Lawrenceville Police History
The Lawrenceville Police Department had its origins in 1874 when the Town was incorporated and the Town Charter as granted by the Virginia General Assembly authorized the appointment of a Town Sergeant. The first Town Sergeant was F. W. Jones whose duties included Town Code enforcement, collection of taxes, collection of license fees, and “other duties as may be assigned.” Among the Town ordinances the Town Sergeant was responsible for enforcing in 1875 were a $2 fine for shooting a gun in the street and a $5 fine for running a horse in the street or riding one on the sidewalk.
The Town Council was asked to consider the employment of a “night watchman” in January of 1895. This was the first consideration of a second policeman or Deputy Sergeant on record and $4 per month was appropriated by the Council toward the employment of the night watchman if that $4 sum was matched by the citizens. The first night watchman position was held by B J. Harrison until November of 1895 when the position was discontinued.
L. R. Vaughan was appointed Town Sergeant in 1912 at a salary or $75 per month. In addition to the original duties of the Town Sergeant, he was asked to “superintend the building and repairing of streets and sidewalks, make out the tax books and collect taxes, collect water, sewer, and light accounts, rents,and tolls.”
In April of 1917 the merchants and businessmen of Main Street raised money and the position of “night man” was authorized once again. In October of 1920 the police committee of the Town Council officially recognized the importance of employing a night policeman “pointing out frequent robberies of banks, etc in the State and the danger of fires at this season”. In December of 1922 T. L. (Tom) Stanley was appointed as night policeman and elected policeman and night watchman at a salary of $100 per month.
On August 30, 1930 there was a special meeting of the Town Council because an audit showed a shortage of $4039.63 in the accounts of Town Sergeant S H. Browder and his resignation was requested. Tom Stanley was then appointed Town Sergeant and A. R. Pentecost was appointed night policeman in September of 1930, the beginning of a 40 year career with the Town. In November of 1930 (Governor) A. S. Harrison Jr. was appointed as Town Attorney.
A.R. Pentecost, who worked seven nights a week from 9pm-6am, was on patrol late in February 1931 when he and his dog Toby surprised four men from Petersburg while they were attempting to break into the basement of W. S. Peebles Company. A brief gun battle ensued during which Officer Pentecost was shot once after knocking one of the burglars down with gunfire. Officer Pentecost was taken to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Richmond where he spent a week recovering after the bullet, which had lodged near his heart, was removed. The four men from Petersburg were apprehended and the hospital bill was $65.13.
Future Governor Albertis S. Harrison Jr., while performing his duties as Town Attorney sought and received a change in the Town Charter from the General Assembly enabling the Town to establish and maintain a department or division of police. On February 13, 1934 the Town Sergeant was given the same powers as a constable within the Town limits and to a distance of one mile beyond. June of 1935 saw the Town authorize uniforms for the Sergeant and Deputy Sergeant with the Town to pay one half the cost. The Sergeant and Deputy Sergeant salaries were set at $135 and $125 per month respectively.
In order to summon the night policeman a signal bell was installed on the Mayor’s office in March of 1938 since it “would be very helpful in locating the night policeman.”
The first record of a formal police school comes in 1940 when Officer H. S. Fleshood attended a two week school at the University of Richmond sponsored by the Virginia Police Executives Association. Officer Fleshood also was the town’s first bicycle patrol Officer when in 1942 the Town authorized the purchase of a bicycle from Brunswick Ice and Coal. Officer Fleshood felt he could better cover the Town at night by bicycle and thus give “more protection to the people and property.” During October of 1942 a third officer was hired to work Saturday’s from noon until midnight and over the next four years this position was made permanent. In April of 1943 Town Sergeant Tom Stanley was given one half day off per week to work his Victory Garden as part of the war effort. As Deputy Sergeant A. R. Pentecost was the only police officer in the entire County on duty all night he was made the night jailer for Brunswick County in March of 1944. Lawrenceville Police Department Officers were the only police officers in the County on Duty all night until the late 1980’s.
