History of Princeton Borough Police Department

Established 1886
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The Princeton area was settled in the late 1600's as farmers came to the area to cultivate the land along the Stony Brook Creek and the Millstone River. Eventually a small market area was established in what is now the central business district in Princeton. Originally called Stony Brook, the town adopted the name of Princeton in 1724.  

In 1775, the Continental Congress recommended that military companies be formed in the various townships. Out of this recommendation, the Committee of Safety was formed, which included two members from Princeton. The Committee of Safety adopted measures to examine strollers and vagabonds on the public roads who were stealing horses and robbing. They also took measures to disarm and arrest extremely violent men. 

Princeton was still a small market town when it applied to the state legislature in 1813 to become incorporated. The residents of the community saw the need for a more effective and direct way to handle the problems of keeping law and order. Princeton was becoming widely known as an educational center with The College of New Jersey (later known as Princeton University) within the town as well as the Princeton Seminary, established in 1812.

One problem to deal with at that time was that Princeton was a town divided, literally. The county line ran down its main thoroughfare, Nassau Street. Somerset County was to the north and Middlesex County was to the south. Mercer County was not established until 1838. Prior to its incorporation, county sheriffs were officially responsible to maintain law and order. The immediate cause for the townspeople to petition the legislature seeking a charter, was the necessity for ordinances having jurisdiction on both sides of Nassau Street and for a grant of police power to be exercised by a marshal and his deputies.

On February 11, 1813, the state legislature approved the request to have Princeton incorporated. On June 7,1813, the Mayor and Common Council of Princeton Borough passed an ordinance that established the duties and compensation of the Marshal of Princeton. The first power that it gave to the marshal was the power of a constable, which effectively empowered the marshal to serve warrants on persons living in town. The duties carried out by the marshal also included carrying out mandates of the Borough Council. The marshal, at the request of the Mayor, would have persons remove obstructions from sidewalks and post notices of town meetings.

Incorporated into the marshal's duties was that of being the clerk of the market. In 1817, the office of marshal and clerk of the market were combined. He was paid the salary of $30.00 per month.

The early years of marshaling in Princeton were characterized by the marshal performing only limited law enforcement functions. The marshal was basically a constable serving warrants and performing services for the Mayor and Council. The Borough did provide the marshal with some symbol of authority, maybe not a uniform but probably just a badge.

In 1847, the duties of the marshal were officially outlined by ordinance. On November 12,1847, the Mayor and Council ordained that the marshal would be elected by ballot by the members of the council at its first meeting of the new year. The same process chose the assistant marshal.

Compensation to the marshal including salary and fees could not exceed $600.00 per year. The marshal was now responsible to respond to emergencies, arrest lawbreakers and those disrupting the peace and protect the persons and property of the citizens of the Borough. 

Princeton was a midway point between two of the East's largest cities, New York and Philadelphia. As a result, the town grew and conditions within the town called for more police service. Public meetings were called for the purpose of forming a "society for pursuing and detecting thieves", as well as passing an ordinance against "those who run fast horses through town". 

On May 16,1860, the Mayor and Council enacted an ordinance that created "Night Police" in Princeton. This ordinance gave the Mayor the power to select and appoint two competent persons to act as a "Night Police Force". These officers were under the special direction of the Mayor who also determined when the men were to be on duty. Their responsibilities reflected the current problems facing the town at the time, namely, public drunkenness. They were given the same powers as the marshal and were paid $ 100.00 per year. They were also assigned to disperse those assembled upon the sidewalks in the evening who were obstructing passage, to enforce all ordinances, to protect private and public property and to enforce the ordinance for suppressing intoxication and drunkenness.  

On October 12,1886, the Princeton Borough Police Department was officially established with the passage of an ordinance titled "An Ordinance to Establish, Regulate and Control a Police Force". This ordinance identified the marshal as the Chief of Police and four policemen as being members of the police department.

The marshal and policemen had to maintain higher standards than the general public. They were to refrain from harsh, violent, coarse and profane language, could not drink or be drunk while on duty, nor were they allowed to enter any place that sold liquor or attend any balls, dances, etc., where liquor may be served. They were also required to wear a badge while on duty. 

During the period from the 1890's until around 1910 there seemed to be little change within the department. Few references could be found in either Council minutes or in the newspapers concerning the police during that time. The most logical reason for this was that during this time there was probably not much going on then. Princeton was still a small town that was growing, and the activities that required the police mostly involved serving warrants and arresting drunkards.

The decade beginning in 1910 saw a great deal of growth within the Princeton Borough Police Department, not only in structure but also in the duties that the police performed. In 1912, an ordinance was established using military titles for the members of the force. The marshal was given the title "Police Captain" and the first assistant marshal was given the title "Lieutenant".

