1952 A two-way radio system is put into service which allows communication between all town departments. The town also begins construction on a combined police and fire station to be located on Church St. adjacent to the town’s first firehouse.
1953 The new police/fire station is completed and occupied by both departments. This is the first purpose built police station that is used by the town. In previous years the department paid to rent privately owned office space or used space in other municipal buildings such as the town hall and highway garage.
1954 After twenty years, responsibility for providing ambulance service is transferred from the police department to the fire department.
1955 Five school traffic supervisors are added to the ranks of the department. These uniformed women, trained in traffic enforcement and school safety by the Registry of Motor Vehicles, are assigned duty at the town’s schools. Fred F. Cain’s Chrysler dealership donates to the department a new white Chrysler station wagon to be designated the department’s safety car.
1956 Just three years after occupying its new headquarters, the department has grown to include a chief, deputy chief, two sergeants, nine patrolmen, seven school traffic supervisors and several police vehicles. Due to this growth and growth in the fire department, the police/fire station becomes completely overcrowded and inadequate. Plans are soon developed for a new, separate police station.
1958 Deputy Chief Hoban dies while in office. Also, with fears of communism, espionage, and atomic war on the rise, the town again forms an auxiliary police force this time to join the auxiliary fire service and auxiliary ambulance service under the control of the Civil Defense Department. In addition, the Avco Research and Advanced Development Division (now Textron) forms its own police force. Avco’s officers begin to patrol the sprawling, top secret complex on Lowell St. after being sworn in as special police officers by the police chief and town clerk. In the event of emergency, these officers could be called upon along with the auxiliary police force to supplement the regular force.
1959 The highway garage on Adelaide St., having offered office, lock-up, and garage space to the police department at various times over the past thirty years, is demolished. In its place, begins construction of a modern police station. Former Chief Ainsworth retires as both town constable and chief probation officer.
1960 Officers Charlie Ellsworth and Anthony Langone begin live-in training sessions at he Massachusetts State Police Academy in Framingham becoming the first of many Wilmington officers to attend that facility. They attend classes in criminal law, motor vehicle law, report writing, and first aid. In addition, they receive extensive firearms training, becoming proficient with their revolvers, the 30-30 rifle, the .45 cal. semi-automatic rifle, the .45 cal. submachine gun, the 12 ga. shotgun, and the gas grenade gun.
1961 Former Chief Harry J. Ainsworth dies. Also, the town dedicates its newly completed police headquarters in June of this year. The $75,000 colonial-style building features abundant office space, modern bathroom and shower facilities, a kitchen, a locker room, storage closets, several holding cells, and a pistol range. In addition, the grounds are well landscaped and feature adequate parking for those doing business at the station. It remains the only building owned by the town that was built and occupied solely for and by the police department.
1963 Two years after occupying their new station the department roster has grown to include a chief, five sergeants, fourteen patrolmen, and ten traffic supervisors.
1965 After receiving three months of training, the department’s first K-9 officers, Jay Palmer and Anthony Langone, begin patrolling with their dogs “Zip” and “Roscoe”. Also this year, the rank of lieutenant is created for the first time with the promotion of Sgt. A. John Imbimbo.
1969 Chief Lynch presents Rev. Tadgell of the Congregational Church, Fr. Croke of St.Thomas of Villanova Church, Rev. Miller of the Methodist Church, Rev. Smith of the Baptist Church, and Fr. Leahy of St. Dorothy’s Church with gold police badges and names them “Honorary Chaplains” of the police department. Also this year, the Northern Middlesex Tactical Riot Squad, precursor to the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC) Tactical Police Force (TPF), is formed. Officers from several Lowell area cities and towns, including Wilmington, receive riot control training from the FBI and begin responding to numerous callouts for ever increasing anti-war demonstrations and other incidents of civil disobedience. In addition, the department’s K-9s “Zip” and “Roscoe” are deployed with the unit.
1972 The Wilmington Police Association is superseded as the officers’ primary union organization when they join the International Brotherhood of Police Officers (IBPO) and form Local 318.
1977 Sgt. Jay Palmer becomes the first Wilmington officer to attend the FBI National Training Academy in Quantico, Virginia. In addition, Police Clerks Edith Narduzzo and Margaret Perry, along with Traffic Supervisor Sgt. Maryann Langone attend rape counseling and investigation programs offered by Mystic Valley Mental Health Center and Choate Memorial Hospital becoming the department’s first female employees to be specially trained in this area.
1979 Chief Paul Lynch retires after serving nearly thirty-one years as chief and nearly forty-one years with the department having started as a special officer in 1938. Sgt. Bobby N. Stewart is promoted to chief.
1980 For the third time in the police department’s history, an auxiliary police force is formed, however, under more calm and peaceful circumstances. Used to augment the department’s regular roster, these volunteer officers perform duties at parades, concerts, Fourth of July celebrations, and sporting events. In addition, they patrol nightly the town’s schools and other municipal buildings and properties.
1982 Proposition 2 1/2 is blamed for budget cuts that threaten to diminish or even curtail the department’s ability to provide service.
