A Brief History of the
Retired Patrolman Michael LaNave
Serving with the Alliance Police Department
The first thing that needs to be said about the history of the Alliance Police Department is that there has never been one written. Part of this is due to the fact that the local newspapers only go back to 1871. Most of what is known about the department before 1904 comes only from the newspaper articles. The names of the members of the department before 1904 can only be found either in the articles of the day or in the monthly reports of the city government.
The original law enforcement officer for the City of Alliance in the early days was known as the City Marshal. The City Marshal was an elected office with a term of two years in 1854. To assist the Marshal, there were Night Watchmen, which the Mayor would appoint, provided they were approved by the city council. There was no such thing as training in those days. Originally the Marshal was paid $2.00 a day and an additional 75 cents for each arrest, with the 75 cents being paid by the person who was arrested. Later, the salary of the Marshal was changed into a yearly salary of $250.00.
At first thought, this may seem like a tidy sum of money for that time, but what’s not widely known is that the Marshal was financially responsible for the prisoners. This ranged from their meals to taking them to Canton to the Workhouse, the equivalent to the modern county jail. The usual means was by train, but occasionally it was by horse and buggy. The Marshal would have to pay for all this out of his pocket, and later submit a bill to the city council to be reimbursed. By the year 1898, the Marshal’s salary had been increased to $480.oo.
The first Marshal that can be located in any records was James G. Hogue, who was mentioned in a newspaper article on July 10, 1871, for which the city council agreed to pay his bill of $14.oo for burying dead animals and prisoner meals. During this time, the newspaper articles tell that the most common means of hauling a drunk off to jail was by a wheel barrel.
In a newspaper article of the council proceedings of February 2, 1880, the police committee of city council was instructed to purchase revolvers for the use by the city police force. Although it was unlikely that the police did not carry firearms before this date, it was probably the first equipment issued to them other than their badges.
On Monday, December 4, 1899, the Alliance City Council passed two pieces of legislation that were very important to the development of the Alliance Police Department. The first was an ordinance that abolished the elected office of City Marshal. This was needed because the police officers were not under the direction of the City Marshal, but the Mayor. This was a time in the city when the Mayor held court, well before the creation of a municipal court. This created a situation where the Mayor could not only order the arrest of an individual, but also decide their fate. The ordinance passed by a seven to one vote. The second was an ordinance that created the office of Chief of Police. The Chief of Police would be appointed every April and was subject to removal at any time, after being tried at a public hearing, held by the city council. The ordinance also set the salary for the Chief of Police at $480.oo per year. This second ordinance passed unanimously.
In the early 1900’s, the department under went several changes, becoming more like what we now understand as a police department. To aid the Chief of Police, the position of Captain was created. The full time, paid, position of Patrolman was also created. It was at this time that true twenty-four hour police service became a reality in the city. The members of the department were split into two, twelve hour, shifts and worked six days a week. There was no such thing as sick time back then. If you became sick and couldn’t work, you either worked your day off or just didn’t get paid for the day. The most common form of discipline for a member of the department was to deny them one, or more, of their days off.
The first Chief of Police in the City of Alliance was Percy D. Howell. The first Captain was Perry D. Oswalt. In 1910, Chief Howell would be replaced by Chief Richard R. France, who, prior to his appointment, been a member of the Pennsylvania Railroad Police Department. Captain Oswalt, however, continued to be a member of the department, in fact, becoming Acting Chief twice after Chief France left the department in 1916.
During the period of 1918 through 1922, there were two more Acting Chiefs. Chief Robert H. Hawkins and Chief John M. Elliott. Both men resigned their position and took up new employment outside of the city of Alliance.
On April 4, 1922, Howard E. Morris was appointed Police Chief. In 1925, Chief Morris was succeeded by Chief William D. Colvin.
Upon Chief Colvin’s resignation, Harry L. Stark was appointed the Chief of the Alliance Police Department on July 1, 1925. Chief Stark is notable because he was the longest serving Police Chief in the history of the department, holding that position for 21 years and 9 months, until his death in 1949.
