DEPARTMENT HISTORY

The Beginning

A law enforcement presence in Rockford was first seen in 1848 when four constables were appointed to keep the peace. At this time Rockford was known as Laphamville and was a part of Algoma Township. The four constables appointed were William Davies, James Fowler, Winslow Tower, and William Turner. In 1866, Laphamville became the Village of Rockford and Richard Briggs was selected as Rockford’s first marshal.

Turn of the Century

At the start of the 20th Century the village jail was located on the property where the Krause Memorial Library sits now. Around this same time John Brantner was the village marshal until his death on July 29, 1915. James Squires took over after Brantner’s death until 1922. When Squires took over a second deputy and a traffic officer were added for the summer months.

The spring of 1935 brought about change in the Village of Rockford when voters approved a proposal to make the village a Home Rule City. On May 17, 1937, Harley D. Peck made the transition from marshal to the first Chief of Police for the City of Rockford. He served as the police chief for one month.

Following Peck’s resignation, Lyle Ford was hired as Chief of Police and served from 1937-1967. At his time of retirement he was the longest serving police chief in the United States. Clayton Cahill was hired in 1940 and served under Chief Ford until he retired in 1967.

A Growing Department

James West was hired in 1961 and became the third officer on the Rockford Police Department. Following Ford’s retirement West was promoted to Chief and three additional full time officers and five reserve officers were hired. The full time officers were: Bruce Finch, James Peterson, and Victor Truax. Each of these officers would serve as Police Chief in the following years. Bruce Finch served as Chief of Police from 1972-1980. James Peterson followed Finch and served as Chief from 1980-1986. In 1986, Victor Truax began his tenure as Chief which lasted until 1990.

In 1990, John Porter was promoted to Chief of Police. Porter began his career with City of Rockford in 1979 when he was hired as a part time officer. John Porter served as Chief of Police until 2003.

Recently

In 2003, Dave Jones was hired as Chief of Police and is the current Chief. Dave Jones began his career with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department where he worked for 30 years.

In 2012, the Police and Fire Departments were combined. Personnel from each department were crossed trained to perform police and fire duties.

The Rockford Department of Public Safety is interested in any additional information anyone may have regarding the history of the Police services in Rockford. We are interested in any photos or additional memorabilia you may have. Please contact the public safety department at (616) 866-9557 or Sergeant Sawyer at asawyer@rockford.mi.us if you have any additional information.

HISTORY OF THE FIRE SERVICE

In 1997 the Rockford Fire Department consolidated with the Plainfield Township Fire Department. Prior to the consolidation, the Fire Department consisted of a full time fire chief and paid on call staff. The merger between the Plainfield Township and Rockford Fire Department began in November of 1997. Two additional fire fighters were hired full time and the fire department was staffed 24 hours a day. The consolidation lasted for three years, but due to rapidly growing communities and separate managing boards, the departments split, deciding to maintain mutual aid assistance, but separate departments.

Post Consolidation

After the split of the two departments, 4 full-time firefighters remained working for the City of Rockford.

In 2012, the Police and Fire Departments were combined into a Public Safety Department and personnel were crossed trained to provided police and fire service.

The Rockford Department of Public Safety is interested in any additional information anyone may have regarding the history of the Fire service in Rockford. We are interested in any photos or additional memorabilia you may have. Please contact the public safety department at (616) 866-9557 or Sergeant Sawyer at asawyer@rockford.mi.us if you have any additional information.