The year after the war was eventful as the Lawrenceville Police Department was blessed with the installation of fifty parking meters on Main and Hicks Streets. Raymond Poarch was hired by the Town on May 14 1946 after he returned from serving his country in the World War II. Also in 1946 it was ordered that a signal bell to summon officers be installed on Main Street to ring simultaneously with the police telephone on the pole on Hicks Street. To this point the only police vehicles had been the occasional use of personal vehicles by officers.
January of 1947 saw the granting by Town Council of one day off per week for Chief Stanley, Officer Pentecost, and Officer Poarch. The first parking meter complaint was formally lodged early in 1947, the complaint being that the officers were putting money in peoples meters as opposed to writing parking tickets. Arrangements were made in October of 1947 with State Trooper J. L. Hedrick for a police school giving officers “about twenty five hours instruction along all lines of police activity.” Tom Stanley, who had been Town Sergeant/Police Chief since 1931 passed on September 12, 1947.
During 1949 future Brunswick County Deputy Earl Washburn was appointed to his first law enforcement position when he went to work for the Lawrenceville Police Department. The first proposal for a traffic light at the corner of Main Street and Church Street was made on November 8, 1949. Thirty years later the light was installed.
“In an effort to more strenuously enforce the Town ordinance relative to speed and traffic” Lawrenceville bought its first police car in October of 1950. The cost of the car was $1397 and was purchased from Newsome and Allen Motors. In August of 1951 D. T. Clary was hired as a fourth officer and the first police radio was purchased and installed in the police car. The radio frequency was made compatible with Brunswick County’s existing radio system, thus becoming part of the first central dispatching system in the County. The next few years saw the promotion of Raymond Poarch to Assistant Chief and the hiring of future Brunswick County Sheriff P. G. (Pete) Brockwell. In 1954 the Department roll included Chief Pentecost, Assistant Chief Poarch, Officer Luther King, and Officer Pete Brockwell, and in 1955 a sleeve insignia (shoulder patch) was designed and worn on officer uniforms. State Senator Albertis Harrison Jr. continued his duties as Town Attorney.
April of 1956 saw the police put under the supervision of the Town Manager and in 1957 he recommended improvements to the emergency telephone system by moving one phone across the street from the courthouse to a pole in front of F & M Bank, another to the corner of Main and Hicks Street, and the addition of a third emergency phone on the corner of Main and Church Street. Albertis S. Harrison “discontinued his connection as Town Attorney” in March of 1958 because of his duties as Virginia’s Attorney General.
William Moody (father of present Officer William T. Moody Jr.) joined the force in April of 1965 and was assigned to work with the other officers until he “learned the work expected of him.” September of 1965 saw present Town Attorney W. C. Outten paid $35 for his services and in May of 1966 Freeman Majette, the Town’s first minority officer was hired. In September of 1966 the force included Chief Pentecost, Assistant Chief Poarch, Officer D. C. Brewer, and Officer Majette.
Chief A. R. Pentecost asked to be relieved of some of his duties in March of 1968 and Officer Paul Lowell was hired. Officers Lowell and Brewer had police dogs and were authorized to use them on leash from 11pm until 7am. August of 1968 saw a fifth police officer added and the force included Chief Pentecost, Assistant Chief Poarch, D.C. Brewer, Paul Lowell, and George Vaughan. Winifred Wray was a part time officer.
Chief Pentecost submitted a letter of resignation effective September 1, 1970 after a 39 year 11 month career with the Lawrenceville Police Department. After his retirement he was hired to check parking meters and could be seen at age 81 checking the meters walking with a cane. At age 81 he was the oldest active duty uniformed police officer in the State of Virginia. Raymond Poarch became Police Chief, D. C. Brewer was appointed Assistant Chief and the other officers on the force were Paul Lowell and Lonnie Powell. In July of 1973 future Sheriff J. R. Woodley was hired as a police officer with the Lawrenceville Police Department and attended the five week Central Police Training Course. Two other new officers attended school two day a week for ten weeks at the Keysville Campus of Southside Virginia Community College.
