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Police Department - History

Although Canton was founded in 1805 by the late Bezaleel Wells, its first chief of police was not appointed until almost a century later in 1903. The first man to hold this job was Fred S. McCloud, who previously has served as an elected marshall. He served as chief until 1906.

Old Photograph of Canton Police Cruiser

Prior to the naming of a chief, the department had operated rather haphazardly. The first marshall, Jonathon Oldfield, and his deputy, Joseph Riegler, served their first year without pay. Their base pay the second year was $12.50, each. Some later marshals included: Joseph Riegler, George W. Oldfield, Dave Rinehart, Sam Mecherer, David Fletcher, Billy Sentry, William H. Reed and Charles Ribler.

Canton has had only 15 chiefs of police. Former police chief Thomas W. Wyatt has the longest tenure, having held the position for 23 years from 1980 to 2003. The rest, with their approximate times of service were:

Fred S. McCloud
H.W. Smith
Charles N. Riblet
William H. Gauchat
S.A. Lengel
John (Jiggs) Wise
Earl W. Hexamer
Ira A. Manderbaugh
Elmer E. Clark
James B. Quilligan
Frank J. Burnosky
David J. Maser
Thomas W. Wyatt
Dean McKimm
Bruce Lawver
Jack O. Angelo

Records show there were only two men in the department in 1856. By 1893, it had grown to 15 men and by 1901 to 31. Forty men kept the peace and order in 1913 and 51 in 1922 but by 1937 the force had jumped to 74.

An old police lock-up vehicle.  Date Unknown.

The first city detective was Joseph P. Ryan who was appointed to the department in 1895. He later became detective captain.  In 1913, when H. W. Smith was chief, the department had been departmentalized somewhat with superior officers, a detective bureau, headquarters officers, department officers and patrolmen.

In 1961 the department was comprised of 157 men and two women. These men and women have received extensive training and experience and now man the cruiser, detective, and traffic divisions, and the child welfare, morals, accident prevention and records and identification bureaus and the Canton Police Boys Club.

The authorized strength of the department, according to City Ordinance in 1961, included a chief of police, a traffic commissioner, 10 captains, 12 sergeants, 15 detectives, 120 patrolmen and two policewomen. Of the men and women, 42.5 per cent were assigned to the uniform patrol division. An additional 31.3 per cent worked in the plainclothes bureau and 26.2 per cent of the personnel were assigned to the traffic division.


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