History of the Perkasie Borough Police Department
Founding through the 1940's
Even before the Perkasie Borough Police Department was formed, there was a law enforcement presence in the region. Local businessmen hired their own night watchmen as needed to protect their property. Constables were appointed and handled the rare instances where a person was thought to have violated the law. A constable name Roberts handled present day Perkasie and Sellersville. Historical records reference a small "lock up" building on 9th Street that was owned by Perkasie Borough until 1924. Constable Roberts' and his family would bring food and water to the prisoner until a posse could be formed to transport the alleged offender to Doylestown and bring him before a judge. A deed was located at Bucks County Courthouse indicating the sale of a small parcel of land by the Borough at the corner of 9th and Chestnut Streets (modern names). There is a brick shed in the approximate location of this parcel. While not certain, it is suspected that this is the "lock up" building spoken of in historical records.
The Perkasie Borough Police Department was founded on September 2, 1924 when Borough Council enacted Ordinance 117, creating the position of Borough Policeman at a salary of $15.00 per week. Early the next month, James Schatz was formally appointed at the borough's first police officer. However, it was not until January 1925 that the borough supplied Schatz with a gun, belt, and two badges. Officer Schatz patrolled in his private vehicle, as the fledgling department had no police car. The department grew slowly, as Officer Schatz' (sometimes referred to as the Chief of Police in historical records) presence was sufficient to meet the small community's needs.
Fourth of July festivities and fireworks complaints often necessitated the temporary employment of Special Police Officers for the holiday. In 1930, 10 men were hired at $.40 per hour to work the holiday period. One of these officers was Harvey J. Wambold. 1932 brought the first discussion of expanding the police department to two officers in an effort to provide a policeman on duty at night. Previously, it was customary for major businesses to hire their own night watchmen. Many of the major businesses manufactured either textiles or cigars. In the midst of the Great Depression, Borough Council decided they could not afford another officer.
A police office was established in the former J. G. Moyer building at 7th and Market Street in 1932. Local merchants donated office equipment and furniture, with a fellow building tenant donating heat during colder months. This is the first record of a police station in the history of the department.
Harvey Wambold approached Borough Council in 1934, offering to sweep up and clean the "lock up" for $2 per week. Council declined the offer. All was not lost for Wambold, as council hired him as a part-time officer in 1935. His salary was $8.00 per month.
On May 13, 1940, a police office was established in the old firehouse on N. 7th Street. This is the present location of a commercial scales and weight business. In 1942, the borough purchased a siren to be installed in Schatz' private vehicle. He was paid $1.00 per week extra for use of his own car while on duty. Typical citizen calls for police during this era included speeding on the 5th Street Boulevard and children purchasing cigarettes.
January 1, 1945 marked a pay increase to $20.00 per week for Officer Schatz. Later that year, a pension benefit was provided by the borough for Officer Schatz. In early 1947, the borough decided to add a second full time police officer, so Harvey Wambold was offered full time employment. This created a dilemma of which officer was in charge. A vote was taken and Wambold was appointed as Perkasie's first full time Chief of Police. Additionally, another part-time officer, Russ Ulmer, was hired at $1.00 per hour. Two holding cells were installed in the Perkasie Electric Generating Station on N. 7th Street, just down the street from the police office. The officers were given another pay raise, the chief to $53.00 per week and the full-time officer to $30.00.
The department saw significant growth in 1948, when the borough purchased the first dedicated police vehicle, a 1948 Chevrolet Town sedan for $1,446.95. Additionally, Russ Ulmer was given full-time employment, bringing the department to three full-time officers.
1950's Through the 1970's
The Perkasie Fire Company requested that the police station be removed from the fire house in 1950, as they wished to add additional bathroom facilities. The station was moved to the second floor of the electric building, near the holding cells. A fourth member was added to the department, a part time officer working 16 hours per week. Four new holding cells were constructed in the electric building, using old cell panels and doors obtained from the Philadelphia Police Department.
1952 brought the first two-way radio for the police car. Dispatching was provided by the Montgomery County Police Radio in Norristown. The reception was not always clear. A signal amplifier was installed to help remedy the situation.
Police Chief Wambold resigned his position in 1953. James Schatz, the department's first officer, was offered the job. He asked to be paid $82.00 per week. Borough Council refused, citing it would obligate them to make other wage adjustments to other borough employees. Schatz eventually agreed to work for $75.00 per week. A civil service commission was established in 1954 to comply with Pennsylvania law. Full-time officers were given $100.00 per year to purchase uniforms, part-time officers were given $25.00. Three school crossing guard positions were established: for 5th and Arch, 5th and Market, and 6th and Arch. The borough purchased a new police car in 1955, a Ford Tudor sedan for $1681. Retired Sergeant Kenneth Beck recalled a story from Officer Henry Fitzgerald saying that in the 1950's, he was also reimbursed for driving his private vehicle on police patrol at times. That happened when the patrol cars were broken or being serviced.
