A Brief History of the Rowley Police Department
(As compiled by Chief Kevin Barry and Chief Robert Barker)
1899: John A. Savage and Leslie M. Emerson were nominated as constables at the Annual Town Meeting, which occurred at the “Third Meeting House”. This meetinghouse housed the Rowley Town Hall and the Centre Grammar School. When the current Town Hall was constructed, the Third Meetinghouse was split into two buildings, one being this building.
After some discussion including, “we can get along with one Constable for the year”, Mr. Emerson declined and Mr. Savage was elected as constable and sworn in by the newly elected Town clerk.
Mr. Savage was again elected constable with no apparent budget. If it was in the Town Clerk’s budget as it is today it wasn’t much. At this time, a Centre Grammar School Teacher was paid $40.00/month.
1920-1960’s: There were three constables elected, as opposed to one. This increase may have had something to do with prohibition, as smuggling occurred up the Rowley River as well as some parts of the Mill River. There was also a still or two in Rowley, as well as the production of hard cider. Halloween could have also been part of the cause due to the practice of our youths traveling around town and toppling over several outhouses; their particularly sweet targets were usually happened to be occupied at the time.
Electing three constables is what determined who would be the Chief of Police. The candidate who received the most votes was automatically sworn in by the Town Clerk as Chief of Police. Robert G. Hardy was the first elected Chief of Police while he worked for the Ipswich Dairy delivering milk in Rowley, and transported several prisoners in his milk truck for transgressions such as breaking and entering and public intoxication.
1970: Chief Hardy was appointed Chief of Police by the Board of Selectmen and later received life tenure through the Town Meeting and the State Legislature. The Police Station was located in the Town Hall, where it remained until May 1985.
Chief Hardy designed the police department’s shoulder patch, which we continue to wear today. The patch depicts a revolutionary cannon known to the Town of Rowley as “Old Nancy”.
Until 1979, the police station was only open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Except for these hours, dispatchers worked out of their homes but police officers were on patrol until midnight or 2:00 a.m. depending on the weeknight and activity. Dispatchers who worked out of their homes generally worked 24 hour shifts. In 1973, their hourly rate was 60 cents per hour, and in 1979, their hourly rate was 80 cents per hour.
During these years, there was a phone system called the “Blue Base” where there were a dozen phones located in police officers and dispatchers’ homes. Dialing 3388 from any phone in Rowley activated these phones. The dispatcher on duty would answer the blue phone in their home and many of the officers would listen from their homes and respond to the emergency. Responding officers consisted of the Police Chief and up to nine part-time officers who today are called reserve patrolman. At the end of any shift that the Town Hall wasn’t open, officers ended their shift at the dispatchers’ house to fill out reports and sign the log. Officers always looked forward to going to Rayne Kent’s house where there were always freshly baked cookies.
1971: Roland Kneeland was appointed as the first full-time Patrolman.
1973: Chief Hardy’s total budget for the fiscal year was $76,116.
In June, Chief Hardy was killed on Route One in a motor vehicle accident where a southbound car drove into the Chief’s lane of travel. Chief Hardy’s wife was dispatching out of her home on Railroad Avenue at the time of the accident, and attempted to dispatch her husband several times to the report of a serious motor vehicle accident. Police departments from Amesbury and Salisbury and the State Police out of Lynnfield responded to the scene.
1979: The Police Department’s fiscal budget was $101,935.00, which included a $2,500 match for a grant to purchase a cruiser replacement. The department possessed two cruisers and would trade one in every three years.
The department consisted of:
- Police Chief, Michael Bulgaris
- Two full-time patrolman, Roger Merry and Robert Smith
- Nine part-time patrolman
- Approximately six active auxiliaries
Auxiliaries would ride as a second officer with either a full-time or part-time patrolman on Sunday-Wednesday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., and part-time patrolmen would ride as a second officer, with either a full-time patrolman or another part-time patrolman on Thursday-Saturday.
1981: Police Chief R. Craig Olson disbanded the Auxiliary Police due to liability issues and costs of training.
In June, Officer Leroy (Roy) Haynes died from a heart attack after struggling with a violent intoxicated teenager. This was Rowley’s second line-of-duty death.
1983: Kevin Barry was appointed as Chief of Police, and the annual budget was at $183,118.00, which did not include funds to replace a cruiser.
For as long as anyone can remember, after the use of stocks was outlawed on the common, all prisoners were locked up in Newburyport. The night Kevin Barry was appointed Chief, the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Wendell Hopkins read a letter from the Marshal of Newburyport. We were to be evicted from the use of the Newburyport Police Department’s lock-up facilities in 90 days.
Chief Barry negotiated with Newburyport City Marshall Joe Girand and when that failed he moved to Mayor Richard Sullivan. The Mayor’s response, “it’s a good thing the Irish are running the city”. He gave us a year and later a six month extension.
1985: In May, the Police Department moved into their current building. The total cost to move was $300,000; $200,000 for the building, and $100,000 for design fees, equipment, furnishings and utilities.
At the time of funding, this was described as only a “band-aid” fix and that the projected life of this building was 8 to 10 years before the department would outgrow it.
1995: The Police Department presented a budget to renovate the station along with an addition that would include the communications center and apparatus bay for the fire dept.
1999: The Police Department presented a schematic design for a combination public safety facility for $3.9 million.
2001: 21,452 calls for service were logged as compared to 11,047 in calendar year 1984.
2002: The current budget proposal for the fiscal year is $984,354.
The Police Department had grown to consist of:
- Chief of Police
- 12 Full-time officers
- 6 Reserve patrolman
- 2 Full-time dispatchers
- 4 Part-time dispatchers
On June 14 the Rowley Police Department became the first agency in Massachusetts to achieve the newly created achievement of Certification. One year later the department became fully accredited and has been granted re-accreditation every three years since.
2005: After several failed attempts to fund an addition to the police station or build a new public safety facility, the town leased four trailers which were combined into the new administrative section of the police station. The addition was equipped using drug seizure money.
2009: In December, Chief Kevin Barry retired after 26 years of service. Deputy Chief Robert R. Barker was appointed as Chief of Police, effective January 2010. This same year, another full-time officer retired and neither position was filled reducing the force from 13 to 11 full-time officers.
2014: The number of full-time officers was increased back to 12. The current Detective Lieutenant retired and that rank was eliminated. An officer was promoted to the new rank of Detective.