Chief records department history

By Regina Villiers. Originally published October 22, 1997 in The Suburban Life, added October 15, 2018.

Gerald Beckman, police chief of Madeira since 1987, had researched and recorded the history of the department.

When Gerald Beckman Madeira’s chief of police, started wondering about a case, he decided that he, himself, was the person to solve it.

So, in the fashion of Sgt. Joe Friday of TV fame, Beckman started digging for “just the facts, ma’am.”

The case in question was the Madeira police Department itself its history.  How did it start?  And where?  Who are the important names in its past?

After patient and diligent searching, Beckman has solved the case to his satisfaction, though he’d still like some pictures.  However, he has come up with most of his answers.

After its incorporation as a village in 1910, Madeira was protected by a series of elected marshals and appointed deputies until 1942.

Many stories float concerning this period.

One story involves police cars, or the lack thereof.  In the beginning, Madeira had a marshal, but no car.

Russ Ward, a former police officer and lifetime Madeira resident, tells how culprits, when stopped, if they did not wish to be apprehended, would simply drive away, leaving the marshal and deputy marshal standing there waving their arms, much like Deputy Barney Fife in the mythical town of Mayberry.

Apprehension and justice were not swift in those days.  And computers did not exist to quickly track down lawbreakers.

This system existed until 1942, when Tom Fesmire became Madeira’s first chief of police.

Here, stories and confusion float, too, for I have been told other names by people who claim to remember the first police chief.

But Beckman deals in facts, and he patiently researched all village and city records and ordinances to come up with correct answers in his police department history.

He has discovered mistakes, as have I, in the two historical anniversary booklets published by the city in 1960 and 1975.  So, don’t use their information as gospel, or stake your life’s savings on their accuracy.

After Fesmire, Fred Doer became chief of police in 1947.  Under Doer, technology and personnel in the department started to expand.  By 1954, there were four full-time officers and two cars.  The department started training and equipping personnel in photography, fingerprinting, and basic first aid.

Madeira changed its status from a village to a city in August 1959.  Chief Doer saw the city through this transition and then retired in 1962.

He was succeeded by Chief Tom Gerth, who was replaced by Chief Don Wallace in 1967.

In 1970, after the annexation by Madeira of the South Kenwood area, the police department expanded to almost double its size, bringing the department to 10 full-time officers.

Wallace died in office in 1971, and Phillip Hudson became chief.  The department grew under Hudson to 11 officers.  He retired in 1986 and to present, is Madeira’s longest serving chief.

Beckman became Madeira’s police chief in 1987, moving up in the department.

Beckman started his police career in Maryland, where he served four years, while attending college as a law student.  He had served in the Vietnam War, and met his wife while serving at Andrews Air Force Base.

After finishing his undergraduate work at the University of Maryland, Beckman went into police work full time.  He has since finished his master’s degree and prepared himself for further career opportunities he hopes to do after his retirement here.

Under Beckman’s tenure, the department has seen many changes, most notably the full use of computers in both the station and patrol cars and the addition of a 12th officer.

Beckman views technology of utmost importance in police work and hopes the computers will stay.

“They are needed to better serve the changing and complex needs of a high quality community,” he said.

The department’s first location was in the little building at the corner of Miami and Laurel, which today houses a shoe repair shop.  Chief Beckman would like to locate a picture of the building when the department was there, showing the police department sign.  Or any other old photos that anyone has and would allow him to copy.

From there, the department moved to the old City Hall at Miami and Euclid.  When this building was torn down, they moved to a temporary location in the train station, for two years, while the new Municipal Building was under construction.  It’s now in the new building, most likely its permanent home.

Barring any unforeseen happenings.  Beckman is on his way to becoming Madeira’s longest-serving police chief.  He’s completely and sincerely involved in his job.  At Madeira’s recent homecoming football game, he was on the sidelines, actively watching out for the safety of Madeira’s children.

It’s widely believed that they, and the city, couldn’t be in better hands.