Upon the death of Chief Stark, Allen O. Lower Jr. became the new Chief of Police. Chief Lower had faithfully served with the Alliance Police Department from 1914 until his retirement in 1960.
Following the retirement of Chief Allen O. Lower Jr., Captain Donald E. Cowen was appointed as Chief. With the appointment of Chief Cowen, again the department changed. Chief Cowen introduced new procedures and tools to fight crime.
It was Chief Cowen who created the department shoulder patch. The patch was so popular with other police departments, there was an attempt to have his shoulder patch become the standard for all city and township police departments through out the state. The shoulder patch has now become a stock patch with uniform suppliers and can be found on police uniforms in numerous other states. Chief Cowen was a firm believer in training, and helped create one of the first police academies in this area.
On June 6, 1972, Chief Cowen died of an aneurysm and Captain George D. Ziga became Chief. Following the retirement of Chief Ziga, Captain James R. Black, was appointed Chief in 1988. Chief of Police, Lawrence A. Dordea, was appointed after Chief Black retired in 1998.
The Alliance Police Department, fortunately, has only had two of its members killed in the line of duty in its history. On February 11, 1929, Sergeant David Gemmill was killed while responding to a report of a suspicious person near the water works on Walnut Avenue. As his vehicle was crossing the railroad tracks on North Union Avenue, a train struck his police vehicle. Sergeant Gemmill, who was 40 years old and a member of the Alliance Police Department for just over two years, was killed instantly.
The other officer who was killed was a member of the Alliance Police Auxiliary Unit, the non-paid, all volunteer, unit that assists the regular officers of the department. This organization later changed its name to the Alliance Police Reserves. Auxiliary Patrolman Pete Raga was killed on July 20, 1963, when he was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic, at night and in a rainstorm, in front of the Beechwood Playground. Patrolman Raga was 51 years old and a member of the Alliance Police Auxiliary Unit for three years.
The names of both Sergeant Gemmill and Reserve Patrolman Raga are inscribed on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.
It was during the time of Chief Morris that records show the first female was employed by the Alliance Police Department. A Mrs. J. Lowry was listed in the pay books as a Special Matron to watch a demented woman for two days in May of 1922. However, it wasn’t until July 7, 1923, that the first full time female officer, Alice M. Deller, was appointed to the department. Alice Deller served with the department for approximately three years. It would take another 51 years for women to have another first with the Alliance Police Department when, in 1974, Rachel E. Huffman was appointed the first female Detective, working with Detective Bryce Conway, as a member of the Child Welfare Bureau. Later in her career, Rachel Huffman went on to become the first female Command Officer when she was appointed a Sergeant in 1996, and on January 10, 2002, she retired at the rank of Lieutenant.
It was under Chief Stark that the first African-American was appointed to the Alliance Police Department. On January 13, 1948, Lionel E. Grimes was appointed as a 3rd Grade Patrolman. Just one month later, on February 17, 1948, his brother, Leon G.
Grimes, was also appointed to the department as a 3rd Grade Patrolman. The first African-American to become a Command Officer was Cleatus W. Young when he was appointed a Sergeant on July 1, 1967. Sergeant Young went on to be promoted to Captain in 1971 and later served as the Acting Chief of Police following the retirement of Chief Ziga in January of 1988 until the appointment of Chief Black in August of the same year. He retired on August 19, 1988, after 35 years with the Alliance Police Department.
Perhaps the most widely known African-American officer who served with the Alliance Police Department was Charlie J. Everett III. Patrolman Everett, who was appointed a 3rd Grade Patrolman in 1959, will always be remembered for his unique style of directing traffic. It was so unique that a traffic light outage was staged and he was summoned to direct traffic at State Street and South Union Avenue, all the while, completely unknown to him, being filmed by a crew from the television show Candid Camera. Everett eventually retired from the department in 1996, having obtained the rank of Captain with his last assignment being the Patrol Division Commander.
