James Martin Maher

Milford’s First Police Superintendent puts grandsons in Town Hall jail

Crime was not much of a problem for most of Milford's first two centuries. There was the local militia for serious concerns, even if they didn't involve Indians. Most families were church goers, even the Catholics who dutifully walked all the way to New Haven for services. Kids were well behaved or got a whoop'n, then were well behaved. Bad people, like drinkers would be ostracized. Ne'r do wells would usually move on as there was no food if you didn't work.

Society got more complicated after the Civil War. Illegal Prize fighting was taking place up and down the Connecticut Coast serviced by Streamer and Rail. On April 13, 1870 a prize fight between James Kerrigan and Edward Tuohey was set for Charles Island. The Local Milford worthies and constable got word of the impending event. Three companies of New Haven militia were sent to Milford to restore order. Fighter Tuohey, ironically didn't show up, at all. He nearly went down with his steam tug which foundered off Bridgeport. Milford had no means of dealing with the 90 rowdies who rioted through downtown. It took five militia companies, plus police from New Haven to curb the days of street fighting and vandalism.

Things calmed down but it was clear that a couple of constables and self help (not to mention no jail to hold the culprits) would not be enough for a modern community. Leaders went to the Connecticut General Assembly for help. Eventually, in April 1915 It passed legislation authorizing Milford to create a Board of Police Commissioners. The legislation also authorized the police commissioners to appoint a superintendent of police and the number of police officers the city deemed necessary.