March of 1975 saw the purchase of the Police Department first radar gun and the Town became a charter member of the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy. August of 1975 saw the hiring of future police chief Douglas Pond. Through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and through 2008 the Lawrenceville Police Department has kept pace with changes in training and technology. Basic police training has gone from eleven weeks in 1976 to a present regimen of twenty three weeks at the Central Virginia Criminal Justice Academy in Lynchburg. Also in the mix are field training for the recruit and forty hours of bi-annual in service training for veteran officers. All this training is certified and approved for credit hours by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services. Current training is quite different from when Officer Pond was put on night shift by himself after two days on the force.
Firearms have gradually changed over from the universal police and military Smith & Wesson Model 10 .38 Special (first manufactured in 1899), to the Smith & Wesson Model 64 .357 Caliber Stainless in the 80’s. In the early 90’s the Department changed over to the semi automatic pistol and currently carries the Sig Sauer Model 229 .357 Caliber Semi automatic pistol.
Realizing the difficulty of operating a single police vehicle twenty four hours a day, the Department kept a potential 1976 Ford trade and purchased a 1978 Ford while keeping the 1976 Ford as its first backup vehicle which Chief Poarch drove while on patrol and to his residence. In 1986 Town Council agreed to the purchase and outfitting of used State Police cars and over a two year period take home police cars became a matter of policy for the Department. The present fleet of vehicles includes five new vehicles beginning with a cycle in 2003 and including the recent purchase of a 2007 Dodge Charger police package vehicle. Lawrenceville Police Department maintains a 1996 Ford Explorer and a 1996 Chevrolet Caprice for backup vehicles.
Technology in the Department has taken great strides since beginning with one car radio in the early 1950’s. Officers now carry hand held (walkie-talkie) radios while away from the vehicles, and other technology includes laser radar, in car video, TASER, mobile data terminals and computers stations on all officers desk in the office, one having a direct link to the Brunswick County 911 computer aided dispatch system. The majority of the modern equipment purchased over the years has been made possible through the successful writing of State and Federal Grant applications.
Salaries for the Department in 1975 were in the $5,000 range but have been increased by Town Council to be competitive with other area law enforcement. Education and specialized training has been encouraged by the police committee and two officers are now currently instructors at the police academy. Officer Pond graduated from Southside Virginia Community College in 1978 with an Associate Degree in Police Science and appointed police chief when Raymond Poarch retired in 1984. B.N Newcomb was appointed Assistant Chief shortly afterward and both administrators remain in place in 2008. In late 2008 Chief Pond retired as police chief, and was appointed Mayor of the Town of Lawrenceville, Assistant Chief B.N. “Red” Newcomb was appointed interim police chief while applications were being considered to replace Doug Pond. In February 2009 Everette Gibson was selected by Lawrenceville Town Council to replace Doug Pond as chief of police. Officers who have served with the Lawrenceville Police Department in recent years are current State Police Sergeant Ronald Daniel, Brunswick County Sergeant Investigator Everette Gibson who served with the force for thirteen years and was the trainer and handler of our drug dog “Jake”, Brunswick County Captain Investigator Gary Peterson who served for four years, Sergeant Investigator William Smith who served for four years, and Sergeant Investigator Jeff Clary who served Lawrenceville for four years. In July of 2010 Lawrenceville Police Department was awarded a grant through VSTOP (Violence Against Women) to add an officer to our rotation, this officer is currently attending Central VA Criminal Justice Academy in Lynchburg, Virginia.
Specialized assistance with crime scenes, critical incidents, and special events is provided to the six officer Lawrenceville Police Department through agreements with the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Department, Virginia State Police, Lawrenceville Volunteer Fire Department, Brunswick Rescue Squad, St. Paul’s Security, and the Virginia Department of Transportation. Lawrenceville Officers provide assistance to all area Departments at critical incidents, special events, priority security details, and crime scenes.