It was ninety -nine years ago this month, on March 29, 1921 that the “State Police” bill was passed into law. It was signed into law by the then Governor Edward I. Edwards. Governor Edwards proceeded to appoint a West Point graduate and a combat veteran of World War I (at that time simply referred to as the “Great War”) as the first Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. That man was H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Schwarzkopf was born in Newark in 1895. While fighting in France, he was a Captain of an Army Company that included a soldier from Hasbrouck Heights named James P. Williams*.
The primary reason for the creation of the New Jersey State Police was for the protection of rural areas that never had any organized law enforcement beyond a local sheriff who more often than not lacked the men and resources to enforce much less patrol large swaths of our rural counties. Although today one of the most densely populated states (if not the most) in America, at the time the vast majority of New Jersey was overwhelmingly rural or farm country. Thus the moniker “Garden State”.
Schwarzkopf tenure as Superintendent would last until 1936. As the Superintendent he would assume the rank of Colonel. The same rank would be assumed by each of his successors.
Colonel Schwarzkopf, is perhaps best known for leading the investigation into the March 1, 1932 kidnapping of the baby of the America’s greatest hero of the time, aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh.* Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. was one year old when he was kidnapped in Hopewell. His body would be found in a wooden area of Hopewell about two months later. Schwarzkopf’s investigation lead to the arrest, trial and ultimately the execution of Bruno Hauptman on April 3, 1936.
Later the State Police Colonel Schwarzkopf would re-join the Army and serve during the in the second World War and achieve the rank of Major General. All the while he would sire and raise a son - another West Pointer who we would all come to know as General “Stormin” Norman” Schwarzkopf, Jr. , the hero of the Gulf War. Junior would be born in Trenton in 1934.
One of the most tragic and frustrating chapters in the history of our State Police and for law enforcement in general occurred in 1973 and still has not had any semblance of closure. For on the night of May 2, 1973, domestic terrorist Joanne Chesimard together with two of her Black Liberation Army comrades were approached by State Trooper Harper at the New Brunswick rest area on the New Jersey Turnpike. It was reported that almost at once, there was an exchange of gun fire. Chesimard and her two accomplices would shoot and wound Harper and then just as State Trooper Werner Foerster arrived as back up, they would fatally shoot the Trooper multiple times in the chest. Trooper Foerster would be survived by his young wife and two small children. Chesimard was convicted and sentenced to death. But Chesimard would later escape from the Clinton Correctional Institution for Women in 1979 with the help of BLA comrades and then flee to Cuba.
Dictator Fidel Castro would grant her “political asylum. She would become known as Assata Shakur and live the life of celebrity in Cuba often seen at Castro’s side during Communist Party rallies. There remains a two million dollar bounty on her head. Notwithstanding the bounty, President Obama saw fit to re-establish diplomatic relations with the Communist regime that had been broken off by President Eisenhower in 1961. After Eisenhower, every subsequent U.S. President followed that policy and enforced a trade embargo for over a half a century. But Obama, for some reason, did not see fit to make Chesimard’s extradition a bargaining chip before rewarding a dictator, by then Fidel’s brother Raul Castro with diplomatic relations on par with those the United States has with Canada, the United Kingdom and other of our closest allies. Perhaps Obama was hoping to bring about “regime change”. Well that has not happened.
In the decades before 2007, the Cuban regime and Chesimard supporters, domestically, might have argued that if Chesimard is extradited she would be put to death. Well that became a moot point in 2007, when Governor Corzine signed in to law a ban on the death penalty. Interestingly, the ban not only spared Megan Kanka’s killer Jesse Timmendequeas from the death penalty but also cop killer, Thomas Trantino who along with his accomplice Frank Falco tortured and then shot and killed two unarmed Lodi Policemen at the Angel Lounge on Route 46 in Lodi in 1963. (1963 was also the year that the last prisoner was executed in NJ, see my column of February 6, 2020). Trantino has been released and living free for years now. Within days of being an executioner, Falco made the misjudgment of engaging New York’s Finest in an altercation. Members of the NYPD would shoot him dead. President Trump has since reversed many of Obama’s policies with regard to Cuba, calling them part of a “terrible and misguided deal”. He specifically mentioned Chesimard while doing so.
