A Call to Duty – A History of the Franklin Police Department

Franklin HistoryAs Franklin changed from a township to a city in 1956, changes in its police department were also occurring. What was a quiet rural farming community now became a city of subdivisions, businesses and increased services. Along with that progress came the realization that the citizens of Franklin needed an expanded police presence.

Prior to 1956, Franklin’s police protection was provided by a Town Constable supervised by the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department. The constable at that time was George Davitz and following incorporation he was Franklin’s only police officer. He did still receive help from the Sheriff’s Department, providing regular patrols during the 2nd and 3rd shifts.

Picture of George Davitz, Town Constable. Later serving as the Police Constable when city was incorporated. (Only man on the force – Coverage provided by Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Dept. during 2nd and 3rd shifts.)
The Constable operated out of the old Town Hall annex on Ryan Rd. near S. 76th St. It was a small structure that was inadequate in many ways for its purpose. The second temporary station was a farmhouse located on S. 55th and Ryan Rd on the present site of the Industrial Park. Dispatchers were housewives who worked in their homes, sharing the duties so that someone was always available.

Legend has it that George “Cochise” Davitz once pursued a speeding car on Hwy. 41 ( 27th St.), shooting out of the window of his squad car! He became a one-man law enforcement legend — and the grandfather of the modern police force. Another story about Davitz that survives is when he and Franklin’s first Mayor, Robert MacDonald, went to check on reports of underage drinking at a local tavern. They walked into the establishment and could see that the underage drinking rumor was true. George Davitz went up to the wall of the tavern, took the license down and then they cleaned the place out!

The Franklin Police Department was formally organized in January 1964 under the leadership of Mayor Ted Fadrow. Named as the first Chief of Police was Harold Roach. He would command a staff of 6 full time officers and one part-time officer who were hired to work shifts from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 4 p.m. to midnight. From midnight to 8 a.m. the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department handled any calls. Residents who came to the police station during the night would find a dime and the Sheriff’s Department’s phone number taped near the door and were advised to call them!

In 1965 the law enforcement agency became a 24-hr. operation. It abolished the part-time patrolman position and added two more full time officers. The staff now included the Chief, 2 Patrol Sergeants and 10 police officers. This meant that Franklin was protected by 2.5 officers at any given time. Chief Roach would continue as Chief until September 1968.

From those early beginnings a pattern of steady growth has typified the history of the Franklin Police Department. The next chief was Walter Lazowski, serving Franklin from October 1968 to October 1971. It was also in 1971 that the Police Department moved to the new City Hall building on Loomis Rd. At the time of that move, the Police Department had a total of 26 officers. That move to the north end of City hall gave the department 11,500 sq. ft. of space, much larger than they had in the old farmhouse!

The third Chief of Police and the longest serving Chief was Norman Pollman, who was in office from October 1971 until he retired in December 1996. Following his retirement Lt. Don Hareng was called out of retirement to serve as Interim Chief of Police from December 1997 to July 1997. During Hareng’s tenure the search began for Franklin’s 4th Chief of Police.

The man selected for the job of Franklin’s 4th Police Chief was Kenneth Bohn. He began his duties in July 1997 and because of the rapid growth Franklin was experiencing, more space was needed for the department. At this time Chief Bohn promoted officer Gaylord Hahn to the newly created job of Police Inspector. Part of his job was to help the Chief plan for the new police facility that would be built on Loomis Rd. and Forest Hill Ave.

Finally by 2001 a new Franklin police station, now called the Franklin Law Enforcement Center was built. The new 68,000 sq. ft. facility includes the municipal court and was designed to better meet the needs of a growing police force. In 1997 when Bohn became Chief there were 39 police officers and 11 dispatch/support staff. By 2004 when Bohn left the department there were 59 sworn officers (male and female) and approximately 20 support staff.

After Bohn’s tenure as Police Chief, Police Inspector Gaylord Hahn was appointed as Interim Chief. He served in that job from June 2004 until the appointment of Richard Oliva in 2005. Oliva is the 5th Chief of Police for Franklin and continues to serve in that role and head a police force that provides services to the general public, the schools and to the businesses in Franklin.

What started as a one-person Police Department headed by a Town Constable has evolved into a large well-equipped police force that operates out of a modern facility. The police department of today is a dedicated group of officers that have a good relationship with the citizens of Franklin, continuing the services they are asked to provide.

– Judeen Scherrer