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Dayhoff: Westminster Police Department, with 200 years of history, adds six new officers

Dayhoff: Westminster Police Department, with 200 years of history, adds six new officers
Present at the ceremony: Chief Tom Ledwell, Councilmember Gilbert, Mayor Joe Dominick, police officers Courtney Brandt, Nolan Carbaugh, Eduardo Garduno, Brian Smith, Brandon O’Neil, and Mindy Phillips, councilmembers Chiavacci, Dayhoff, and Admin. Barb Matthews. (Courtesy/Submitted photo)

On Aug. 2, Westminster Mayor Joe Dominick administered the oath of office and welcomed six new officers into the Westminster Police Department. This brings the total number of sworn officers at the department, which dates back to 1819, to 45.

Present at the swearing-in ceremony were Chief Thomas Ledwell, councilmembers Tony Chiavacci, Kevin Dayhoff, Ann Thomas Gilbert, police officers Courtney Brandt, Nolan Carbaugh, Eduardo Garduno, Brian Smith, Brandon O’Neil, and Mindy Phillips, and Westminster City Administrator Barb Matthews.

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The six police officers trained at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) - Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions (MPCTC) training academy at the Public Safety Education and Training Center in Sykesville.

During the graduation ceremony, Eduardo Garduno received the class Firearms Award and the class Defensive Tactics/Physical Training Award; and Brian Smith received the class Academic Award.

The first historic reference to public safety in Westminster is found in Article Five of Westminster’s first Acts of Incorporation, which passed Feb. 5, 1819. The first recorded “Constable” was William Grumbine, appointed on June 20, 1839. Constables were paid 33 ½ cents for every person apprehended.

As a point of comparison, Scotland Yard was formed in 1829 by Sir Robert (Bobby) Peel, (which is why many early police officers were called “Peelers” or “Bobbies.”) The New York Police Department was formed in 1844.

Since Westminster’s very early beginnings, public safety has been of great importance to our community. The No. 1 reason families came together to form a community in 1764 was public safety. Indeed, without public safety, we do not have a community.

Various forms of “entertainment” were made illegal on June 20, 1839, including disturbing the peace by shouting, malicious ringing of doorbells or throwing stones against any door, fence, or gate.

In July 1840 a town law was passed that it was unlawful to “fly kites” on Main Street. The more serious crimes, such as knowingly drinking, gambling, or participating in sports on the Sabbath brought fines from $10 to $15.

One of the main public concerns of folks in Westminster in the 1800s was animals getting loose and roaming the streets. On Oct. 1, 1860, Westminster enacted an ordinance prohibiting the running at large of hogs.

On May 20, 1850, the title of “Constable” was changed to "City Bailiff.” The title of “Bailiff” was used for police officers in Westminster until 1979. On November 12, 1857, a Bailiff by the name of James Keefer lost his job for his neglect in enforcing the city ordinance against the fast driving of "buggies.”

When I was growing up in Westminster in the 1950s, the Westminster Police Department occupied two small rooms of Westminster’s City Hall and prisoners were either chained to a radiator or put in a basement storage room.

The Chief of Police was Charles L. Seipp and Westminster had six police officers, who were paid about $142 per month. The most prevalent crimes were loitering, vagrancy, and drunkenness; which was the result of the many bars located along Main Street in Westminster.

When Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding was appointed on Jan. 2, 2004, he was given a mandate to prepare the Westminster Police Department for the future. Analytically and methodically, the Westminster City Code and the Police Department’s Rules and Regulations were brought into the current century.

The previous top to bottom revamping of the department was accomplished, under the leadership of Mayor Joseph H. Hahn, by Chief Leroy Day, who was appointed after Seipp retired on Sept. 30, 1966.

In September 1971, the Westminster Common Council held a committee meeting in which riot gear — including gas grenades and grenade launchers — was proposed to "update the police force to give it more effectiveness on the street.” Apparently, Mayor Hahn “walked out” of the committee meeting.

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Earlier this year, Dominick appointed Ledwell as the new chief for the Westminster Police Department. It was on that day that Westminster Common Council unanimously approved Dominick’s appointment. Ledwell replaced Spaulding, who retired from the position on March 1.

Ledwell had previously served as the deputy chief for the Westminster department. He had held that position since August 2015. Ledwell’s law enforcement experience includes 22 years with the Frederick Police Department in Maryland, achieving the rank of chief.

During Ledwell’s tenure, we may be assured that hogs running loose, public drunkenness and speeding will probably remain against the law; however, I may take my chances on flying a kite on Main Street.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. His Time Flies column appears every Sunday. Email him at kevindayhoff@gmail.com. Dayhoff serves as a fire and police chaplain for the Westminster Fire Department and the Maryland Troopers Association Carroll County Lodge #20; and serves on the Westminster Common Council as a councilmember. The history of the Westminster Police Department is a favorite topic and portions of this discussion has been previously published.

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