A part-time police officer named Claude Nase was hired in 1956. He was U.S. Marine Corps veteran of WW II, having served as a flame thrower operator in the Pacific Theater, including fierce combat during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Nase was promoted to a full-time officer in 1958. He entered the Philadelphia Police Academy in 1959 and was the first officer to receive formal police training. Nase was promoted to become the department's first sergeant in 1960.
The 1960's marked a great advancement in salary and benefits for officers, such as regular work schedules, overtime, and holiday pay. In 1963, Bucks County Police Radio Dispatch went on the air, marking a dramatic upgrade for communications. The police car speedometer was officially certified for accuracy to check speeds of other vehicles. Chief Schatz decided to retire in 1965, after over 40 years of service to the community. Sergeant Claude Nase was promoted to Chief of Police that same year. Police Officer Joseph Atkinson was promoted to Sergeant. A police pistol range was established on Perkasie Borough Authority land off of Hill Road in East Rockhill Township in 1966, providing a safe location for officers to practice their shooting skills. This range site remained active into the early 1980's as former Chief Gura recalls qualifying there as a newly-hired officer.
On September 9, 1968, Borough Council created a police secretary position, hiring a bright young female named Patia Schaeffer. Patia served as the backbone of the department for over 39 years, until her retirement in 2008. Her hard work was instrumental to the success of the department.
The police station moved from the electric building to the second floor of Borough Hall in 1955, located at the present site of Quakertown Bank on W. Chestnut Street. Both borough administration and the police department moved to 311 S. 9th Street in 1979, shared the newly constructed building until 2003, when the administrative office moved back to Chestnut Street, its present location.
1980's to Present
Chief Nase served as Chief of Police through the 1970's and 1980's, retiring in 1988. Sadly, he passed away one year later. Officer Darrin Baughman, now a senior patrolman, was the last officers currently on the force that Chief Nase hired. Chief David A. King was hired from outside the department and served a short tenure from 1989 to 1992. Officer Tracey Burns, one of the first female police officers in northern Bucks County, was hired under Chief King. Borough Council then hired a sergeant from Lower Moreland Police Department named Paul T. Dickinson to run the department. Chief Dickinson guided the department through a long phase of modernization and growth, including the addition of a police motorcycle to the vehicle fleet and an emphasis on community policing tenets. Chief Dickinson left to manage the Towamencin Township Police Department in 2005. Sergeant Joseph V. Gura was promoted from within department ranks to Chief of Police and led the department until his retirement in early 2013. Sergeant Steven Hillias was promoted from within the ranks in late 2013 to lead the department.
Military Service of our Members
Chief Nase was not the only member of Perkasie Police who served in our Nation's military. Officer George Polachek proudly served with the United States Marine Corps in Vietnam, mostly near the demilitarized zone. He once said with a wry smile that it was hardly demilitarized. Polachek fought primarily with an artillery unit, including heavy combat at Con Tien. His unit's accomplishments are mentioned at the United States Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA. Officer Darrin Baughman served active duty in the U.S. Navy prior to being hired by Perkasie Police. He continued to serve in the Navy Reserves and was called to active duty on a combat patrol boat unit in Kuwait in 2004. Officer Anthony DeLia was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor, which was earned during his U.S. Army activation to Iraq in 2005-2006. Prior to joining our department, he served active duty in the Army as an enlisted member of the elite Ranger Battalions. He proudly continues to serve part-time as a major with the PA National Guard. Sergeant Robert Richardson joined in the U.S. Army after graduating high school and served in a satellite communications unit in Europe, receiving awards for his excellent service. Many retirees of our department have proudly worn the uniform of our country's armed services and we thank them for their service.
The Perkasie Police Department has exploded in growth through the 1980's and 1990's, growing from six officers in 1980, to thirteen officers by early 2001. Five additional officers were hired when the Borough of Sellersville signed a contract to purchase police services from Perkasie Police starting January 2003. Calls for service continue to grow with the population each year and the department is busier than ever. Today the department employs eighteen full-time officers, two administrative assistants, and several school crossing guards. Though the department had very humble beginnings, we now employ the latest training and patrol practices, including less-lethal force options such as the Taser and oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray. Every hour of every day, Perkasie Police officers are on duty, ready to serve and protect the residents of Perkasie and Sellersville.
Sources: 50th Anniversary of Perkasie Borough, 1879 - 1929. No publisher listed, 1929.
Perkasie Pennsylvania, Seventy-fifth Anniversary Historical Edition, 1879 - 1954.
No publisher listed, 1954.
Centennial Perkasie, 1879 - 1979. Perkasie, PA: Perkasie Centennial Committee, Inc., 1979.
Moyer, James I. The History of Perkasie: June 9, 1881 to August 16, 1945 through the eyes
of the Central - News. Buckingham, PA: Buckingham Impressions, 1999.