Throughout the last one hundred and forty plus years, peacekeeping for the city of Waverly has undertaken a great many changes. Different station houses, different technology, different faces wearing different uniforms. One aspect hasn’t changed, however, the service and protection of Waverly’s citizens by the members who don the shield of the Waverly Police Department.
The occupation of law enforcement began in Waverly in the year 1868 when the city forefathers saw fit to keep the peace by hiring H.S. Halbent as the Town Marshall. Since then, the occupation of Waverly Town Marshall has changed to Waverly Police Officer. The numbers of officers have changed too. Halbent’s “one man show” style of law enforcement has increased as Waverly grew to a force of sixteen officers and one reserve officer led by Waverly’s 35th Chief of Police, Richard Pursell.
Stability is very important for citizens. The stability begins with a place to call home. Waverly Police Department’s home has projected that stability by staying put in the few locations it has called “home”. As always, the Police Department was visible to the public and open every moment for those who sought help. Citizens always knew where to find the Police Department. Whether it was located out of the city hall offices like the one located at the corner of 1st Street NE and 1st Avenue NE (1911-1956); in the downstairs portion of the Last National Bank building (1956-1976); or the present location from 1976, citizens always knew where to find them.
Events in history are always influential on how law enforcement is accomplished. In order to effectively keep up with the changes, technology had to advance as well to better suit the officers charged with the protection of the community. In other areas, policies and procedures evolved to better handle specific incidents or provide more effective methods to deal with calls for service. Some noteworthy examples in Waverly’s history:
In the 1930’s and 40’s, organized crime was readily apparent and the potential for violence against citizens elevated. Organized crime had the reputation to be particularly vicious when forced to deal with law enforcement agencies. Police Departments, including Waverly, attempted to update their own equipment with modernized weapons in order to keep up. The Waverly Police Department as well as others around the country purchased Thompson sub-machine guns (or Tommy-Guns) to deal with situations that could arise from the threat of organized crime. At the time, no other issue was greater than the influence of organized crime. Thus, officers spent more time training to combat the threat of such.
Then and now, communication between officers and the dispatchers has always been crucial to daily operations. However, during the early years, portable radios did not exist. This meant that officers on foot patrol would not receive messages if there were calls for service. Side-stepping this, a red light was posted on the corner by the now big-six buildings located at East Bremer and 1st Street NE. After receiving emergency calls, dispatchers would activate the light, alerting all foot patrols that there was a call to answer. In the new era, each officer isequipped with a portable radio to maintain constant contact with dispatch.
As times change, so did the business of enforcing the laws that protect the citizens. Traffic enforcement became another aspect of law enforcement as technology changed from “horse and buggy” times to the age of automobiles. Early squad cars were nothing more than vehicles with high-output engines and equipped with a police radio and top lights. Today’s squad cars are specifically built and designed to withstand the “round the clock” pounding of constant stop- and-go driving, pursuit capabilities, and equipped with radar, video recorders, computers, and weapons at the fingertips of the driver.
Over the decades, varieties of crimes against people evolved as did the laws that protect them. Although crimes against people grew at a geometric rate during those early years, the right of individuals changed very little. One instance, in particular, impacted law enforcement and the way policing was done. In 1966, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down the “Miranda decision”. This did not change the law but was significant to law enforcement in how the job was accomplished procedurally. The ruling protected the rights of defendants from custodial interrogation without first being read their basic rights protected under the constitution.
The aforementioned examples and technology changes still resonate today, affecting each person who serves the community as a police officer. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, one detail has remained constant, which is that the Waverly Police Department is devoted to community service. This has been evident by Waverly Police Department’s efforts over the decades to play active roles as a community member. Whether by the Special Police Unit, Waverly Police Reserve, Law Enforcement Explores, Neighborhood Watch, Blue Star, D.A.R.E., or simply reading to elementary school children, bicycle rodeos, public safety presentations, Lunch with the Law, Citizen’s Police Academy, and National Night Out, the Waverly Police Department is dedicated to the safety of the community people call “home”.