The Denville Police Department was officially created on September 2, 1936. Prior to this time, the protection of life and property and the function of preserving the peace in Denville Township were delegated to Special Officers appointed by the Township Committee. The most notable of these Special Officers was Benjamin Kinsey, who served as both the Fire Chief and Police Chief from 1928 to 1935 (Kinsey Place was named in honor of him).
In 1936, the Denville Police Department was established by an Ordinance passed by the Township Committee. Harry Jenkins was appointed Chief of Police and Arthur Strathman was appointed as a Patrolman.
During the 1930's and 1940's, there was no actual "Police Station". Chief Jenkins worked out of his residence on Myers Avenue. Calls to the Denville Police were then answered by either Chief Jenkins or his wife Pauline.
In the early 1950's, space was found in the back of the first floor of the Main Street Fire House (presently a Professional Building, 95 East Main Street) to house the Officers.
In the early 1960's, the Department was moved into a converted two bay ambulance garage at the back of the then Main Street Fire House. For the first time, the Department had office space, a locker room and holding cells. Prior to this, any prisoners from Denville were held in the Dover Police Department's holding cells.
Chief Harry Jenkins retired in 1962, after 26 years of faithful service to the Township of Denville. Chief Donald J. King was selected to replace him. Chief King served in this capacity until 1980. During his tenure, the department grew from 13 sworn Officers to 30 sworn Officers and 3 civilian employees.
By then, the Department was bursting at the seams in its "Old Headquarters". After years of planning, a new police headquarters was built adjoining the present Municipal Complex on Saint Mary's Place. The building and property had originally been Saint Mary's School number two.
Chief Anthony P. Strungis, Jr. oversaw the planning, building and transition into the new facilities during his short tenure. When Chief Strungis retired in 1983, Chief Howard C. Shaw took charge.
During the years that Howard Shaw was Chief, the department came into the computer age. This now allows all reports and pertinent records to be stored and accessed by computer.
Chief Shaw retired in 1995 and Chief Steven C. Boepple was appointed to command the Department. In the year 2000, the number of full-time department personnel was 31 sworn Officers, 4 dispatchers, 1 parking enforcement officer, and 3 clerical/secretarial civilian employees.
Since 1995, the Department has seen modernization and change in various areas. Patrol Cars are now equipped with in-car computers. Headquarters has been upgraded with a new communications center and lobby area. The Department Rules, Regulations, and Policies have been replaced with a new system based on national standards. The Community Policing Bureau was established to better address the changing safety and enforcement concerns of our citizens and businesses. The Traffic Bureau has been expanded to meet the increased traffic problems of the Township. A strong emphasis on training and keeping high ethical and professional standards has been a major priority.
Chief Boepple retired in 2004 and Lt. Anthony Strungis, III was appointed as the new Chief of Police. Under Chief Strungis, the department continued to grow and adapt to changing police needs. In 2005, the Community Policing and Traffic Bureaus were merged to make better use of both units' resources and the department's first "Bicycle Unit" was created.
Chief Christopher Wagner was appointed as the new Chief of Police in 2007 with the retirement of Chief Strungis and served as the Chief of Police from 2007 to 2019. During his tenure, Chief Wagner’s vision for the department was establishing a strong partnership between the police and the community. While Chief Wagner oversaw many changes during his time as Chief, including the appearance of the department's patrol vehicles and uniforms, he is most noted for his passion in community policing. Chief Wagner built strong ties and worked closely with members of the community, to include the creation of the department's first ever Citizens Police Academy to allow the public to better understand and gain trust in the department. In 2017, Chief Wagner also instituted the departments first ever Police Trading Card program, which provided a challenge to collect all of the cards depicting the many officers of the department. Finally, Chief Wagner is known for his close ties to the schools in town, including the development of the Class III Special Police Officer Program, which provides and officer to guard and protect participating schools from any potential harm.
In 2019, Chief Frank Perna was appointed as the new Chief of Police upon Chief Wagner's retirement. One of Chief Perna's first actions was updating the department's uniform patch to include a depiction of the American flag.
The members of the Denville Township Police Department are proud of its history and all of the men and women who have worn the Denville Blue. The Denville Police are determined to continue to live up to the highest standards of law enforcement professionalism.
The Denville Police Department would like to thank the late Lt. Richard McConnell (Ret.) and Sgt. Richard Duda for contributing to this article.