THE GREEN TREE POLICE FORCE 1908 – 2008
PROTECT AND SERVE
Green Tree didn't always have the first-class police force it has today. This year marks the one hundredth year since the first police officer was appointed in the Borough.
On August 4, 1908, Council instructed the Police Committee, consisting of Charles Haudenshield, J.L. Clark, and Solicitor Robert Chess, to "make the necessary arrangements for the appointment of a police officer and taking care of prisoners."
On September 7, 1908, Council met again in chambers at 8:00 p.m. After taking care of other business, council passed an ordinance "defining the offense of disorderly conduct, prohibiting the same and providing penalties for the violation thereof." This was passed on the first reading. The council members voting "yea" were Batcheler, Clark, Clatty, Haudenshield, Heaps and Porter.
The ordinance passed again on the second reading. The rules were suspended, and the ordinance was read and passed on the third reading the same night.
Then, the ordinance to establish a police force for Green Tree Borough was also read with the rules suspended. The ordinance passed unanimously by Batchelor, Clark, Clatty, Haudenshield, Heaps and Porter. Missing the historic vote were absent council members Hassler and White. The clerk, C. E. Torrance, was also absent and replaced by Robert S. Chess.
Councilmen Hassler and Haudenshield presented the motion that the policeman be paid twenty five cents for each hour he serves. Haudenshield and Clatty, the police committee, were instructed to procure handcuffs for the policeman. The price of the handcuffs was $1.40. The meeting adjourned shortly after.
The next council meeting convened at 8:00 p.m. on October 6, 1908. Green Tree Burgess Ralph White gave a report approving council's action to provide police protection. S. J. Curry was Green Tree's first policeman.
Council approved paying officer Curry wages of $57.25 for October 1908. His wages seemed to cause the council much consternation. In November, his wages were $55.00 and $54.00 for December. They were reduced to $12.00 in January 1909, $14.00 for February and $8.00 for March after the matter of police hours was referred to the Police Committee and the Burgess for review.
During the March 9, 1909, council meeting, councilmen Heaps and Harvey were appointed to the Police and Sewer (Health) Committee. By ballot, James Sanderson was hired to replace S. J. Curry. Sanderson would serve as a policeman, but also as the health inspector. Sanderson's annual wages were estimated at the April council meeting to be $300.00 at twenty-five cents an hour.
Sanderson was paid $25.00 for March 1909; for April $12.75, and for May he received $25.00 for police work and $11.00 as a health officer. In June, Sanderson only worked as a policeman and was paid $46.00.
The July 6, 1909 council meeting witnessed the passing of several ordinances. An ordinance was passed covering motor vehicles. Gambling and gambling rooms were forbidden, along with disorderly and bawdy houses. An ordinance was passed concerning the licensing and muzzling of dogs. And reflecting Green Tree's rural status, fruit trees were protected, and trespassers were to be punished.
In 1922, Tello Collavo was hired as Green Tree's first "traffic officer". He drove a motorcycle and provided his own gas and oil out of the $3.00 received for each fine collected. Unfortunately, the condition of the roads was so poor that few people exceeded the 15 MPH speed limit and Collavo resigned a few months later. The position remained vacant until Homer Williams was appointed in 1924 to reduce speeding by giving chase with his motorcycle.
Parts and supplies for the Borough's motorcycle were purchased from Baker's Cycle Supply.
There were many chicken farms in Green Tree and much chicken thievery going on. As a result of an "emergency situation", a Vigilance Committee was formed in August 1924. Less than a year later, it was disbanded on April 7, 1925. Twenty men were deputized for this committee, badges were distributed, and patrols made. (They never did catch them.)
Officer Harry Alberte made the transition from motorcycle to his personal car to pursue violators. The Borough paid his auto insurance and a salary of $184.00 a month. In 1944, Alberte retired.
On January 4, 1926, Homer E. Williams was elected by Council as Green Tree's police officer. His pay was $100.00 per month. He was sworn in by Burgess Lampe.
At the next Council meeting, Burgess Lampe reported that A. Reed, Sr. had taken out papers as a Justice of the Peace and cases were being referred to him. In March, a new motorcycle was purchased from Baker Cycle Supply for $399.50 plus $25.25 for new equipment. Officer Williams was busy on his new motorcycle. Justice of the Peace Reed collected $180.00 in fines for April, $100.00 in May and $97.00 in June. Officer Williams also assisted Health Board Officers Nick Schmidt and J. H. Evans, earning an additional $40.00 for four months. By fall, Officer Williams had traffic under control. In October, only $20.00 in fines was collected. During November, Squire Reed finally got the "NO PARKING" signs he requested. In March, the Borough paid the Jas. H. Matthews Company $59.40 for the signs.
