Department History

On October 4th, 1952 at a meeting of the Waterford Township Board of Trustees Treasurer Helen Reese made a motion to authorize the Township Supervisor to study the steps necessary to create a police force to serve Waterford Township. At that time the Waterford Township Board included Supervisor Lloyd L. Anderson, Clerk Louis G. Barry, Treasurer Helen Reese, Justice of the Peace William VanZandt and Justice of the Peace Donald White.

Based on the results of the study presented to the Township Board, Ordinance Eighteen was drafted, forming the basis of the Waterford Township Police Department. On October 3rd, 1953 the Waterford Township Board of Trustees unanimously passed Ordinance Eighteen, establishing the Waterford Township Police Department. The Township Board of Trustees included Supervisor Lloyd L. Anderson, Clerk Louis Barry, Treasurer Helen Reese, Trustee Oscar Loomis and Trustee Roy Olsen.

Once the Waterford Township Police Department was established a Chief of Police was needed to oversee the day to day operations of the Department. At the October 7th, 1953 meeting a list of possible candidates was presented. This list included the following individuals:
  • Clarence E. Benner*
  • Donald J. Bremer*
  • Charles E. Coker
  • Wilson G. Gardner*
  • William A. Goodfellow
  • Milton C. Jones*
  • Frederick R. Stephens
  • Dale Swanson
  • MacVean Kennedy Sweazey*
  • George W. Purdy
  • Frank VanAtta*
  • Donald L. Wall*
  • Loyal Wertz*
  • Charles Whitlock
Waterford Police Headquarters and Township Offices 1953
* An asterisk indicates the individuals that were called for oral interviews before the Township Board.

On October 17th, 1953 Frank VanAtta was appointed the First Waterford Township Chief of Police, earning a yearly salary of $5,500. In November of 1953 the first patrolmen were hired to protect Waterford Township. They included:
The first 3 patrol cars, 1953 2-door Pontiac Specials, were purchased on November 12th, 1953 from Keego Sales at a cost of $1,662.78 per car.


On January 1st, 1954 Waterford Township Clerk Louis Barry officially swore in all the police personnel. Mary Sutherland served as the first Waterford Township Police Department secretary until December 27th, 1954.

On July 19th, 1954 a motion was made by Trustee Barry, supported by Trustee Loomis, that Chief Frank VanAtta be dismissed as Chief of Police, no reason was given. The motion was tabled due to a lack of support. At that time Trustee Robert Bliss made a motion that Trustee Loomis take charge of the Police Department until the matter could be resolved. The motion passed with a 4 to 1 vote. At the July 26th, 1954 Township Board meeting the matter was removed from the table. Chief of Police Frank VanAtta was accused of engaging in partisan politics, failure to cooperate with other departments, and disregarding instructions. At this time the accusations against Chief VanAtta were accepted into the Township Board Minutes. At some unknown point between the July 19th, 1954 and the July 26th, 1954 Township Board meetings Chief VanAtta was dismissed. At the July 26th, 1954 meeting his dismissal was approved by the Township Board.

There was an overwhelming display of public support backing Chief VanAtta at the August 2nd, 1954 Township Board meeting. The attendance was so large that the meeting had to be held on the lawn of Township Hall (south-east corner of M-59 [Highland Road] and Crescent Lake Road) to accommodate the crowd. Petitions with over 3,700 signatures of Waterford Township citizens in support of Chief VanAtta were presented to the Board. The petitions called for the reinstatement of Chief VanAtta. As a result of the public outcry at the August 9th, 1954 Township Board meeting, Chief VanAtta was reinstated with full back pay. A resolution was prepared explaining that Township Supervisor Lloyd Anderson accepted the responsibility for a number of the charges brought against Chief VanAtta.


On January 3rd, 1955 the Township Board approved the first department Rules and Regulations Manual. Noteworthy sections include the statement that Police Department applicants "must be at least 5’10" tall and not over 6’4" in height, of normal weight (minimum of 165 pounds) capable of reading and writing the English language understandingly" (Section 3, Paragraph 1). That the hours of work for the patrol division were set at "6 days, 8 hours per day, with a lunch period of not more than 30 minutes allowed. The seventh day the officer will be off duty." (Section 9, Paragraph 26) And that "No member of the department shall join any union". (Section 10, Paragraph 45)

In September of 1955 Mrs. Esther Dodson was hired as the first civilian radio operator (dispatcher/ telecommunicator).


In July of 1956 the Township Board approved that the officers of the department could start a flying club, with the stipulation that the "time involved for same is not to be used for the Township or Police work whatsoever."

At the April 20th, 1957 meeting of the Township Board discussion took place regarding the reasons why the Township Board must modify the Police Department to operate on a budget of $5000 per month. At that time the Department consisted of 15 officers and 3 radio operator-typists. The Township Board voted to reduce the staff of the Township Police Department by laying off 8 patrolmen and 2 radio operators. Two days later the Township Board increased the Police Department budget $5,305.62, allowing for the reinstatement of 1 patrolman and 1 radio operator. As the financial situation of the Police Department darkened Chief VanAtta was laid off on June 17th, 1957. This reduced the Department to Captain Pender, 3 patrolmen, and 1 radio operator and reduced the Police Department budget to $2,708 per month. It cannot be determined whether or not any of these officers were called back to duty.

