Hoboken did not have an organized police force before it became a city. At that time several constables with no specified posts attempted to keep order.
On June 11, 1855, after several weeks of planning and discussion, the city council passed an ordinance calling for the formation of Hoboken's first paid police department. Amid great excitement, the city council met and adopted a resolution authorizing the appointment of a Chief of Police and six patrolmen.
By 1898, Hoboken had a population of 49,400. The department had grown to 145 paid policemen, and a second precinct was established at 1201 Willow Ave.
Death on duty
The first Hoboken police officer killed in the line of duty was Patrolman Charles Gebhardt, badge number 31. He was shot and instantly killed on Sept. 17, 1898 while arresting two suspicious characters who were prowling about a fashionable neighborhood in upper Hoboken.
The Sept. 27 Evening Journal told the story in detail:
"For some time, robberies have been of frequent occurrence in Hoboken, and the police have made vigorous but fruitless endeavors to catch the thieves.
"Officer Gebhardt was ordered by Captain Flanning to go out in citizens clothes as an acting detective for the express purpose of watching the operations of all suspicious persons found in the upper part of the city.
"Patrolman Gebhardt left the Second Precinct at 3 p.m. and walked up 12th Street where he noticed two men acting suspiciously. After watching these men for about an hour, Officer Gebhardt believed they were about to 'crack a crib.' As he approached the men in the hallway of 1201 Bloomfield to ask what they were doing, a struggle ensued and they began to run.
"Officer Gebhardt ran after one of the individuals, who pulled a revolver from his pocket and fired ... hitting the officer twice."
The gunman was quickly captured and, according to the Evening Journal, "was taken to the station house, where he ... gave his name as James W. Brown of Erie Street, Jersey City. [He] was searched by doorman Stanton and had on him a full outfit of burglar tools, including a jimmy and 25 or more keys of skeleton design."
Brown was taken to the county jail without bail on a charge of willful murder. It was later learned that Brown had given a fictitious name. New York City detectives helped identify him as John Jackson, who had a history of burglaries, and whose picture is No. 2,090 in the Rogues' Gallery of New York.
Jackson's trial lasted two and a half days. All the evidence was in by Oct. 4, and on Oct. 5, it took the jury 47 minutes to find him guilty of murder in the first degree. On Oct. 14, Justice Lippincott sentenced Jackson to death by hanging.
Officer Gebhardt had lived at 722 Willow Ave. and was survived by a wife and five children. On Friday, Sept. 29, 1898, thousands of people came from many miles away to pay respect to Hoboken's first fallen police officer. It was the largest concourse of people ever seen in Hoboken.
Accidents claim more officers
Twenty-six years later, the department lost its second police officer, this time to an accident. On July 6, 1924, at about 4:10 a.m., Patrolman Joseph Jaeger, 30, who had been on the force only since June 15, died in St. Mary Hospital from a fractured skull suffered when his motorcycle, taking a turn at 6th and Jefferson, jumped a curb and struck a building. What caused his accident is not known.
A second motorcycle accident caused the death of another Hoboken police officer, Patrolman Thomas J. McIntyre Jr., on Saturday, Oct. 6, 1951. McIntyre was at 14th and Willow at about 5:30 p.m. when he was dispatched by radio to 111 Clinton St. on a report that a woman was screaming.
With the siren on his three-wheeler motorcycle wide open, McIntyre drove south on Willow. In front of 727 Willow, a car pulled over to allow McIntyre's vehicle to pass. However, the car's driver did not pull over far enough and McIntyre's cycle caught a wheel, tipped over, and threw McIntrye into the rear of the car. McIntyre was rushed to St. Mary Hospital, but was pronounced dead.
Patrolman McIntyre was a World War II veteran who served in the Army for three years, two of them in North Africa. He joined the Hoboken Police Department in June 1946, and was in the motorcycle division for his last two years. He wore badge number 122.
Shootout on 12th Street
Crime, not an accident, took the life of the third Hoboken police officer to die in the line of duty, in 1928.
At that time, the Hoboken Police Department had an appropriation for 206 officers. The nation was in the middle of Prohibition, and crime was running amok. With a population of 75,000, its nearness to New York City, plus being an active seaport town, Hoboken presented more policing problems than cities several times larger.
On March 9, 58-year-old Patrolman Patrick Lane was gunned down on a dark residential street while taking two armed car thieves to a Hoboken police station.
Lane, one of the best-liked men on the Force, had joined the Police Department in 1911, and had worn badge number 46 for 17 years. He was credited with many good arrests of gunmen and automobile thieves.
According to a police report of the time, Patrolman Lane had just completed his 4 p.m. to midnight tour of duty when he saw a Moon sedan speeding south on Hudson Street from 14th.
At Lane's hail, the driver stopped the vehicle. Neither he nor his passenger could produce a driver's license or vehicle registration. Lane ordered both men out of the vehicle, gave them a quick "frisk," and took a gun from one of them, a weapon which was later recovered from Patrolman Lane's coat pocket.
After Lane placed the two under arrest, he began to escort them to the Second Precinct, then at Willow and 12th. They were midway on 12th Street between Hudson and Washington when three shots rang out. As Lane dropped to the pavement, the two prisoners fled.
One man was captured by Patrolman Tormey. The second escaped into an alley between 1127 and 1129 Washington Street, where a gun with three empty chambers was later found.
Patrolman Lane was taken to St. Mary Hospital but died in its elevator.
Confession and punishment
The captured prisoner was Robert Wilkins, 24, an unemployed printer from Manhattan's East Side. He wept, described his part in the killing, and maintained that it was William Foyt, a convict just released from Sing Sing, who was the shooter. (Wilkins later pleaded guilty to stealing the car in Brooklyn and to weapons possession.)
When Wilkins gave officers Foyt's address, Inspector Daniel J. Kiely and several detectives headed for New York. With a squad of NYPD detectives, they captured Foyt in his bed in Manhattan.
Foyt was returned to Hoboken on March 27 from the "Tombs" in Manhattan and arraigned on a charge of murder. After trying to plead insanity, he went on trial on May 1, was found guilty of murder, and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
On the morning of Tuesday, March 13, 1928, the City of Hoboken paid homage to its fallen hero. Thousands lined Washington Street as Patrolman Patrick Lane was awarded a full Inspector's funeral. Flower cars and limousines were said to extend from City Hall to 17th and Willow.
Editor's note: A full version of this column was originally printed in Hoboken History Issue No. 7, published by the Hoboken Historical Museum. Please visit the museum at 1301 Hudson St. for more information. To read past columns from this year-long series, visit www.hobokenreporter.com.