The field of law enforcement has always produced a strong family tradition and the Alliance Police Department has seen its share of family ties over time. There been several father and son officers to have worked at the Department. Captain Arlie Barnhouse and his son, Joseph Barnhouse, who also retired at the rank of Captain, covered 59 continuous years with the Alliance Police Department from 1928 to 1987. Second to them were Captain Lawrence Lauer and his son, Patrolman David Lauer who covered 47 continuous years from 1941 to 1988. For a brief time, Patrolman George Sotcan and his son, Patrolman Michael Sotcan, served together during the 1960’s. The most recent father and son combination was Patrolman Scott Blake, who when hired in 1999, filled the opening created by the retirement of his father, Detective George Blake. The most unique family connection is the father and daughter combination of Captain Cleatus Young and his daughter, Dispatcher Pamela Young, who was among the first group of civilian dispatchers hired in 1990. Although they never worked at the Department together, Captain Young having retired in 1988, the strong sense of tradition continues. Sometimes the tradition skips over a generation or two, but it is always there. This is the case of Lieutenant Rachel Huffman who can trace a family connection back four generations to Marshal Thomas Johnston, who served the City of Alliance from 1880 to 1882. There have been countless brothers, and sisters, who have served on the Alliance Police Department, proving that law enforcement is a tradition with a strong family bond.
The first Canine appointed to the Alliance Police Department was Jerico, a Golden Retriever, in March of 1995. Jerico is a narcotics detection dog. For health reasons, Jerico was placed into semi-retirement in 2000, but later went into full retirement in 2003. Following the semi-retirement of Jerico, a German Shepard, Zeus, was appointed to fill Jerico’s vacancy. Zeus was trained as a narcotics detection and police patrol dog. When Zeus was appointed to the department, a contest was held with the students of the elementary schools to give him a name. A fifth grader of North Lincoln Elementary School submitted the name Zeus. In 2003, at the time of Jerico’s full retirement, a second canine was added to the active roster of the Alliance Police Department. This was Kai, also a German Shepard.
This is just a brief glimpse into the history of the Alliance Police Department.
Information in this document was obtained through researching microfilm records at Rodman Public Library of the local newspapers. These included the Alliance Leader, Alliance Weekly Local, Alliance Daily Review, and Alliance Review.
Alliance City Marshals
James G. Hogue 04-01-1872
John C. Griffith 04-01-1872 04-06-1874
George W. Shaver 04-06-1874 04-03-1876
William H. Anderson 04-03-1876 04-01-1878
George M. Kingsbury 04-01-1878 04-05-1880
Thomas J. Johnston 04-05-1880 05-01-1882
James G. Hogue 05-01-1882 05-20-1882
Matthias W. Lowman 05-20-1882 08-17-1885
Dennis V. Smeltz 08-17-1885 07-18-1887
Hiram Hartzell 08-01-1887 04-02-1888
T. Mahlon Stacy 04-02-1888 04-04-1892
George McFarland 04-04-1892 04-02-1894
Thomas R. Jones 04-02-1894 04-04-1898
Dennis V. Smeltz 04-04-1898 04-17-1900
Alliance Police Chiefs
Chief Percy D. Howell 04-17-1900 01-01-1910
Chief Richard R. France 01-01-1910 08-14-1916
Acting Chief Perry D. Oswalt 08-14-1916 11-15-1917
Acting Chief John A. Fawcett 11-15-1917 01-13-1918
Acting Chief Perry D. Oswalt 01-13-1918 04-30-1918
Acting Chief Robert H. Hawkins 04-30-1918 10-16-1919
Acting Chief John M. Elliott 10-16-1919 03-31-1922
Chief Howard E. Morris 04-01-1922 07-01-1925
Chief William D. Colvin 07-01-1925 07-01-1927
Chief Harry L. Stark 07-01-1927 04-03-1949
Chief Allen O. Lower Jr. 04-03-1949 09-17-1960
Chief Donald E. Cowen 09-17-1960 06-03-1972
Chief George D. Ziga 06-03-1972 01-31-1988
Acting Chief Cleatus W. Young 01-31-1988 08-19-1988
Chief James R. Black 08-19-1988 02-25-1998
Acting Chief Norman L. Retterer 02-25-1998 07-28-1998
Chief Lawrence A. Dordea 07-28-1998 12-24-2007
Acting Chief Greg Anderson 12-25-2007 09-25-08
Chief Scott C. Griffith 09-26-2008