Williston Police Department History

First attested in English c.1530, the word police comes from the Latin politia, which is the latinization of the Greek politeia, "citizenship, administration, civil polity" and that from polis, "city." In ancient Greece the term polissoos referred to a person who was "guarding a city."

America inherited much of its governmental institutions from Great Britain. American law enforcement is no exception.

The first Europeans, who landed on our shores, struggled and sacrificed to establish themselves. They soon realized the need to protect the settlements from those who would deprive them of their lives, and their belongings. Policing was the responsibility of all able-bodied men.

The job of maintaining order in the new colonies was given to Justices of the Peace, and one might see "culprits" in pillories or stocks, paying their debt to society. As society grew the Justice of the Peace system was not enough. It became time for an organized, and paid, police force.

In 1636 the city of Boston established Night Watch, which idea worked reasonably well as long as the area remained a rural and agrarian one.

In the almost 100 years between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, the more than rapid growth of population and industrialization in America mandated the development of municipal police departments. In 1833, Philadelphia organized an independent, 24 hour a day, police force.

Today's law enforcement agencies and departments are highly specialized organizations, with ongoing training to prepare to meet a great variety of problems and situations. The world, our world, has gotten to be a most dangerous place, and we all are dependent on peace officers from every organization for our" life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Although the city was incorporated in 1897, the first records of police activity in Williston are from the minutes of the City Council in July 1920. At that time the officer or officers were referred to as marshals. There is a notation that Marshal Dick Ricks resigned effective August 5, 1920.

September 7, 1920, S. L. Cox was appointed. Others who served as marshal or acting marshal during 1920 were: C.O. Arnold, T.J. Jenkins and J.J. Russell.

No further record shows till 1922 when a Mr. Sinilly was appointed in February and resigned in March. Several other men were appointed and served in 1922 including: Neil McKinnon, F.C. Landrum, and RD. Westbrook.

It is noted that in 1923, W.K Anderson was "elected" marshal on July 3, 1923. Others continuing to serve were R.D. Westbrook and F.C. Landrum.

No further activity is recorded until the Council meeting of July 9, 1930 when Mayor Willis submitted the name of N.E. Griffin to be appointed marshal; it was voted on and passed. By the end of the year there was some question as to whether Mr. Griffin was going to continue on into the next year and letters were submitted by B.S. Hammock, Mr. Griffin and P.L. Wiggins concerning the job. On December 8, 1930, a rather lengthy discussion was held on salary and hours to be worked by the city marshal. Moved and passed that hours of duty were to be from 12:00 noon to 12:00 midnight. Salary would be $75.00 per month. This was the time when automobiles were required to have a tag. However the City Council informed the marshal not to arrest any car owners for not having tags till after January 15, 1931. With growth in the community it was recommended that a jail should be built. A proposition was obtained from L. B. McLeod to build the city jail. The new jail was located just south of the fire station E.G. Grimes was appointed marshal. By the end of the year there were many complaints about cattle roaming the streets and the fact that marshal Grimes was not doing a good job of keeping them gathered up and penned. Various young men would help out with the penning and would be paid so much for each animal penned up. However many of them being enterprising would then go turn out the cows and get paid to help round them up again.

In 1932, Marshal Grimes requested that he be paid $10.00 per month for the use of his car which was approved. Marshal Grimes then requested a 2 week paid vacation which was rejected. During the latter months of 1932, two other men were approved as part time marshals C.R Nettles and John Culpepper who worked mostly at night. Mr. Culpepper was later to become full time city marshal.

C.R. Nettles was appointed and approved as the new Chief or Marshal of Williston at a salary of $75.00 per month. August 15, 1935. Chief Nettles was changed to day marshal at a salary of $50.00 per month until a new marshal could be confirmed by the Council. Perry Wiggins was named as night marshal.

July 14, 1936 Perry L. Wiggins was recommended and approved for the job of marshal. This appointment was the beginning of what was to become one of the longest terms of City Marshal and Police Chief Mr. Wiggins was one of the most well known and respected law enforcement officers in the area. Communications were somewhat limited and it was sometimes difficult to get in touch with the police. In 1942, Mayor Fletcher approached the city council and asked that a special light be installed from the telephone office over the bell so that the marshal could see it and know he was needed.

Since Mr. Wiggins had been the only law enforcement for Williston, it was agreed to raise his salary from $125.00 per month to $150.00 per month. As duties and health issues became involved Mr. Wiggins indicated he would not be able to do any more night work. In January 1946 it was voted to let Mr. Wiggins serve as day marshal only at his current salary of$150.00 per month and a $25.00 per month car expense for using his own car, also to employ Randall Clark to serve as night marshal. These changes were accepted by all and became effective January 15, 1946.

By 1949 it had become necessary for the City of Williston to buy a new police car. The low bid was from Hiers Ford Company for a 6 cylinder two door Ford car at a bid price of $1398.34. The Chief of Police continued to be Perry Wiggins with J. Randall Clark as night Chief.