On October 21st, 1957 the Township Board made a motion to establish the Waterford Township Police Reserves. Their duty was to assist the Waterford Township Police Department. The official name of this group was the Civil Defense – Police Auxiliary Officers. The only known original shoulder patch from the Civil Defense – Police Auxiliary hangs in the patch display in the lobby of the Waterford Police Station. The first know officers of this group and the instatement date are as follows:
  • Frank Randolph
  • William C. Stokes
  • Charles Whitlock
  • Merrill Finkle
  • John N. Forbush
  • Donald Gravlin
  • Millard Pender
  • Loren Anderson – November 5, 1957
  • Harvey Gilchrist – November 12, 1957
  • Clayton Hall – November 12, 1957
  • Steven M. Hubbell – November 5, 1957
  • Thomas Peterson – November 5, 1957
  • David Putnam – November 8, 1957
  • David Roberts – November 9, 1957
Fatal accident on Dixie Highway on September 16, 1958 2
On November 4th, 1957 David Roberts was hired as a traffic officer, creating the Department’s Traffic Bureau.

On April 1st, 1958 Captain Millard Pender was promoted to the rank of Chief of Police, earning a salary of $6,500 per year. On June 30th, 1958 based on Chief Pender’s recommendation Patrolman William Stokes was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, placing his salary at $5,670 per year. Also Patrolman Frank Randolph was promoted to the rank of Sergeant with a yearly salary of $5,460.

On July 13th, 1959 the yearly salaries were set for the Police Department personnel. The salary range was as follows:
  • Chief: $6,500
  • Captain: $5,824
  • Lieutenant: $5,720
  • Detective: $5,564
  • Sergeant: $5,460
  • Patrolman 1: $4,836
  • Patrolman 2: $4,940
  • Patrolman 3: $5,096
  • Patrolman 4: $5,252
Fatal accident on Dixie Highway on September 16, 1958
A clothing allowance for the Chief, Captain, Detectives, and Lieutenants was set at $150.00 yearly. A Patrolman moved up in rank by recommendation of the Chief of Police and a vote of the Township Board.

The first radio system used by the Department was leased from Oakland County. On August 17th, 1959 the Township Board approved payment of the lease, the amounts were as follows:
  • August 1, 1956 through December 31, 1956 $22.20
  • January 1,1957 through December 31, 1957 $53.32
  • January 1, 1959 through July 1, 1959 $26.66
On August 31st, 1959 the Township Board reestablished the Police Department under Act 18one of the Public Acts of the State of Michigan, 1951. The roster of officers at that time included:
  • Chief – Millard J. Pender
  • Lieutenant – William Stokes
  • Sergeant – Brent Hart
  • Sergeant – Merrill Finkle
  • Sergeant – Frank Randolph
  • Detective – John Forbush
  • Detective –Ernest Mann
  • Patrolman – Richard E. Beckman
  • Patrolman – Thomas P. Farrell
  • Patrolman – Ronald Freeman
  • Patrolman – Charles Griffith
  • Patrolman – Thomas L. Kretz
  • Patrolman – David Putnam
Raymond Wilhelm and Elk in 1966.
In December of 1959 the Township Board agreed that there was a need to expand the "police quarters" rewarding the Police Department a material allowance of $365.83. It was further resolved that all work was to be furnished by off duty patrolman. The amount of their compensation was to be determined by the Township Supervisor.

In December 1959 there was an attempt made to govern the hiring of Police Department employees by Civil Service Act 78. The Township Board voted this idea down. At some point between December 1959 and 1962 the Civil Service Act 78 was adopted to govern the hiring of officers.

On May 31st, 1960 the Police Department purchased 2 portable radios. The radios were Motorola Motrac Two-Ways at a cost of $676 each.

At some point between 1954 and 1960 the Police Department’s Offices were moved from Township Hall into the east end of the Water Department (small red brick building on M-59 [Highland Road] next to the Old Township Hall). In March of 1965 the Water Department moved to their new building located on the Civic Center grounds (Crescent Lake Road and Tubbs Road). This allowed the Police Department to utilize the entire building. As the Department grew, a double-wide trailer was added to the rear of the building to house the Records Bureau, Detective Bureau, and the Administrative Offices. A stairwell was constructed to connect the trailer to the building. The lower portion of the building housed the front desk, Dispatch, the locker room, the briefing room, the Traffic Bureau, the Sergeants’ Offices, booking, the Evidence Bureau, and storage areas.

A reorganization of the command structure of the Police Department took place in February of 1961. It was as follows:
  • Chief – Millard Pender
  • Captain – William Stokes*
  • Uniformed Lieutenant – Frank Randolph
  • Sergeant – David Putnam
  • Sergeant – Charles Griffith
  • Sergeant – Merrill Finkle
  • Detective – Ernest Mann
  • Detective – Brent Hart
  • Detective – Arthur Holmes
  • Patrolman – Richard Breckman
  • Patrolman – Alton Doud
  • Patrolman – Thomas Farrell
  • Patrolman – Ronald Freeman
  • Patrolman – Neil King
  • Patrolman – Frederick St. Souver
  • Patrolman – Raymond Wilhelm
  • Patrolman – Richard Rosner
  • Typists – Florence Corwin
  • Typists – Ruth Hargraves
* An asterisk denotes a newly created position.

The Reserve force was increased to 14.

Waterford Township became a Charter Township on September 14th, 1961, causing the Police Department to reorganize in accordance with Section 12 of Act 359 P.A. 1947. At this time the rank of Chief of Police was changed to Marshall for a short time.

New uniforms were purchased for the officers in 1962. Officers were responsible for providing their own uniforms. The uniform consisted of slate gray trousers with black stripes, gray oxford shirts, gray oxford caps, light gray ties, and black shoes.

The Waterford Township Police Department is continuing its research. If you have stories, artifacts, or any other historic information please email Lieutenant Scott Good or call him at 248-618-7470.