This 1912 ordinance also stated that the Chief was to be at police headquarters whenever possible to assign his men and start them promptly when they went on duty. This was the first reference to a police headquarters that was found. Police headquarters at the time was presumably in the town market house.

At this time, the officers were expected to perform duties other than preserving the peace and arresting violators. In addition to these functions, officers were responsible for reporting broken streetlights, unsanitary conditions, conditions that were detrimental to the public health, street and sidewalk obstructions, and also to see that those creating the obstructions had proper permits.

The first ordinance dealing with the new mode of transportation, the automobile, came in May of 1913. It restricted the movement of motor vehicles, but the ordinance included horses and bicycles. At this time in history the only mode of transportation belonging to the police department were bicycles. This was documented in the Borough yearly report for 1912 that showed a police department expenditure of $37.83 for repairs to police department bicycles.

The police department had not kept up with technology at this point, and chasing criminals fleeing in autos presented a particular problem. If an officer needed to use an automobile, he would have to either commandeer a private auto or he would have to hire a cab. Police expenditures for cab hire were also documented in the 1912 yearly report. In September of 1913, a Princeton Packet newspaper article reported that Marshal Kilfoil and Assistant Marshal Bovie got into a private car and went as far as Kingston looking for a holdup man who fled town in an automobile.

In August of 1917, the Borough Council decided to install telephones in the homes of those officers who did not have them, and the Borough paid for the telephone service for those who did. When an officer left the force, the Borough had the telephone removed from their residence.

In March of 1918, the Borough installed a blinking light system made popular by August Vollmer.  1918 was well in advance of police radio cars and walkie-talkies.  The police performed basic foot patrol as well as some bicycle patrol at the time. In order for the foot patrol officer to receive an assignment, he would have to call police headquarters using the telephone of a business or resident. This blinking red light system was installed with a police telephone (call box) at the comer of Nassau Street at Witherspoon Street. When the red light above the phone was lit, the officer knew to call headquarters. Note: The red light system was still used by the police department into the 1980's!

The 1920's marked what could be considered an explosive decade for the police department especially in the area of technology. In February of 1921, police telephone booths were installed at two locations, Hodge Road at Library Place and Nassau Street at Murray Place. The installation of these booths allowed an officer to receive an assignment by going to one of these phone booth instead of trying to find a residence that had a telephone. Traffic booths were also erected at about that same time on Nassau Street to protect officers who were directing traffic from inclement weather.

The location of police headquarters also changed in the 1920's from the market square to the rear of "Van Morters Store" (102 Nassau Street). The police rented the rear of this centrally located store signing a six-year lease.

January 14,1922 marked the first time the police department had an official police vehicle with the purchase of a 1922 Harley Davidson motorcycle. The department had to hire a motorcycle policeman to operate it. This purchase was necessitated by the increase in automobile traffic in the town and the use of the motorcycle was primarily to apprehend speeders on the "new" concrete highway, now known as Nassau Street. The use of the motorcycle worked so well that the department purchased another (and hired another cycle policeman) on November 11,1922.

However successful the motorcycles were, there was still a need for an automobile. The motorcycles were not used by everybody, and in fact, went home with the motorcycle officers at the end of their shifts. The department was accustomed to commandeering private vehicles to use in pursuing fleeing criminals. However, an on August 25,1923, prompted the Borough Council to purchase an auto. On that date, Chief Charles Meyers had hailed another person's car in order to answer a call. On the way back into town, the car in which Meyers was riding, became involved in an accident, leaving Meyers injured. It took several minutes before an available car could be found to take Meyers to the hospital. It was estimated that the police responded to at least fifteen calls a month and that in these cases a taxi had to be located. A Princeton Packet article written about the purchase of a police vehicle noted that "after taxi charges are added up, the amount would have gone a long way toward the cost of a police ambulance." Not long after this incident, a "police patrol ambulance" was purchased. This vehicle was a two door Ford sedan.

In 1927, the salary for Chief of Police was $2,500.00. A regular patrolman with at least four years on the department earned $2,200.00. In addition to salary, a clothing allowance was paid to the officers.

In 1935, Officer Edward Mahan was appointed chief. One of the first things that Mahan did was to hire William Roddy, a retired NYPD Lieutenant to train the department in the proper performance of their duties. This training given by Lieutenant Roddy was the first documented training of any kind in the department up to that time.

Former Police Chief Peter McCrohan exemplified the attitudes of those attempting to get on the force in the 1930's. Chief McCrohan was one of the candidates who took the police exam in 1935. He said that being a policeman in Princeton at that time was considered a good job because there were few jobs to be had at the time. People looked positively at the job security aspect of police work especially during that time because of the depression. The depression did take its toll on the Princeton police officer. Salaries dropped from $1,800 in 1927 to $1,200 in 1936-1939.

