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  • Sue Tryforos, Borough Historian

Protect and Serve

100 years ago, on September 1st, 1918, the Glen Rock Police Department (GRPD) was officially organized. This is not to say that Glen Rock was a lawless place before that date, but the growth and needs of the new borough, incorporated in 1894, made it impossible for the part-time marshals to cover the entire area as before. Glen Rock's population had swelled from just 613 in 1900 to 1,790 in 1915; more people means more conflict plus when you add greater numbers of the newfangled automobile into the mix, well, let's just say that the town fathers knew what they were doing when they wisely decided to establish a permanent full-time police presence in 1918. The first hire for the new GRPD was James R. Houlihan, who was the perfect man for the job.

Chief Houlihan (he was given the position of Police Chief and was, in fact, the entire police force at that time, patrolling Glen Rock streets on his bicycle) was an experienced police officer, having served on the neighboring Ridgewood PD for 10+ years. He was also a military veteran of the 4th US Cavalry, Company C, serving shortly after the end of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars. Born in Ridgewood, NJ in 1880, Houlihan decided to go into the livery business following the completion of his studies at Ridgewood High School. He had a natural affinity for horses so it was only natural that he would enlist in the Cavalry in 1901. Following his honorable discharge in 1904, he returned home and decided to become a police officer, joining the Ridgewood Police Department as a patrolman. In June 1915, he was one of four officers who surprised a team of burglars at a confectionary store on Ridgewood Avenue. The ensuing gun fight left Houlihan with bullets in his shoulder and thigh. The burglars were arrested, two of them in worse shape than Officer Houlihan. Houlihan would make a full recovery and was awarded the PBA's Gold Honor Medal for his bravery.

A year before this incident, Officer Houlihan became very interested in the use of trained police dogs; he would continue to champion their utility when he became the Glen Rock Chief of Police later on. He studied how trained police dogs were used in various European countries as well as in the U.S.A. and he decided to raise and train his own. Newspaper articles about the 1915 shoot-out mention that Houlihan's dog, Cont, remained by his side until the situation was diffused. He had four trained police dogs at one point in his career, and would lend them out (or not) to local and state authorities for search-and-rescues and for tracking various criminals.

James R. Houlihan is described in a contemporary History of Bergen County: " His services are fully appreciated by the high officials of the State and by his fellow-citizens who understand his devotion to this work. He is everywhere regarded as a fearless and vigorous officer and an intrepid and devoted public servant." As the Glen Rock Chief, he saw the expansion of the GRPD to seven full-time officers, patrolling by motorcycle, car and foot. He pushed for the installation of police call boxes throughout the borough, which greatly improved communication between the foot patrols and headquarters. Chief Houlihan retired in 1944, having served with honor and distinction. He played a key role in establishing the well-respected police department we have today.

To get a feel for the goings-on in Glen Rock at this early period in borough history, I spent some time reading through old GRPD Blotters and Logs. Unfortunately, many of the original records are no longer available but here is a sample of what I found interesting. I have grouped the entries by topic; the date is the date entered into the official records.


Jan, 7, 1922, 8:25 a.m.: Police Dept. of Rochelle Park reported a burglary in their town and requested service of Police Dog ("Witch"); request refused by Chief Houlihan.

Jan. 9, 1922, 9:55 p.m.: Ridgewood Police Dept. reported that an ex-soldier who was shell-shock and residing at the Rest Farm had strayed away, requested the service of Police Dog ("Witch"), request granted by Chief Houlihan.

Jan. 10, 1922: Ex-soldier found in Montclair, N.J. this date and returned to rest farm at Chestnut Ridge.

Jan. 25, 1923, Thursday, 5:45 p.m.: Mrs. Grosselfinger, res[iding] Wyckoff Ave., Ramsey, NJ reported her house had been entered during her absence and several valuable articles were taken. She requested the service of a Police Dog. Request refused by Chief Houlihan.

April 2, 1923, Monday, 9:00 p.m.: Lyndhurst Police Dept. requested service of Police Dog to assist them in locating a woman who had disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Chief Houlihan detailed Officer Margroff to try and locate her with Police Dog.


Aug. 22, 1923, 8:40 p.m.: Peter Bouma, of Hamilton Ave., GR reported several hobos had started a fire and were camping in the vicinity of Erie R.R. junction. Officers Jensen and Hartley investigated and escorted these men out of town.

Oct. 18, 1929, Friday, 2:20 p.m.: Brush fire Tonawanda Rd. & Ferndale Ave. Fire call came in on phone Ridge 3800 for brush fire. Investigated by Officer Meyer, found that fire was caused by sparks from Erie RR train on Main Line.

Oct. 25, 1931, Wednesday, 12:00 Noon: Mrs. M. H. McEwan, of Doremus Ave., reported her daughter Martha annoyed by man near Bergen County Crossing when she is returning from School. Chief Houlihan assured her this matter would receive attention. Description: Blue striped overalls, gray hair, brown eyes, walks with mouth open.


Jan. 16, 1922, 9:40 a.m.: Fanny Edger, Paterson, NJ claimed her employer Mrs. Cohen of Glen Rock refused to let her have her clothes or pay her for her month which was up this date and she was leaving her position. Chief Houlihan adjusted matters to the satisfaction of both parties and Fanny left.

June 14, 1923, Thursday, 3:00 p.m.: Mr. Smith, Hamilton Ave. reported some boys were stealing his cherries. Officer Jensen investigated and was successful in rounding up of said boys and after giving them a good reprimand, he released them with their promise not to repeat.

June 26, 1928, Tuesday, 9:45 p.m.: Mrs. Carl Zoch, Berkeley Place complained about children shooting fire crackers and asked something be done about it. Officer Park investigated and notified children in neighborhood to stop and not shoot anymore until the 4th of July.

July 1, 1931, Wednesday, 1:20 p.m.: Mrs. Phelps, res[iding] Boulevard & Oxford Pl., reported children bathing in the Diamond Brook continually running across her property. She wants this stopped. Investigated by Officer N. Meyer.


September 11, 1921, Sunday, 9:00 p.m.: An attempt was made to transfer a quantity of liquor on Harristown Road but was halted by the appearance of the Police. Several shots were fired but the parties escaped.

Dec. 30, 1922, Saturday, 10:40 p.m.: Mr. W. W. Reynolds, Rock Rd., Boro reported a friend of his wandered away from his Residence at 9:00 p.m. and had not returned up to the present time, as he was slightly under the influence of liquor and being a stranger he might have been locked up. Description of man as follows: Light build, auburn hair, light brown overcoat with scarf to match.

Feb. 25, 1932, Thursday, 7:25 a.m.: Mrs. Charles Ramsey, Maple Ave., reported someone had gained entrance to her cellar. Subsequent investigation developed the fact that entry was made through forcing cellar window. Approx. 25 quarts Burgundy wine missing, also Yale lock on wine cellar door missing. Intruder did not gain entrance to house proper. Captain Park.

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