Finds Cache of Burglars” were headlines that reflected new types of crimes facing the growing force.
Another type of growing problem was illustrated when on January 11, 1960, the constables presented the trustees with a “drunkometer”, which was again purchased by the constables with receipts from their benefit show, as was a second police car. The constables donated a 1960 Ford police cruiser to the trustees on July 16, 1960. At the start of 1961 the budget was now listed as the “Police Protection Fund” and was set at $40,000.00 for the year. The total township budget was $220,471.26 and there were 57.95 miles of township roads now.
History was made on February 20, 1961, trustees created a full-time police department for Austintown Township. Newspaper articles on this topic have placed the year of the full-time department as 1963, however this is apparently in error. Dane L. Carder was named “Chief Constable”, with Albert Whitehouse named as Assistant Chief. Other officers hired were James H. Hazlett Jr., George Vahaskey, Leroy Hartman and Clayton Heck. For the first time the township would have seven day a week, 24 hour a day police protection.
Among the first equipment purchased by the township for the fledgling department was a “radar timer” at a cost of $999.85; a very large sum in 1961 dollars.
In 1962 changes within the department continued. Noel W. Featsent replaced Carder as Chief Constable on January 8, 1962. However, after only a week on the job, Featsent quit. James H. Hazlett Jr. was named as acting chief again, having been so named in 1958 also. On February 19, 1962, trustees named Harry M. Husk as Chief Constable, and created the rank of Captain, which was filled by Whitehouse.
Other changes in 1962 included the addition of a third police cruiser for the young department in March of that year. In June, trustees approved the creation of the auxiliary police at the request of Husk. These officers would assist the members of the police department by donating their time. Auxiliary police officers remain an important part of the Austintown Police District today. Limited to 25 officers, auxiliaries must take the same training required of full-time officers and agree to donate 32 hours a month in service to the department supplementing full-time officers. In exchange, auxiliary officers wishing to become full-time officers are given first consideration when openings occur. All full-time officers hired since the 1970’s have come from the auxiliary ranks.
Also by now, two-way radios were now in all three cruisers on a frequency shared with the fire department. In October of 1962 a sergeants position was created with John Statler being appointed as the departments first sergeant.
The end of 1962 saw a fourth police cruiser added to the fleet as the department continued to grow with the community. Activity listed for the year 1962 included: 883 traffic arrests (citations); 68 traffic arrests due to auto accidents; 950 written traffic warnings; 144 misdemeanor arrests; 45 felony arrests; 423 assistance rendered; 109 traffic accidents; 98 misdemeanor investigations; 122 felony investigations; 69 other investigations; 170 written complaints; 562 special details; 30 DWI arrests; 331 public official contacts; and 172 civil papers served. Total working hours that year were 19,048 with total miles driven of 117,931.
In 1963 gasoline was 26.9 cents per gallon and stamps were a nickel. More advancement came to the department that year in the form of adding nine officers to the auxiliary force and a fifth police cruiser was added to the fleet. In July, the police department, as it was being called now, had its own base radio and frequency approved by the FCC. In December of that year, the “desk men” were renamed “dispatchers”. The Communications Department was then formed. Clyde George, who had been hired as a desk man in February 1962, was named Chief Dispatcher. George would remain in this position until his retirement in 1989.
On July 15, 1964, James H. Hazlett Jr. was named Chief of Police. Hazlett would remain Chief until 1980.
The department and the township continued to grow and expand through the remainder of the 60’s. By 1969 the general fund could no longer support the needed police services. On November 7, 1969 voters of the township approved the first police levy to provide police protection. The one mill, one year levy, passed 4431 to 3343.
The Later Years
The 1970’s and 1980’s were two decades of immense growth for the township and the department. Additional police levies added officers and equipment.
In 1974, a Detective Division already in place, saw the creation of the Juvenile Division with the help of a four-year grant.
Members of the police department joined the Fraternal Order of Police in February 1974, and formed Austintown F.O.P. Lodge 126 to be their bargaining unit for contract negotiations.
Voter approval of a police levy in January 1977, resulted in the hiring of ten new officers. It was, and remains, the largest one time hiring of new officers to the Austintown Police Department. The levy also provided funds for extra cruisers and related equipment.
By September 1977, a dispute between the police officers in Lodge 126 and the township arose. The dispute, which was over recognition of Lodge 126 as the officers bargaining unit and settlement of the first labor agreement between the two sides, led to the first police strike in the townships history. Settlement was a brief respite as in January, 1979 a second police strike occurred after an impasse during negotiations of the second police contract. The strike lasted four days and was the last to affect the township. Shortly after its settlement, Ohio law was changed to provide a series of binding arbitration by a state mediator to resolve public safety contracts.