June 16, 1950 bids were received for a new city jail. The bids were $6,869.00 from Woodrow Fugate and $5,561.50 from William S. "Sam" McDougall both local contractors. Perry Wiggins and Randall Clark continue to serve.

July 11, 1951 indicates a change over in the Police organization with O.C. Belote a former Florida Highway Patrolman being named Chief. Randall Clark continued to serve as night marshal and G.C. Ledbetter being appointed to the position of Relief Chief.

1951 Ernest "Pete" Smith was appointed and served until 1956. Other police officers included Corrie F. Bell and later his temporary replacement Jessie L. Sanders.

On May 2, 1958, The Miami Herald published a very favorable report about Williston Police Department's Mrs. Louise Stringfield the day shift patrol officer. The report included tales of the good judgment during a pursuit and inter-agency co-operation.
In 1960, H.A. Perkins was recommended for Chief with Vernon Macy serving as patrolman.

Vernon Macy replaced H.A. Perkins as Interim Chief while the City searched for a permanent one.

In 1967 Sam L. Perryman replaced Mr. Macy as Chief.

Mr. Macy was later reappointed Interim Chief and served until Charles Patterson was appointed.
Charles Patterson was appointed in 1973.

In 1975 the first actual police station was dedicated. The new department moved into a portion of what was formerly the city jail. Several of the former cells were removed and office space was made available for Chief Patterson and radio operator Wyzansky. Radio service is available with Marion, Gilchrist and Alachua agencies.

April 10, 1975, the new police headquarters and fire station were dedicated for the bicentennial celebration. There were four full time officers: Chief Patterson, Patrolmen Lee Urquhart, Marvin "Tom" Thompson and Milton Dwane Lovell. Also there were three part time officers and a school crossing guard.

Also there were three part time officers and a school crossing guard.

From 1981-1983 Jimmy Joiner served as Williston's Chief of Police.

(1983-1993) Gene Hartman

During Chief Hartman's Administration, the City erected the Williston Police and Fire Department building with eight bays to accommodate a growing Fire Department. The Police Department inhabited the North side of the building and included a professional Evidence Room, Dispatch Center, Offices and Records Rooms, all of which had been lacking in the 1975 building.

On July 30, 1988 The Williston Police Department lost its first officer in the line of duty. Corporal David Wayne Moss was shot and killed while investigating what looked like a disabled vehicle. The disabled vehicle that David was investigating was recently stolen from a home on SW 1st Avenue and had not been reported as the owner was asleep. David tracked a dysfunctional young man to the west side of the high school, where they exchanged gunfire, killing each other in the process. That year the Police Department purchased new radios and bullet proof vests for all officers. Chief Hartman continued to oversee the Department until he retired in 1993.

(1994-1997) Olin W. Slaughter

In 1994 Olin Slaughter, a retired Delaware officer, came to Williston and applied for the Chief's position. Slaughter commanded the agency for three years.

Slaughters hallmark was a penchant for training and career development. He changed the department uniform to dark blue and altered the vehicle graphics to improve image.

Slaughter left in 1997 and ran for Sheriff shortly thereafter. Bruce Snyder (photo on right) was the Interim Chief while the City searched for a permanent one.

(1998-1999) Joseph Subic Jr

In 1998 Joseph Subic was tapped for the Chief's position where he stayed for about 18 months. Subic also was a "Training Chief" and made efforts to perpetuate the command staff through training at the Southern Police Institute. He was asked to leave when he went over budget. Bruce Snyder again stepped into the Interim Chief position while a new search was done.

(1999-2011) Daniel M. Davis III

In 1999 Dan Davis, a retired Maryland officer moved to Marion County and opened a horse farm. Davis applied for the Chief's position and held it for 12 years. During that period the World Trade Towers were attacked and the face of law enforcement changed drastically. Davis was a "global thinker" and expanded training along those lines. Though Williston seems an unlikely terrorist target there were lots of lessons learned from the Towers attack that Davis applied locally with some success.

Davis' motto for the department was "Strive for Excellence" and he worked tirelessly toward that end.

He retired in February of 2011 and Clay Connolly (photo on right) became the Interim Chief.

(2011-Present) Dennis Strow

In August of 2011 Dennis Strow completed a 38 year career in neighboring Marion County, retired and came to Williston as Chief. He has shifted the departments focus to a more community based policing model. He inherited a shrinking budget due to the real estate bust that caused the "Great Recession". The City was experiencing some changes in personnel that created greater challenges due to a diminished knowledge base. Chief Strow has diligently tracked expenditures and made wise purchases aimed at living within this diminished budget without loss of service. That tradition continues.

The Williston Police Department and this web-publisher wish to thank Mr. Elihu Ross, and Deputy Chief Clay Connolly for their tremendous contribution to restoring our history.