Department History

The origin of the current Charles Town Police Department dates back to the year 1872. On February 24, 1872, the West Virginia Legislature enacted “An Act to Amend and Re-Enact the Charter of the town of Charlestown, in the County of Jefferson.” As amended, the new charter created the position of Town Sergeant, who was appointed by and served at the pleasure of the Mayor. Under the new charter, the Town Sergeant was similar to the County Sheriff in that the Sergeant was authorized to collect taxes, fines and levies; to enforce and collect property taxes; and to exercise duties as conservator of the peace. To assist with his constabulary duties, the Sergeant was authorized to select one patrolman. For the next several decades, the Town Sergeant and the town Patrolman kept the peace in Charlestown (spelled as one word until 1911).

At the turn of the 20TH century, the Town Sergeant ‘s duties began to change. The Sergeant became less a tax collector and instead took on more responsibility for law enforcement. Although still called the Town Sergeant on the books, the person in that position became known as the Chief of Police. By example, in the 1930s the Spirit of Jefferson ran a weekly column called “Among Our Citizens” which highlighted community leaders. James Addison Smith was featured in March 1937, and he was lauded for his 23 years of service on the Charles Town police force as both Patrolman and Chief of Police. Over the years a number of men have served as Charles Town’s Chief, including US Air Corps Sergeant Roy Hooe, who was the chief mechanic on the “Question Mark,” the airplane that established the sustained flight record of 151 hours in January 1929.

Continued growth in Charles Town is reflected in the expansion of its police force. As the town and nation transitioned from horse drawn wagons to the horseless carriage, instead of parking Old Nelly once a week in one of several livery stables in town, automobiles made daily trips a reality and necessitated on-street parking and traffic regulation. The increase in both vehicular and foot traffic was one factor which created a need for additional law enforcement officers. US Route 340 runs through Charles Town on Washington Street providing a thoroughfare into Charles Town from the northeastern US and Virginia’s Lower Shenandoah Valley. WV Route 9, constructed initially to connect Charles Town with the county seat of Berkeley County, is now part of a web which gives access to population centers to the east and west. Continued upgrades in inter- and intra-state transportation have made the town founded by General George Washington’s youngest brother, Charles, a more convenient location to live in as well as an attractive place to visit.

In 1872, Charles Town’s Sergeant and Patrolman were responsible for keeping the peace in a town with just under 1,600 residents. A century and a half later, Charles Town’s population has more than quadrupled, and to meet this growth the police department has expanded to its present force of 16 sworn officers and 3 civilians. But regardless of the changes which have occurred over the years, the mission of the Charles Town Police Department has remained the same-- to provide the highest quality of police services to the people who live, work, and visit our community.

Summary Provided by Doug Perks