The mission of the New Jersey State Police has, of course, expanded over the last century. The economic prosperity enjoyed post-World War II would give rise to the implementation of President Eisenhower’s vision of a vast system of interstate highways. He was inspired by efficiency of the German Autoban which of course our Army would use against the NAZIs. As great as the NJ Turnpike (a/k/a Interstate 95) and Interstate 80 are for travel and commerce they of course became and remain main arteries for nefarious activity particularly drug trafficking. Such is the case with all major highways. Our local departments have the heavy burden of policing State Highway Routes 17 and 46 and at times Route 80. The Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway (which the State Police also patrol) host over a half million vehicles every day. I once read they are like “traveling cities”.
Historically speaking, our local police departments for the most part came into being prior to the formation of the State Police.
Wood-Ridge law enforcement initially had a presence before the formation of the State Police. It came in the form of an imposing man named Julius Doerflinger. Doerflinger had the title of Borough Marshall or Constable during the 1910s and early twenties. He would patrol the streets of the Borough on foot. It was in 1922, however, that Arthur Ketschke was appointed as the first chief of the WRPD.
Like Wood-Ridge, Hasbrouck Heights’ first law enforcement officer was a Marshal. The first, J.F. Long was appointed in 1894 and would serve until 1896. It was in 1909 that the HHPD was established. The then Marshal Eugene Roeser was appointed as the Borough’s first police chief.
A pall would be cast on the Department, the community and, in fact, all law enforcement when on February 27, 1939, Patrolman Gerald DeLamater was killed in the line of duty. Tragically Patrolman paid the ultimate price on a cold winter day as he was detailed to travel on his police motorcycle to the Board of Health in Paterson to retrieve medicine to be intended for the Borough’s school children. It was while on he was on his way back to Hasbrouck Heights that his police motorcycle was involved in the fatal accident which occurred on McLean Boulevard in Paterson. He would die a hero.
Teterboro has had two Police Chiefs. The last being Chief Otto Flagg who served for about five – seven years until the Bergen County Police took over the policing of Teterboro. Before Otto Flagg and for 34 years the law man in those parts was Chief Frederick W. Bohlander, a member of the Aviation Hall of Fame for his work as an airplane mechanic as well as the Chief. *
Today the people of Wood-Ridge are protected by a police force consisting of 22 officers. The are led by Chief John Korin together with the Chief’s right hand man Captain Michael O’Donnell. The protectors of Hasbrouck Heights number 29 and have as their leader, long time Chief Michael Colaneri and it is Captain Joseph Rinke who sits at his right hand.
*James P. Williams is a paternal granduncle, Frederick W. Bohlander a maternal grand uncle, Edward Schmalz (Schmalz on the far left in the ERPD photo) a maternal great grand uncle and George Schmalz (second from left ERPD photo) a great grandfather of this writer. Edward Schmalz ‘s son Edward Schmalz, Jr. would become Chief of the Bergen County Police Department. Bohlander would marry George’s daughter my grand aunt Edna. I know, I know all that and $5 will get me a cup of coffee.
It was 250 years ago this week that the Boston Massacre took place. British Captain Preston and seven British soldiers were arrested and charged with the murder of five. They were tried. Preston and five of the soldiers were acquitted thanks to the arguments of a fine defense attorney who in light of the circumstances of protests and riots asked what would a reasonable man have done if in the shoes of the British. And so he won acquittals for six. Two were found guilty of manslaughter and were branded on the thumb with a hot iron. The defense attorney’s identity you ask? Why no other than the future Patriot and future second President of the United States – JOHN ADAMS, ESQ.
PHOTO CAPTION: Members of the East Rutherford Police Department circa 1910s. The ERPD was formed in 1906. These officers would patrol on foot unless otherwise using a trolley that operated along Paterson Avenue from one end of town to the other. Note the brothers Schmalz on the far left*. Despite intensive research the name of their dog could not be definitively established.
The writer has a law practice in Hasbrouck Heights. He is admitted to practice law in the State of New Jersey, the District of Columbia, the US Federal District Court and the US Army Court of Criminal Appeals. He is a retired Major in the US Army, Judge Advocate General Corps.