The recent uproar over the elimination of the position of Police Chief have prompted several people to asked how a small town like East Hampton got a police department in the first place.
With a change in administrations in October, 1961, the newly elected Board of Selectmen composed of Helge Palm (D) and Forrest Thatcher (D), and William Hughes, Jr. (R) began discussions, research and hearings about the Town’s police coverage. Up until that time, East Hampton police consisted of part time, unpaid, elected constables and on various occasions Railroad Detectives and US Postal Inspectors.
The Selectmen’s analysis presented three options for permanent police coverage: (1) a Resident State Trooper; (2) a full time Constable using his own vehicle and paid for mileage; or (3) a full time Constable with a town owned vehicle. Inquires were made with the Commissioner of the State Police as to the application process to obtain a Resident State Trooper. After due discussion, option (3) was selected and on December 13, 1961, George Fowler was appointed Sergeant at a salary of $4,500 and a cruiser was purchased from Partyka Chevrolet for $2,153. Our town at that time had a population of about 4,500 people. On October 15, 1963, a Town Meeting created a Police Commission electing Marion Fargo, Leon Voisin, John Wall, Charles Nichols and Russell Clark as founding members.
On October 21st, as the first act of the Police Commission, George Fowler was sworn in as the Town’s first Chief of Police. The Police Commission, elected positions, oversaw the Police Department until 1989 when, by revision of Town Charter by referendum in November 3, 1897, it was abolished, at which time the Town Manager was empowered to “appoint, based upon merit and fitness alone, all other department heads and employees, except employees of the board of education.”