1983 Wilmington Police Department is instrumental in starting the Northeast Regional Police Institute (NERPI), an in-service training academy located on the grounds of the Tewksbury State Hospital. In addition, Lt. Bernard Nally is promoted to deputy chief, a rank that was abolished with the passing of Deputy Chief Francis Hoban in 1958. Also, this year sees the beginning of massed anti-nuclear demonstrations at Avco’s Lowell St. complex. At times, nearly the entire police force is deployed along with a state police contingent and members of the regional tactical police force as hundreds protest Avco’s development and construction on the MX (later named Peacekeeper) intercontinental ballistic missile.
1986 Wilmington arms its officers with semi-automatic pistols, at a time when few agencies in the state were issuing this type of weapon. The new, state of the art Heckler & Koch Model P7M8 9mm military style pistols replace the aging and archaic Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum revolvers. In addition, the department’s pump action shotguns are replaced with Benelli Model M1 semi-automatic 12 ga. shotguns.
1987 A computer information management system is introduced to handle and enhance the department’s record keeping abilities. Handwritten and typed daily logs and reports become a thing of the past. Also this year, the Wilmington Department of Public Works constructs and outdoor police firearms training range on a remote section of land behind the DPW garage on Andover St.
In addition, the Wilmington Police Department Honor Guard is formed and the Wilmington Police Memorial, a granite stone engraved with the Wilmington Police badge and names of deceased officers, is dedicated in front of the police station.
Also, the police sponsored Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program is introduced to the Wilmington School system. It is first taught by Juvenile Officer Robert Spencer and subsequently by Officers James White and Chip Bruce.
1988 Wilmington officers attached to the NEMLEC TPF are deployed to prison riots at the Essex County Jail in Lawrence and Middlesex County House of Correction in Billerica. The daylong riots, involving hundreds of inmates at both institutions, are brought under control by late evening.
1990 Due space shortages, the detectives, along with the safety officer, juvenile officer, traffic officers, and DARE officer move from the Adelaide St. police station and take up office space on the top floor of the former Swain School. Preliminary architectural drawings of a proposed combined police and fire public safety building are submitted to the town.
1991 Wilmington officers attached to the NEMLEC TPF are deployed on a Presidential protection and security detail when, during the Gulf War, President George Bush visits Raytheon’s Patriot missile plant in Andover. One of three such visits to the area during his presidency that Wilmington’s TPF officers participated in providing security.
1993 Grant application to Massachusetts Council on Criminal Justice is accepted and the department is awarded $75,000 to put towards implementing its “community-policing” program.
1995 Wilmington’s police and fire departments’ 9-1-1 system is brought on-line. This statewide Enhanced 9-1-1 system, or E 9-1-1 for short, allows callers’ location, name and telephone number to be automatically displayed at the police and fire stations. It also allows for calls to be forwarded to surrounding towns’ public safety answering stations in the event communications systems within Wilmington are overloaded with calls or otherwise disabled. Also, voters at a special town meeting held in December approve the college education incentive program known as the “Quinn Bill”. This allows police officers that attain associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degre in criminal justice a pay incentive of ten, twenty, and twenty-five percent respectively. In addition, criminal justice grant money allows the department to purchase new body armor vests for every officer.
1996 Civilian dispatchers are hired. Their duties include answering all incoming business and 9-1-1 calls, data entry, dispatching police officers to calls for service, checking license and registration information with the Registry of Motor Vehicles, making warrant and criminal background checks and maintaining communications with police officers in the field.
1999 Article 39 of the Annual Town Meeting seeks to have the proposed combined police/fire public safety building named the Wilmington Memorial Public Safety Building in honor of Wilmington firefighters Wilbur Sheldon and Russell Pratt who were killed fighting a house fire near Silver Lake in 1927. In addition, the memorial would also honor all deceased members of both the police and fire departments for their past service to the town. The motion was seconded and approved. Later in the year, ground is broken for the new facility located at the corner of Church St. and Adelaide St.
2000 The department upgrades its officers’ sidearm with the Beretta Model 96G .40 cal. semi-automatic pistol. The Benelli shotguns, in use since 1986, are phased out of service and are replaced with Beretta Model M1201FP 12 ga. semi-automatic shotguns. Also, the AR-15 .223 cal. semi-automatic patrol rifle is added to the arsenal along with military M-16 5.56mm automatic assault rifles.
Work on the Wilmington Memorial Public Safety Building nears completion and a “mobile police precinct” is deployed to the Wilmington Plaza for the Christmas season. This mobile site trailer is equipped with heat, electricity, first-aid supplies, cellular telephone, and office space and can be deployed as needed by the department for special events and community policing programs throughout the year. In addition, officers are issued new portable radios; new laptop mobile data terminals are installed in all the marked cruisers and a new speed-monitoring trailer is deployed at various locations around town. Also this year, dispatchers begin cross training in police, fire, and EMS procedures in anticipation of their move to a combined communications dispatch center in the new public safety facility.