Prior to the establishment of a police department in 1925, Darien experienced the type of “lawlessness” typically found in a community of 5,000 residents. Occasional burglaries, misconduct, and disputes between neighbors comprised Darien’s “crime.” Order was maintained by elected constables, with fines levied by justices of the peace.
Much of this changed in April 1924 when a lone gunman murdered 20 year old Herbert May, a grocery clerk, as he worked in the A&P Store on Railroad Ave. – now known as Tokeneke Rd. By that October, a citizens' committee had made recommendations for the creation of a police department. In April 1925 a Special Act of the Connecticut Legislature created the three member Darien Police Commission and authorized the formation of the Darien Police Department. The Legislature required the three police commissioners to be appointed by a majority vote of a Committee consisting of the First Selectman, the Chairman of the Board of Finance, and the Chairman of the Board of Assessors on or before July 1, 1925.
This Committee appointed Dr. Howard Stout Nielsen, Francis R. Holmes, and Chauncey D. Tyler as Darien’s first three police commissioners. At the first meeting of the Police Commission held on May 28, 1925 at the office of Dr. Nielsen, motions were entertained and passed resulting in Dr. Nielsen becoming the first Chairman of the Darien Police Commission and Mr. Holmes being appointed secretary. The new Commission immediately set about putting together the necessary budget to form a police department.
In June 1925, during the most heavily attended Town meeting in Darien history the first police budget was approved, authorizing the hiring of a chief of police and six patrolman. Subsequently, Sgt. Harry C. Smith of the Stamford Police Department was appointed Darien’s first Chief of Police. Edward A. Tinker of Darien was hired as the new department’s first patrol officer, wearing shield #1. Tinker would later become Darien’s second Chief of Police.
The three member configuration of the Darien Police Commission endures today, with appointed members serving three-year overlapping terms. The current members of the Commission are J. Paul Johnson, Chairman; Robert F. Harrel, Secretary; and Kim Huffard, Member.