On April 5, 1927, Officer Williams gave notice he was going to resign to work for Carnegie. Two applications for the position of Police Officer were voted on by Council. Richard Wagner of Green Tree received four votes while Edwin F. Boyle of lngram received one vote. Wagner was hired for $100.00 per month, and also used a motorcycle.
On October 6, 1927, Burgess Lampe called a special council meeting for the purpose of again appointing a vigilance committee because of chicken thieves. Twelve men were sworn in by Burgess Lampe and paid $1.00 per year. They were: August Kaiser, Herman Hermann, Harry Clatty, John Rogers, Andrew Seibel, E. H. Williams, Edward Clark, Joseph Johnson, Julius Tilka, J. S. Moore, J. H. Evans and C.H. Haudenshield. Twelve badges were purchased from A.G. Trimble fore $15.00. By December, 14 arrests had been made. (Note: we have several of those special badges and a billy in our archives.)
By early 1928, Officer Williams was back working as a policeman in Green Tree for $110.00 per month.
In March 1928, a new Indian motorcycle with sidecar was purchased for $285.00 and a trade-in worth $205.00.
Green Tree citizens complained about the action or lack of action during a raid on a moonshine still, address not named. A Mr. Penab said moonshine was made by the lessee of John Dunbar's house and he informed the police that a car was being loaded with whiskey to haul away. Penab said the police did nothing for two hours and when the raid was made, the remaining mash was not destroyed.
Justice of the Peace Reed said the man was under a $200.00 bond to appear at a hearing the following Wednesday. Constable Lampe questioned Officer Wagner as to his part in the raid. The matter was then turned over to the Police Committee. The bootlegger pleaded guilty and was bailed out by a $1,000 bond by a Mrs. Nardi and held for court.
During 1928, Edward A. Wenk joined A. Reed as Justice of the Peace. To control the increasing automobile traffic, more traffic signs were purchased from C.H. Arnold for $138.15. Dick Wagner received a $15.00 a month raise.
By 1930, the Depression was causing cutbacks. Williams was still working for the borough, but not as a Policeman. Richard Wagner was made Police Chief and paid $140.00 per month.
In March, Green Tree priced new motorcycles for the police:
|Harley Davidson||Model 31-VL||$400|
|Henderson||Model 4 Cylinder||$476|
An Indian "Chief' was purchased. The Borough saved $65.00 by using the side car from the present bike.
As 1931 began, Police Chief Richard Wagner, was retained for the same salary of $140.00 per month.
Once again hard use had taken its toll and the motorcycle and side car needed repairs.
On June I, 1931, Duquesne Light agreed to permit their poles to carry the wires for Green Tree's fire alarm to the Police Officer's home.
The Depression hit everyone hard. During June 1931, the Borough could only pay half wages to its employees. The Police pay for June was not received until August. During August there were fourteen arrests. That summer, more animals with rabies were destroyed. As the Great Depression dragged on, fines collected by the police were down, but there was an increase in peddlers' licenses as the unemployed tried to earn a living.
A recap of police calls for 1935 shows 251 before 12:00 p.m. and 50 calls between midnight and 8:00 a.m. Other calls handled in 1935 were broken down as follows:
|Funeral and Parades||10|
|Lights Reported Out||112|
|Cases to Magistrate||90|
In February 1936, the State Highway Patrol wanted to establish a sub-station in the Borough Building. It appears this substation was never opened. (Does anyone remember?)
Police Chief Wagner had to enforce building permits and violations of those permits. As Green Tree became more residential, Burgess Lampe wanted to order 200 NO HUNTING signs during August 1936. At the time there was no ordinance to restrict hunting and the use of firearms.
On October 5, 1936, at the Council meeting, Ordinance 200 was passed into law. Ordinance 200 prohibited the discharge of any shotgun, rifle, revolver, or other firearm of any kind or character, or of any Flobert rifle (developed in Belgium by H. Pieper and contributed to the American Fire Rifle.), air gun, spring gun or other implement which impels with force metal pellets of any kind' or character within 20 yards of any highways, house, barn, stables, garage, or other building. Burgesses Wenk and Heaps reported an increase in fines collected during the fall of 1937.
Borough Ordinance 231 passed on November 2, 1939, placed load limits on Green Tree's roads.
