A Look at the LBPD
Long Branch Police Department service dates back to a Civil War Hero …
Like most law enforcement agencies — they’ve been both admired and reviled. Brave and weak. Skilled and sloppy. Just like the rest of us mortals — they are imperfect. But the big difference is the police must do an impossible job (plus, face death every shift).
So while Long Branch remains the “Friendly City” — local cops must get a fair share of credit for keeping necessary order through the many years. From the beginning it hasn’t been an easy job. The Long Branch Police Department (LBPD) came into being just about the time a President of the United States decided to spend summers in town. Making for demanding work right away.
Organized in 1868, the LBPD started with just one policeman (called “marshal”), Cornelius Van Derveer. An early Long Branch true-believer, by June 1873 he’d been appointed to the Long Branch Commission. The five-member governing body created when the town was incorporated as a borough in April 1867. Prior to that, Van Derveer had been a member of the Ocean Township Committee. And he helped build the Church of the Presidents in Elberon.
Since the LBPD was founded the city population has increased nearly 10 times (from a low of 3,800 in 1880 to a high of 31,000 in 2000). Not to forget the 200,000+ visitors who might appear on peak summer weekends. And yet today — more than 150 years later — city law enforcement still keeps the peace.
“Blessed are the peacekeepers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
As to department leadership, Henry Green was appointed “chief marshal” in 1870 at a $350 annual salary. The force also grew to three marshals that year. After Green retired, LBPD leaders were Joseph V. West, then Charles Pitman Lloyd, then James W. Banford, and James Layton before Long Branch incorporated as a city in 1904.
Interestingly enough, prior to 1905 police officers were elected or appointed year to year. It wasn’t until Long Branch was reincorporated as a city that cops got tenure and a more modern police force emerged — 24 patrolmen were hired that year. Back then, officers wore white ribbon badges to identify themselves. According to a January 1948 Long Branch Daily Record story on the history of the LBPD, the first official act the city commissioners asked of law enforcement was to remove a foul-smelling pig sty.
Members of the first permanent official police force in 1905 were: Joseph V. West, Salvinius T. Emmons, Frank B. Wheeler, Leonard S. Van Dyke, Joseph A. Poole, James H. Brown, John Kirby, Jr., Charles Phillips, William E. Miller, William D. Walling, Charles E. Clark, Manus McGarvey, Harry S. Clayton, Daniel S. Martin, Herman K. Emmons, Sr., Ivins Erricksen, Thomas Loprai, John Stilger, Patrick Callahan, William J. Nickson, John Havens, Augustus S. Voorhees, M.W. Lediard, and Michael Cunnen.
Prior to the building of a City Hall, prisoners were kept in small cells in the basement of Washington Hall on Broadway or in cells underneath the Oceanic Firehouse. The judge’s chambers were above the old Fesler Drugstore on the corner of Broadway and Second Avenue. All law enforcement operations moved into a new City Hall on Broadway in 1891. The LBPD then moved into another new City Hall in 1975 where it remains today.
The city’s longest serving chief of police was “Captain” James Layton, who was the top cop for 30 years. Beginning as a summer officer in July 1883 — he arrived when Long Branch was booming as a grand summer resort. In that age it took just 14 summer policemen to entertain (and protect) a nation. Considered a “good and great man” by many admirers, when he retired in 1918, Layton admitted that being “chief of police Is no bed of roses; far from it.” Back then the chief earned $1,320, the last one got $206,000. Born in Howell Twp., Chief Layton died in December 1924.
William Walling founded the city’s detective bureau in 1913. The Long Branch PBA was established in 1906 and the city police pension fund began in 1913. Regular evening motor patrols city-wide started in 1930. Cornelia Woolley Hopkins in 1931 became the first woman police commissioner, not only in Long Branch but in state history.
At the time of the Daily Record history story — about 75 years ago — the LBPD included 39 men: a chief, two captains, four sergeants, 30 patrolmen and two chancemen. Today’s LBPD includes about 100 police officers and annual budget near $13 million.
LBPD Police Chiefs:
• James Layton (1888-1918)
• William D. Walling (1918-1926)
• Joseph H. McGarvey (1926-1933)
• Frederick A. Wardell (1933-1942)
• Thomas J. Marks (1942-1958)
• Robert C. Gurley (8/1951-12/53 temporary chief)
• Robert C. Gurley (1958-1964)
• Thomas M. Pesano (1964-1968)
• Joseph D. Purcell, Jr. (1968-1970)
• Jason Roebuck (2018-2021)
After 1970, the office of police chief was unfilled. According to the Asbury Park Press, the idea of a civilian public safety director came from a 1963 Grand Jury presentment during a organized crime probe in Long Branch. Mayor Paul Nastasio, Jr. officially created the post in July 1966 (under Plan A of the Faulkner Act). For the next five years the job was filled by unofficial part-timers.
In April 1971, John M. Buffin, a former NJ State Police major, was hired as the city’s first official public safety director for $18,000. Mayor Henry Cioffi made the appointment with city council approval. Called a “policeman’s policeman,” Buffin helped restore order before retiring in March 1976. In 1974 the chief of police title was eliminated by city ordinance. That chain of command lasted until 2018 when Jason Roebuck became the first city police chief in 47 years. By 2021, the chief’s post was eliminated again. Since October 2022, the Long Branch Director of Public Safety is William Broughton.
• Long Branch City Hall History & Images — HERE
• Long Branch Police Department website — HERE
• NJ State Police: Uniform Crime Reports (1900-2021) — HERE