The History of the Dover Police Department


The history of law enforcement within the Town of Dover began in 1880. A Police Marshall was assigned by the county to serve Dover from 1880 to 1911. The first police officer to serve was Mr. James Hagen, who was later named Police Chief on April 27, 1898. This appointment did not come without scandal though. The position was already filled by Chief Charles W. Bowlby, but he was ousted by the city council. Chief Bowlby refused to step down from his position and remained patrolling and conducting business as usual. This action became local news as well as reaching the New York Tribune, which also gave commentary. Chief Hagan’s tenure ended in 1901, and Ethelbert Byram took over the position for the next 20 years.


A town ordinance was adopted to regulate and control the police department on August 21, 1911. The new ordinance called for a Police Chief, Sergeant, Detectives and Patrolmen. The first police headquarters was located on North Morris Street, one block southeast of where the current headquarters is located at 37 North Sussex Street.


The Dover Police Department became the subject of state and national news in May of 1931. Dover Police Officer Charles E. Ripley was on patrol when he noticed a vehicle park in a bus stop and the operator walk into a local store. Police Officer Ripley recognized the remaining occupant as Mr. James Nannery, America’s #1 most wanted individual. Mr. Nannery was found to be heavily armed, but was taken into custody without incident. Mr. Nannery was wanted for escaping from Sing-Sing State Prison in New York on August 8, 1928. Mr. Nannery was also wanted in New York for the murder of a police officer. Mr. Nannery was a well-known gangster during this time period.


On May 22, 1930, tragedy struck the Dover Police Department when it suffered its first line-of-duty death. On that date, Police Officer Thomas Deshazo was providing a police motorcycle escort to Charles Lindbergh and his family. During the escort, he was thrown from his motorcycle and sustained serious injuries. Police Officer Deshazo died two days later. On December 30, 2003, tragedy struck the department again. Police Officer Arthur J. Ohlsen III responded to a report of a brush fire along the New Jersey Transit Railroad Tracks. While investigating the scene, Police Officer Ohlsen was struck and killed by a passing commuter train. The names of both men, Police Officer Thomas Deshazo and Police Officer Arthur J. Ohlsen III, are engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC. Both of their badge numbers (Deshazo #1 and Ohlsen #115), have been retired from service in the police department.


Today, Chief Anthony Smith is the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the Dover Police Department, and as such, runs day-to-day operations. Chief Smith answers directly to Public Safety Director Daniel DeGroot, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the department. PSD DeGroot is responsible for policy, budgeting, and other non-law enforcement related matters.

Deputy Chief Justin Gabrys commands the Administrative/Investigative Divisions, which is comprised of four Detectives. Captain William Newton is the Investigative Divsion Commander and Captain Jonathan Delaney is the Patrol Division Commander.

There are presently six Sergeants and 22 Police Officers assigned to the Patrol Division. Additionally, the department has three Class II Special Law Enforcement Officers (SLEO II), who commonly conduct foot patrol and bike patrol in the downtown area.

The department’s community policing initiative continues to expand with several officers qualified in Law Enforcement Against Drugs (LEAD) and School Resource Officer (SRO) training in order to aid students in the Dover school system with important topics such as drug awareness and cyber-bullying. The department continues to implement innovative policing techniques and state of the art technology to better serve the residents and visitors in the Town of Dover.