On June 30, 1940, Edgar Irvine was paid $48.50 for watching school kids. (Was he the first school crossing guard in Green Tree? In 1940, E. W. Alberte joined the police force. Edgar Irvine worked as the borough's janitor and as a part-time police officer, as well as protecting school children.
William Reed was interviewed for the job of Police Chief in 1943 and was hired at the January 1944 Council meeting, having received 4 votes and Alberte received 1 vote. He was paid $18.00 for three days work. Reed was to be paid $42.00 a week.
Reed was not only the Police Chief, but also the Dog Catcher, Truant Officer and Board of Health Officer. His wife, Edna, was the "desk sergeant" using the family telephone for borough business. Bill used his own car to patrol the borough. Without radio communication, Chief Reed had to stop home every few hours to check on police calls. When a call for police was received after hours, Bill would put on his uniform and respond, often several times a day.
In May 1944, the Borough contracted with the "Tail Waggers' Institute" to be Green Tree's dog catchers. The names of the dog catchers assigned to the borough were Schafer and Matlack.
In 1948, Bud Crawford was hired as the second officer on the force. The two men worked twelve‑hour shifts using Green Tree's first police car, purchased that year-- a radio equipped 1948 Ford.
There were not many juvenile problems, mostly an occasional broken window or streetlight. Chicken stealing was a problem in the still rural borough. Domestic calls were common, caused by husbands coming home drunk.
One momentous fight occurred in a bar in Rook. Two brothers, who were best friends, began to argue. When one brother ripped the phone off the wall and his brother put his fist through the window, the bartender called the police. Chief Reed took one brother to jail and one to the hospital where his wife was expecting a baby. The brother who broke the window came to see the Chief the next day with his arm in a sling and apologized for the ruckus.
During the great snow of 1950, Chief Reed received an urgent call from a woman in labor living 6n Manilla Avenue. A bulldozer was commandeered to open the road as far as possible, then, a sled was used to reach the woman and bring her to the police car. When she finally reached the hospital, she was discovered to be in false labor!
With the heavy snow, people panicked and broke into the Thoroughfare Market and cleaned out the store.
As Green Tree was developing into a suburban community during the early 1950's, Crafton and Mt Lebanon were called upon for additional help if needed.
Reed was appointed Chief in 1957 with a force that included Officers Bott (1947-1956), Thompson (1950-1988), Kempf (1951-1988), Bowman (1956-1987), and Kreps (1956-1979) and retired eight months short of his sixty-fifth birthday.
On July 24, 1959, the Green Tree police force joined in the area's most famous police chase and gunfight at Chicken Hill.
Three armed bandits robbed the Hays Branch of the Peoples First National Bank and Trust Company of $27,000.00 and were chased by car through the South Hills by numerous police departments. The chase led them to the Banksville Circle and the hillside above, where the battle ensued. The robbers abandoned their car and climbed Chicken Hill taking shots at the pursuing police.
About 150 to 200 policemen arrived to chase the robbers. Two city policemen were wounded in the exchange of gunfire: city Patrolman Anthony Paga of Beechview was shot in the lower back and city Patrolman Robert W. Thompson of the North Side was shot in the abdomen and shoulder.
Joseph Gaito, one of the robbers, was shot in the abdomen. His accomplice, Edward Kern of the North Side was seized a few minutes later after a police dog led the way to his hiding place. Kern, almost unable to see after tear gas was dispensed, shot once at the dog but missed and hit a tree limb ten feet away. The third man identified as Robert Boyd was still sought.
A search helicopter was used, and police dogs called into use. The officers were strung out on Woodville Avenue which had been blocked off from Shaler Street to the Parkway. The police were armed with pistols, riot guns, carbines and machine guns and were under orders not to shoot upwards because of other lawmen moving in on the gunmen through the underbrush.
Two of the Borough policemen faced possible serious injury or death in the attempt to stop the fleeing bank robbers. Bill Thompson and George Kempf were greatly instrumental in the capture of Kerns and Gaito and were given commendations, as was then Street Commissioner Bud Crawford who barricaded streets and helped divert traffic around the chase.
A movie was made of the "Chicken Hill" battle in 1963 for the "Lee Marvin Show" television series "Lawbreakers." Reed, Thompson and Kempf played the same roles on TV as they did in real life.
Watch for another newsletter about the Green Tree police -Later years to Date. The above information was obtained from Green Tree Council minutes, old newspaper clippings and data in our archival files. Much research was done by Dave Aitken who wrote this article.