Department History

Old Police BuggyAlthough Canton was founded in 1805 by the late Bezaleel Wells, its first chief of police was not appointed until almost a century later in 1903. The first man to hold this job was Fred S. McCloud, who previously has served as an elected marshall. He served as chief until 1906.

The First Marshalls

Prior to the naming of a chief, the department had operated rather haphazardly. The first marshall, Jonathon Oldfield, and his deputy, Joseph Riegler, served their first year without pay. Their base pay the second year was $1,250, each. Some later marshals included: 

  • David Fletcher
  • Sam Mecherer
  • George W. Oldfield
  • William H. Reed
  • Charles Ribler
  • Joseph Riegler
  • Dave Rinehart
  • Billy Sentry

Chief of Police

Canton has had only 15 chiefs of police. Former Police Chief Thomas W. Wyatt has the longest tenure, having held the position for 23 years from 1980 to 2003. The rest, with their approximate times of service were:

ChiefTime of Service
Fred S. McCloud1903 to 1906
H.W. Smith1906 to 1913
Charles N. Riblet1913 to 1920
William H. Gauchat1920 to 1922
S.A. Lengel1922 to 1926
John (Jiggs) Wise1926 to 1927
Earl W. Hexamer1927 to 1934
Ira A. Manderbaugh1935 to 1941
Elmer E. Clark1941 to 1948
James B. Quilligan1948 to 1960
Frank J. Burnosky1960 to 1970
David J. Maser1970 to 1980
Thomas W. Wyatt1980 to 2003
Dean McKimm2003 to 2012
Bruce Lawver2012 to 2018
Jack O. Angelo2018 to 2022
John Gabbard2022 to Present

Growth of the Department

Records show there were only two men in the department in 1856. By 1893, it had grown to 15 men and by 1901 to 31. Forty men kept the peace and order in 1913 and 51 in 1922 but by 1937 the force had jumped to 74.

The First City Detective

The first city detective was Joseph P. Ryan who was appointed to the department in 1895. He later became detective captain. In 1913, when H. W. Smith was chief, the department had been departmentalized somewhat with:

  • Department Officers
  • A Detective Bureau
  • Headquarters Officers
  • Patrolmen
  • Superior Officers

Further Growth

In 1961 the department was comprised of 157 men and two women. These men and women have received extensive training and experience and now man the cruiser, detective, and traffic divisions, and the child welfare, morals, accident prevention and records and identification bureaus and the Canton Police Boys Club.

The authorized strength of the department, according to City Ordinance in 1961, included:

  • A Chief of Police
  • A Traffic Commissioner
  • 2 Policewomen
  • 10 Captains
  • 12 Sergeants
  • 15 Detectives
  • 120 Patrolmen

Of the men and women, 42.5 percent were assigned to the uniform patrol division. An additional 31.3 percent worked in the plainclothes bureau and 26.2 percent of the personnel were assigned to the Traffic Division.