The "radio patrol car" made it's first appearance in Princeton in 1936.  Princeton was the second police department in Mercer County to utilize the radio patrol car. When it was first put into use, it was met with much skepticism by the townspeople. In fact, a publicity campaign was run by the Borough to answer some of the questions and misconceptions that the residents had about the use of the radio patrol car. To clear up the public misconceptions a booklet was distributed to the citizens explaining the purpose of the police radio patrol and that the police were not able to pick up "Amos and Andy" broadcasts with it.

Although the 20's and 30's were explosive in the growth of the police department, the decade of the 1940's was tame in comparison. World War II was going on and there seemed to be little emphasis on the police department at the time. There were only two significant advances made in technology other than the police headquarters being moved into "Old Borough hall" on Stockton Street. In 1946 new radio equipment was installed at police headquarters and in 1947 a Teletype system was installed.

Most police officers patrolled on foot in the 1940's and the police were responsible for performing many functions. Some of the services that the police provided included checking on building and street permits, health code violations, street lights out, movie theater inspections, conducting the dog census, vacant house inspections, taxi inspections, providing temporary shelter for vagrants (lodgers), school crossings and church crossings.

World War II had a serious impact on the police department. Several of the police officers left the ranks to serve in the military. The loss of several men on a small department such as Princeton's created a serious strain on the remaining members of the force. The remaining members in fact petitioned the Borough Council on September 15,1942 stating that they would assume extra duty to replace the men in the service. As compensation for their increased work hours, the police officers received "bonuses" of $25 per month. Even with the regular policemen working longer tours to provide the town with coverage, it still was not enough and a "Police Auxiliary" was formed. The members of the Auxiliary supplied personnel to the force as needed.   This was reflected in the Council minutes on October 6,1942 where the Police Committee reported that the Police Reserves supplied a man to maintain the 5:00 p.m. -1:00 a.m. tour.

By the 1950's the police department had grown to twenty-one officers with the organizational structure consisting of one chief; one lieutenant, four sergeants, fourteen patrolmen and one chanceman. The department had two or three radio patrol cars and one motorcycle in service during the decade. Among the advances in technology that the department had taken advantage of was a "drunko-meter" and an "electric speed meter", (one of the first departments in the state to use it). Crime was not much of a factor in Princeton in the 50's, and of greatest concern to the police department during that time was traffic, occasional burglary sprees and loitering. An example of the activities the department devoted much of its time is recorded in the 1953 and 1955 Annual Reports. In those reports, the department cited 10,432 traffic violations in 1953 and in 1,873 in 1955. Also recorded were 3,386 hours spent on traffic duty in 1953 compared to 3,670 hours in 1955. Obviously, traffic related matters and providing service were primary functions of the department during the 1950's.

The 1960's were a period of social unrest in the United States and Princeton had its problems as well. Student riots in the mid-60's and the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) Vietnam War demonstrations in the late 60's and early 70's required considerable attention from the police force. The patrol officers as well as the staff personnel of the department were pushed to their limits physically as well as mentally.

In 1964, the ordinance concerning police recruit qualifications still required only a grammar school education. Although by 1969 all of the officers on the force had high school diplomas (or equivalency), none had college degrees. The term "chanceman" was no longer used after the 1960's being replaced by the term "probationary patrolman".  

Among technology improvements made in the early 1960's was the acquisition of walkie-talkie units. The department grew in strength in terms of personnel from twenty-six officers in 1961 to twenty-seven officers in 1969. Also in 1967, the physical location of police headquarters was moved from old Borough Hall on Stockton Street to the new Borough Hall across the street, where the department is housed today.

In 1972 there was a change in leadership in the department. In that year, Lieutenant Michael Carnevale was appointed Chief of Police replacing Chief Peter McCrohan, who retired after serving thirty-seven years on the force and eleven years as the Chief.

There were important changes taking place within the police department. Efforts were made to improve the professional image of the department. Rules and Regulations manuals were delivered. New Rules and Regulations were established and each officer was issued a manual containing the Rules and Regulations.   This manual was about twelve years in the workings, with initial efforts on the project beginning in 1961. The new manual drew from a rules and regulations directive that was instituted in 1955 for the department by the International Police Chiefs Association.

In the 70's, we also saw the appearance of recruits having some college background and also a few with college degrees. Residency requirements changed in the 70's going from eight miles from police headquarters to ten miles and then to no residency requirement by the decade's end.

By the 80's many of the recruits coming on to the department had four year college degrees, most with degrees in criminal justice. One of the reasons for the influx of college recruits was the attractive salary being paid by the department. In the mid-80's, the starting pay for patrol officers was in the mid $20,000.

