HISTORY OF THE WESTWOOD POLICE DEPARTMENT
The history of the Westwood Police Department dates back to September of 1894, when Aaron Tuers and Genest Houseman were appointed Marshals by Mayer I.D. Bogert. Their primary directive was bicycle enforcement, and their compensation was two dollars of every five dollar fine. By 1917 the force had grown to four Marshals under Chief Marshal W.M. Cousins. In 1918, Louis Ruckner was sworn in as Constable and appointed the first Chief of Police.
The proliferation of the motor car, due largely to Henry Ford’s development of the mass production assembly line, led to the discovery of the traffic accident. The sound of fenders bending was heard frequently at the corner of Railroad (Broadway today) and Westwood Avenues near the train station. Taxis driving at over 20 miles per hour were being blamed for much of the mayhem, and citizens pressed for a “regular Police Officer.”
In May of 1921, Mayor Ward appointed Arthur S. Bird as a Permanent Police Officer. His salary was not to exceed $1500. In addition, $499 was also provided for a motorcycle, uniforms, and other related equipment. Weekend traffic continued to increase, and in 1922 Alvin C. Lich was appointed Special Traffic Officer and assigned to control the traffic with a stop-and-go hand sign. An octagonal police booth was constructed at the corner of Westwood and Broadway in 1921. This was the center of Westwood Police operations, although the cell block and police desk were maintained in the basement of Borough Hall. The top of the police booth had a green light that would flash when the phone inside would ring, summoning the Police Officer on duty. In 1928 a Ford “touring car” was purchased for the first motor patrol. At times, when their one vehicle was being repaired Westwood Police Officers responded to calls by summoning a taxi to take them there.
In 1935 Police Headquarters was established in the newly constructed Borough Hall. In 1947 this same location became the radio communication center for several surrounding towns including Emerson, Hillsdale, River Vale, and Washington Township. The post-war years brought sweeping change to the Borough as its population and businesses grew. This prompted a need for additional Police Officers and vehicles. The Police Reserves were activated in 1951 as a unit of the State Civil Defense Organization and trained as a constantly ready disaster unit. They also serve as volunteer police support for traffic control and special assignments.
In the Centennial Year, under the command of Chief Burroughs, the Westwood Police Department stood comprised of 25 sworn Police Officers, one meter main, a records clerk, and 15 Police Reserves. In 1994, the Westwood Police Department moved into their current location at 101 Washington Avenue. Today, under the command of Chief Michael R. Pontillo, the Department stands at 26 sworn Police Officers including Class 2 and Class 3 Special Law Enforcement Officers that are augmented by a civilian staff that carry out clerical work, operate the Telecommunications (dispatch) Center, and enforce State and Borough parking Ordinances.
In 2009, in order to better serve the residents of Westwood, the Police Department began the long, arduous process of becoming an accredited agency. In 2010, the Department achieved Accreditation from CALEA (The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) and joined the ranks of the select few agencies that can boast “ some of the best practices in Law Enforcement.” The Westwood Police Department continues to this day to be an Accredited Agency under the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.