Since the mid-1950’s, the police department had shared quarters with the fire department at the #1 fire station located at 5340 Mahoning Ave. Prisoners arrested and brought to the station were often handcuffed to the heating radiator outside the dispatchers room. On one particularly busy night, an officer had to handcuff a man to the back of a fire truck to leave on an emergency call, as the radiator was already in use. As fate would have it, a fire call came in. Rather than take the intoxicated man with them, the firemen used bolt cutters to cut the cuffs and had him sit in with the dispatcher until the officer could return . An escaped arsonist was found sleeping in the bathroom one morning. These problems were resolved when the new police station was opened April 10, 1979 at 92 Ohltown Rd, to house the departments 28 officers, office staff and dispatchers. At the time, the station cost $400,000.00 to build.
On January 15, 1980 longtime officer Lt. Robert “Pappy” Goldner became the first police officer to actually retire from the police department. In August of the same year, James Hazlett stepped down as chief at his request and Capt. John C. Scott was named chief.
Due to the number of prisoners being transported to Austintown County Court #4 three days a week, a new “paddy wagon”, now more properly called a “Prisoner Transport Vehicle” was placed in service in early 1984. The new three-compartment vehicle replaced a used 1965 fire van, which had been converted and used as a wagon prior. Unit 70 remains in use today.
Also in 1984, the Crime Prevention Division was added. Within a few years, the program was recognized as the #1 program of its kind in Ohio. The award-winning program also had the largest number of block watch members within the state, with more than 4,000 residents participating. At one point, Crime Prevention also offered a weekly TV show on the local cable community channel, again a first within Ohio.
On April 30, 1987 John E. Cannon was named Chief of Police after the retirement of Jack Scott. Cannon remains as Chief of Police today.
Rounding out the remainder of the 1980’s, a major change of the structure of the department took place on Nov.1, 1987. On this date, the department officially became a “police district”. Police officers assumed the duties of being not only a township police constable, which they had remained over the years, but also now as a “police officer” serving a township police district. Ohio law recognizes different types of law enforcement and each has different powers. This change greatly enhanced the law enforcement powers of officers serving the Austintown Police District as the department is now known.
Another “first” came in July 1988, when the APD Juvenile Diversion Program was started with the assistance of a state grant. First of its kind in the region, the program was designed to “divert” juvenile offenders from entering the criminal justice system under certain conditions. The program has grown and is widely recognized and copied today as it continues to assist the youth of Austintown today.
Thanks once again to voter approval of a police levy, additional officers were added as well as the installation of a new radio system in June of 1989 and an in-house computer and Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system in September 1990. The radio system, a “trunked” 800 Mhz. system, replaced a worn VHF system shared with the Mahoning County Sheriff and Beaver Township Police. The capabilities of the new system were such that as of today, all Austintown Township departments such as road, fire, zoning and parks share the system without interfering with each other. The CAD system helps prioritize calls for the dispatchers, tracks the status of fire and police units, and helps track calls for service for both. Even prior to the addition of Enhanced 911 in Mahoning County, Austintown dispatchers had dispatched both police and fire calls since the addition of police radios to cruisers. With the addition of 911 to Mahoning County, Austintown became its own Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) and continued to
dispatch these calls from the same office located in the police station.
The last unit created within APD was the Problem Oriented Policing (POP) Unit in 1994. A community policing concept, the two-officer POP unit deals with any problem that is viewed to affect the community. Not surprisingly, the unit spends the greatest amount of time investigating street level narcotics within the township. Other “problems” the unit has been involved with include auto break-ins, auto thefts, and prostitution in the busy 1-80/S.R.46 area.
As the township nears the turn of the century and the dawn of a new millennium, the Austintown Police District will face new challenges and change. As of June 1998, the department consists of 40 officers and the Chief of Police.
In Memory of:
George T. Lamb
Randolph M. Truslow
Milo A. Whetstone
Randall N. Mitchell
Leonard W. Miller
About the History of Law Enforcement in Austintown Township
The research into the history of law enforcement in Austintown was begun in 1991 as a project by the Austintown Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 126 Richard D. Baker, Secretary-Treasurer of Lodge 126, has continued research, and compiled a short version of what is hoped to be a much more detailed effort. Many people have generously cooperated and or contributed articles, photos and other items to assist the author in this effort.
Special thanks to:
Mahoning County Board of Elections
Austintown Township, Clerks Office
Austintown Township, Zoning Office
Ken Zinz “An Interview with James H Hazlett Jr. ” by Ken Zinz
Personal memoirs of James H. Hazlett Jr.
Personal memoirs of Carole Powers
Personal memoirs of Richard Bullen
John E. Cannon, Chief of Police