1975 saw the entrance of one of New Jersey's first female police officers, Monica Sheehan. This officer subsequently left the force in 1980. Currently there are five female officers on the Princeton force.

The 70's and 80's saw modest specialization and technological advances on the department. Specialization was evident  with the formation of the Arson Squad (1972); Crime Prevention Unit (1978); and the Traffic Safety Unit (1978).

The organizational structure of the department changed in 1974 with the creation of the position of "captain" in addition to the chief, lieutenant, five sergeants and approximately twenty-two patrol officers. In 1989, the department, through a private donation, installed a computerized police records and computer aided dispatch system.

In 1991, Chief Michael F. Carnevale retired after nineteen years as police chief. Chief Carnevale is credited with advancing professionalism within the department.

On January 17,1991, Captain Thomas B. Michaud was appointed acting chief. His appointment was made permanent on Chief Carnevale's official retirement date of May l,1991. Chief Michaud came up through the ranks, as did all of his predecessors.

During the early 1990's, the department began to move in the direction of community policing. Officers received training in community policing, cultural diversity, and community relations. In 1994, the department installed a mobile data terminal system in all of it's marked patrol cars.

Chief Michaud retired in July 2001, being succeeded by Chief Charles W. Davall, Jr.  Chief Davall, a firm believer in the concepts of community policing, continued to move the department in that direction, while also working to advance the department technologically. 

In January 2005, Chief Davall retired after 25 years of dedicated service.  He was quickly replaced by Anthony V. Federico, a Princeton native, who has spent a productive 25 years with the police department.

In July of 2006, the department took delivery of a Harley Davidson motorcycle.  There hasn't been a motorcycle patrol in Princeton Borough since the 1960's, but thanks for forfeiture funds from the Mercer County Prosecutors Office, Princeton can hear the rumbling sounds and see the iconic mounted motorcycle patrol once again.  Officers William Perez (badge 119) and Merv Arana (badge 126) were both trained by the Philadelphia Highway Patrol, and it has gone into the regular patrol vehicle rotation.

In January of 2007, the Princeton Borough Police Department promoted Sergeant Sharon Papp from Patrol Sergeant to Lieutenant, making her the first female Lieutenant in the history of the department.  Prior to being promoted as the first female Lieutenant, she was the first female Sergeant in the departments history when she was promoted to Sergeant in September of 2003.  Prior to working for the department, Lt. Papp worked for the Mercer County Prosecutors Office and Mercer County Sheriffs Department as a Sheriff's Officer.  Lt. Papp graduated from Seton Hall University with a Masters degree.

In 2010, the Town Council reduced the size of the department from thirty-four down to thirty.  This was due mainly to the recession, as well as the fact that several officers had recently left the department over a two year period.  Also in 2010, the Town Council reinstated the position of Captain.  This position had been eliminated several years prior.  With the newly created position, Nick Sutter was promoted from Lieutenant to Captain on June 1st, 2010.



1813 Princeton Borough incorporated, with an ordinance establishing

the duties of the Marshall.

1817 - Marshal William Cook

1817 - Marshal Harry Higgins

1818 - Marshal Harry Higgins

1818 - Marshal William Hight

1818 - Marshal-Abraham Smith

1819 - Marshal Abraham Smith

1820 - Marshal Josias Ferguson

1821 - Marshal William Hankins

1831 - Marshal Joseph Mount

1837 - Marshal Ralph Gulick

1849-1860 Marshal David Hulfish

1871 - Marshal James Leggen

1871 - Marshal A. M. Suydam

1873-1874 Marshal Archibald Clow

1875 - Marshal S. Mershon

1877 - Marshal I. Wolfe

1880 - Marshal William Leggen

1886 - Princeton Borough Police Department established

1888-1889 Marshal James Cole

1889 - Marshal Joseph Amburg

1889 - Marshal William Snook

1891-1892 Marshal Francis Gill

1892 - Marshal Eb Stockton

1892 - Marshal W.A. Margerum

1893 - Marshal W. B. Lawrence

1893-1901 Marshal R. B. Tyrell

1901-1922 Marshal (Chief) William Kilfoil

1922 - Chief William Rodweller (died while in office)

1923-1933 Chief Charles Meyers

1935-1954 Chief Edward Mahan

1954-1958 Chief John H. Smith

1958-1961 Chief Raymond Mondone

1961-1972 Chief Peter McCrohan

1972-1991 Chief Michael F.Carnevale

1991-2001 Chief Thomas B. Michaud

2001-2005 Chief Charles W. Davall, Jr.

2006-2009 Chief Anthony V. Federico

Additional Resources

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Relevant Documents

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2018 Annual Police Report22

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