History of Niles
Early colonists and settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries took
most of the law enforcement responsibilities among themselves. All
able-bodied men and young boys (sometimes even angry women) were the
protectors of their community. Municipal police departments
developed at various times in different areas of our still new and
developing country. Many rural areas used the Sheriff system whereby
one primary person was responsible for law enforcement and was
assisted by other "highly regarded" local citizens as needed.
Although the history of law enforcement in early Niles began with
the early days of Fort St. Joseph, the Niles Police Department as we
now know it was organized in 1891 when its first Police Chief,
George Dude Francis was appointed to the position. There are
some early recorded "firsts" that are interesting: On April 5, 1901
the first arrest was made by Constable Dave Toll, for riding a
bicycle on the sidewalk. The city council had adopted an ordinance
forbidding bicycles to be ridden on sidewalks. At that time bicycle
riders were referred to as wheelmen. On March 21, 1904, the City
Marshal presented the first report to the city council regarding
police activities in the City of Niles. The report reflected that
during 1903 – 1904 officers made 62 arrests and collected $91 in
fines. On May 1, 1904, the city council adopted an ordinance
granting a flat salary of
$65 a month for the Chief of Police and
$55 per month for "nightwatch constables", as they were called.
First police post built in 1895.
The first police headquarters in Niles was erected in 1895 and
was located at the corner of Second and Main Streets. This little
wooden building was used until 1926 and had standing room for
approximately four or five men. In 1926, the wooden building was
moved to the corner of Fifth and Wayne Streets where it was used by
Patrolman Lawrence Elder, who was assigned to the north section of
the city. Patrolman Elder had been with the Niles Police Department
since 1923 and retired in 1948. In 1955 this same building was given
to the Fraternal Order of Police and is presently standing at the
entrance of the FOP Youth Park on North State Street.
Officer Clarence Shockley was the first Niles Police Officer to
be killed in the line of duty. On August 14, 1907 a gunman
laid in wait at the C.R. Smith lumber yard for Officer Shockley to
make his night rounds. At 10:20 p.m. witnesses heard gun shots
and when they looked in the direction the sounds came from saw a man
running from the area. Glenn Kugler, who was walking in the
area, also heard the gunshots and located Officer Shockley lying on
the ground with blood flowing from several gunshot wounds.
Officer Shockley received treatment by several local physicians but
passed away from these wounds at 1:20 p.m. on August 15, 1907.
"State of the Art" Police and Fire Station built
in 1939 was known as "The Safety Building".
In August 1926 the City of Niles purchased the Dr. Homer Carr
residence at 202 Broadway and police headquarters was moved from
Second and Main to this location. In 1937 the City began building
the Public Safety Building which encompasses part of the Carr
location and all of the former Schmidt estate on the corner of Third
and Broadway. The Public Safety Building cost a total of $96,550.00
to construct. This construction came about because of the combined
efforts of the Board of Public Safety, the Board of Public Works and
the WPA project (Works Progress Administration), which was President
Roosevelt’s effort to put America back to work after the great
depression. The Public Safety Building was turned over to the City
Council on April 24, 1939 and from that time it served as the
location of both the fire and police departments.
At that time the Niles Police Department consisted of Chief L.O.
Bates, Captain Fred Salloway, Captain Harry Petterson, Patrolmen
Lawrence Elder, Thomas Whiteside, Oscar Schrumpf, Frank Forrest,
Arthur Hall, Charles Corcoran, Chester Erickson, Thomas Shanton, and
Arthur Pears, who later became the fourth Chief of Police.
Taken in about 1913, this picture shows the first
paid police chief, George (Dude) Frances, sporting his badge.
The coordination of manpower for the Niles Police Department was,
of course, overseen by the police chiefs. In 1891, George Francis
was employed by the city and served in this capacity until his
retirement in 1935, after 44 years of service, with the exception of
a two-year period. This two-year period was believed to be from 1924
through 1926 at which time Henry Bidwell acted as Chief of Police.
During the first Chief of Police’s rein, George Francis saw many
brutal crimes, arrested rumrunner and bootleggers and was
categorized as "Dean of Policemen" for many years throughout the
State of Michigan. He saw the police department change from a small
booth on Second and Main Streets to the "new" Public Safety Building
in 1939 and witnessed the change from answering complaints by rented
horse and buggies to bicycles and finally to motor vehicles.
Shown here (in about 1914) are patrolmen Arthur
Pears, Harry Parks, Frank Early and Richard Cutting.
Patrolman Pears' son, Arthur Pears Jr., eventually became Police
Chief Francis was succeeded by L.O. Bates, who was hired in
October 1931 and was working as assistant police chief on the night
shift when he became chief in 1935. Chief Bates retired in May, 1953
after 22 years of service. Chief Bates was succeeded by Arthur Pears
Jr., who had been hired in January 1938. Arthur Pears Jr. was
appointed acting chief of police in May and then was appointed as
the police chief in June of 1953. Chief Pears retired in December
1965. All those who have served as police chief from 1965 until the
present day are:
||1965 - 1969
||1969 - 1972
||1973 - 1974
||1974 - 1975
||1975 - 1979
||1979 - 1989
||1989 - 1995
||1996 - 2001
||2001 - 2011
||2011 - Present
Pictured here (around 1980) are officers Hubert
Ingram (L) and Rich Appleget (R).
While campaigning for her husband (about 1943),
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt is escorted by Patrolman
George Smith, Patrolman Charles Skopec, and Patrolman Vernon
Pictured from left to right: Russ Geideman, Ray
Crocker, Bob Graham, Herb Block, Jerry Toner and Dick VanTuyl.
Chief L.O. Bates was with Patrolman Vance Cooper at the time
Cooper became the second Niles officer killed in the line of duty.
Patrolman Cooper was killed while apprehending James Crosby on March
4, 1937. Chief Bates and Patrolman Cooper stopped a Greyhound bus on
M-60 and took James Crosby into custody. Crosby and Patrolman Cooper
were handcuffed together and, as they were crossing the highway,
they were both struck by another vehicle.
Between the years of 1938 and 1965, the three-man police
department grew to twenty-five officers, with one matron and two
clerks. The horses and buggies and bicycles had given way to six
automobiles and one motorcycle. The department had gone from 62
arrests to 13,957.
If Chief Francis or Chief Pears could see today’s Niles Police
Department they would truly be impressed with the highly efficient
law enforcement team that has emerged. Today’s police department is
an exceptionally well-trained unit of men and women who must excel
and specialize in many different fields including: tactical and
strategic crime analysis, crime prevention, hostage negotiation,
community policing and interaction, crime scene investigation,
weapons expertise, Special Response Team activities, K-9 training,
and many other specialties.
The Niles Police Department is currently made up of more than 55
professionals including officers, dispatchers, reserve officers,
chaplains, records bureau personnel, and school crossing guards.
Today the department boasts a fleet that includes not only standard
police vehicles, but also specially outfitted vans, trucks,
motorcycles, and SUVs. Officers today are equipped with state of the
art weapons and related equipment including less-lethal taser guns
and gas launchers. But the proof of the progress of the Niles Police
Department is seen in its ability to use today’s theories of
community-oriented law enforcement as a viable tool in protecting
lives and properties in our city. It is the professionally trained
men and women of the Niles Police Department, utilizing law
enforcement ethics as well as general orders and procedures, which
have set the standard for future growth in preserving the quality of
life we now enjoy.