A historical snapshot of the Auburn Police Department
Auburn Police Department (with motorcycle) 1932
The Auburn Police Department began in the late 1800's with one night watchman. By the 1930’s, the force was primarily made up of Constables. The “police men” in 1898-9 were Harry C. Benson, Fred L. Austin, Samuel Ratcliffe, Charles Small and Guy A. Wilkins.
The area of the City of Auburn roughly covers 65 square miles. It is approximately 12 miles long extending 6 miles above the falls and 6 miles below. On average, Auburn is 4.5 miles wide. It is comprised of the following areas:Previously - Now Known AsEast Minot - West AuburnBriggs Corner - East AuburnCenter Minot - North Auburn West Danville - South Auburn
Some historical highlights:
1800's: Auburn had inspectors for Vinegar, Wood and other similar necessities when APD began. Auburn was protected by constables until the Town of Auburn became the City of Auburn. The duty of the constables was to post official notices and maintain law and order. (There are still sworn constables in the City of Auburn today.)
1869: Joseph Littlefield was the last constable prior to the City of Auburn, Joseph Hall was the first night police force member and Charles Davis was the first Special Police Officer/Night Watchman.
1870: Annual expenses for Police Department; Stephan Hayes $2, J C Addition $6, Charles Davis $493.50, J O Hall $521.25, Lewis Merrow $2, J Littlefield $42, Calvin Skinner $42 (payroll); Charles Mason $23.50 (for two revolvers): total expenditures for the year $1139.25.
1872: Officers were William Washburn (day policeman), Llewellyn Maxwell and Aretas Penny (night policemen). This constituted the entire force.
1876 (Oct): Police were permitted to build and man a guardhouse near the covered in bridge in the Barkers Mills District (today New Auburn). The total cost was not to exceed $50. A Special Police Officer was assigned to the Oak Hill Cemetery. There was on Sunday Officer and 4 Day Police had regular beats.
1894: The APD adopted the use of a special police matron (Maria M. Swett). The idea was that she could make incidents, including arrests, less stressful for women and children. She also served as a social welfare worker long before the job was common. She searched females and children, sat with them while arrested and provided community awareness about the less fortunate. Pay rates for the Police Department were as follows; Chief $70/month, Patrolman $60/month and Police Matron $200/year (on average $16.67/month). No more than 6 officers were allowed to be employed by the department.
1903: The posted speed limit in Auburn was 8 mph.
1921: APD purchased the first motorcycle for the department. It had been previously approved but the cost was prohibitive.
1932: Auburn's first motorcycle officer. Intoxication was the violation with the most arrests. This was blamed primarily on the number of illegal stills located in and around Auburn. [The State of Maine was a dry state from 1851 until 1934. It was the first dry state in the nation.] A scout car was purchased and liquor arrests went up 90% in less than a year. The second most common reason for arrest was vagrancy/transient workers due to the “Quoddy” Project in Eastport. This was a tidal power project in Eastport and many people came through Auburn on their way to Eastport.
1936: The APD is credited for saving numerous lives during the burning of New Auburn which apparently began in Pontibrand’s garage. APD purchased its first boat and trailer which was used for rescue operations on the Androscoggin River and nearby lakes.
1938: Chief Herrick organized a snowshoe patrol to check on cottages at Taylor Pond
1950's: APD officers worked the scene of a train wreck for three days on Hampshire Street near where the Beal Laundry and Denny’s are located today. The wreck stretched from Hampshire Street to Court Street.
1951-1952: Officer ranks were established so there could be a superior officer on duty at all times. During that same period, Auburn had 3 cars and 1 truck in service.
1960: The last Gamewell Traffic Signal was used in Auburn. When traffic signals were first introduced in Auburn, there were many complaints that drivers had to sit at red signals even if no other traffic was present. To solve this problem, Gamewell Traffic Signals waere introduced so an officer could go to the call box and relay a signal to have the light change from red to green. The last traffic box was located at Court and Main. There are still Gamewell boxes located throughout Auburn.
1964: The APD was the FIRST local law enforcement agency to adopt the use of walkie-talkies to communicate both intra-agency and inter-agency (with Maine State Police). Prior to radios, if there was a major issue where an officer needed assistance, he would run to a call box, phone in for help, then run back to the scene hoping that help arrived swiftly.
Underwater Search and Recovery Team was organized and lead by Sgt. Norman Spencer and Sgt. Roger Ouellette - both of whom were expert scuba divers. The team traveled throughout the state, assisting other departments that had no team. They even responded to Moosehead Lake where the team worked at a depth of 80 feet to recover three swimmers.
1965: Auburn PD installed a teletype system so it could send/receive statewide and nationwide alerts and messages rapidly.
1966-67: Interesting data about PD - “13 Persons were locked up, 179 missing persons were located, 478 parking violation tags issued, 68 hit and runs investigated, 7 suicides, 36 children trouble calls, 229 family trouble calls, 49 tenant/landlord complaints, and 6 buildings escorted through town.”
1987: The APD had 46 full time and 3 part-time police department personnel. Of those, 44 were sworn and 5 were civilian. [The APD currently has 51 full-time, sworn officers and 7 civilian staff members.]
Other historical facts
- The first jail in Auburn was located in the basement of the building where the parking lot is next to 82 Court Street. This had previously been a school, a Legion Hall, the Auburn theater and then the City Hall. It was known as the “Aunt Orra Davis House. the City offices were moved into the building in 1897. The parking lot was established as a part of the solution to on-street parking causing congestion around town.
- Auburn had an FBI certified firing range at the Auburn/Lewiston Airport. This was one of the first in the state for law enforcement officers.
- The PD has been located on Court St, Spring Street, Minot Ave, and Court Street (in this order).
- Two Auburn police officers have died in the line of duty. Officer Rodney C. "Rocky" Bonney - End of watch Monday, April 6, 1981; and Officer Norman C. Philbrick - End of watch Thursday, July 7, 1949.
Auburn Police Chiefs/City Marshals
1882-1886 Llewellyn Maxwell
1887 SB Leonard
1886-1892 Llewellyn Maxwell
1893 WS Larrabee
1894-1895 Thomas Vasmus
1896-1898 John Turner
1899-1900 Arthur B. Gracelon
1905-1910 Harry W. Rowe
1911-1914 Freeman B Taylor
1915-1916 EH Buchanan
1917-1918 Elmer Nickerson
1919-1922 Roy Mower
1923-1937 Harry W. Rowe
1938-1944 Robert W Herrick
1945-1965 Alton E Savage
1966-1973 Stephen Smyc
1973-1989 Peter Mador
1989-1994 Roger Stricker
1994-2000 Robert Tiner
2000-2006 Richard Small
2006- Phillip Crowell
Historical information generously provided by Auburn Police Department volunteer Robert Fellner through extensive research.