This is a very brief history of West Chester. More detailed and further information is provided in "A History of Union Township, Butler County, Ohio" by Virginia Shewalter and is available at the West Chester Library and for purchase from the West Chester-Union Township Historical Society.
For information about the West Chester-Union Township Historical Society
West Chester Township lies within an oval area geologically known as the "Cincinnati Arch." This area has been one of the best on the continent for collecting fossils because the Miami Valley was once at the bottom of an ancient ocean.
In Ohio, Butler County is only second to Ross County in the number of antiquities and Native American mounds discovered. At one time, West Chester claimed eleven mounds.
Early Settlers and Settlement
By nationality, the largest group of early community inhabitants were German. The Irish were the next largest group followed by the English. Those who settled here were merchants, blacksmiths, tanners and millers, but these groups were out-numbered by farmers. These farmers were attracted to West Chester by its beauty and quality of the land.
One of our first settlers was Joseph McMaken. Born in Cumberland County, PA in 1755, McMaken applied for land in West Chester on July 4, 1791. Other notable first settlers were: Joseph Cox (1767-1842), the Swearingen Family (1700s), Samuel Seward (1754-1828), Abraham Montanye (1752-1828), Matthew Van Dine, Jr. (1752-1837), Isaac Paxton and Michael and John Ayers.
On March 24, 1803, the Ohio General Assembly passed an act for the division of Hamilton County, establishing Butler County. The new county was named after General Richard Butler, a Revolutionary War hero.
On June 2, 1823, the County Commissioners met and petitioned for the division of Liberty Township, and that this new township be called Union Township. So far, no reason has been discovered as to why the name "Union" was chosen. Union Township ended up with 35 sections of land.
Transportation was quickly becoming a problem as the popluation continued to grow. There were no roads...only trails. The only suitable means of transportation over these primative trails was by horseback or by foot. Eventually, the Miami Erie Canal and the railroads came through the community making travel much easier and resulting in the development of smaller communities within Union Township. Rialto, Port Union, Tylersville and West Chester were all stops on the railroad and small businesses would sprout up in those areas.
The community remained known as Union Township for more than 100 years until June 28, 2000 when Union Township became known as West Chester Township, to reflect the identity of the area.
Police Department History
The West Chester Police Department began as the Union Township Police Department. with part-time officers and shared enforcement duties with the Butler County Sheriff's Office.
Township Trustee Marcellus Osner, citing rapid growth of the community and increasing demands for service, was instrumental in creating the police department in 1967. Prior to this, part-time Constable William Fisher policed the area, supplemented only by two sheriff's patrol cars operating countywide. The original six officers hired were Dan Snyder, John Luckett, Gerald Goforth, Gerald Heinze, Robert Shelly, and Harry Frederick. Snyder, a former state trooper, was named Chief of Police, and held that position until 1971.
The first uniforms featured gray shirts with black pocket flaps and epaulets, and gray pants with a black side-stripe. The hat was a western style Stetson. The original patch was circular, with yellow lettering on a black background and the breast badge a basic stamped design. The first firearms were vintage Smith & Wesson model 10, .38 cal revolvers. Starting pay was $1.60 per hour.
Original requests for service were routed through a private dispatch service in Hamilton, Ohio, to the Ohio State Highway Patrol Post #9 in Hamilton, then to Union Township officers via radio. By early 1969, this system was upgraded by installing radios in patrol cars linked to the Butler County Sheriff's dispatch center.
In July 1971, William Noland was selected as Union Township's first full-time police chief, at a starting salary of $11,000. Chief Noland had previously worked as a police officer in Sharonville and Evendale, Ohio.
Under Chief Noland, the staff increased to eight full-time and five part-time officers. In 1973, a full-time supervisor, Sergeant Jerry Reynolds was hired after working 12 years as a police officer in Sharonville, Ohio. Chief Noland secured grants for officer’s salaries and new equipment, and in 1974, oversaw the establishment of the first Union Township Dispatch Center, housed at police headquarters at 7715 John Road. Chief Noland changed the uniform to navy blue and redesigned the shoulder patch. He also changed the badge design to that which was worn until September, 2000, when it was changed again to reflect the new name of West Chester Police Department.
Chief Noland resigned in August, 1974, and patrolman Frank Richardson became Acting Chief of Police.
In March 1975, Paul E. Arthur was appointed Chief of Police. Arthur had previously worked as a police officer in Deer Park and Madeira, Ohio, and in Tempe, Arizona and Coral Gables, Florida.
Chief Arthur expanded the department to 20 full-time officers by 1979, serving a community of 23,000 residents. Insurance, competitive pay, holidays, vacations, and pension contributions were introduced for officers. The growing department moved to the Old West Chester Post Office building at 8720 Cincinnati-Dayton Road in July, 1979. Portable radios were purchased, and a new computer system was installed that allowed for criminal history and wanted person's inquiries nationwide. Chief Arthur established the School Resource Officer program, promoted four new sergeants, and assigned full-time investigative officers. There were also some minor changes made to the shoulder patch.
Chief Arthur retired in September 1981, and Sgt. Lynn A. Brown was named Acting Chief of Police.
In October 1981, Jude E. Haslinger was named Chief of Police, leaving his position as Chief of Police in Gibsonville, Ohio to accept the post. Chief Haslinger developed the first policy and procedure manual, and restructured the ranks to include lieutenants, corporals, and detectives. The department was then divided into Uniform, Investigative, and Services divisions. Newly promoted Lieutenant Lynn Brown assumed command of the Uniform Division, while Lieutenant Ed Oliver took over the Investigative and Services divisions. A Crime Prevention Officer was added to develop neighborhood watch programs.
Chief Haslinger resigned in October 1984, to accept a position with the General Electric Company, and Lt. Lynn A. Brown was again named Acting Chief of Police.
In November 1984, Lynn A. Brown was promoted to the rank of Colonel, and appointed Chief of Police. Chief Brown was the first Chief to ascend to the position from the ranks of the Union Township police officers. In 1985, Chief Brown adopted the Smith & Wesson model 681, .357 magnum revolver as the departments issue duty weapon. He also purchased Remington 870, 12 gauge shotguns for all police vehicles. As part of Chief Brown's emphasis on officer safety, regular firearms training became mandatory and body armor was issued to all officers.
In 1986 Chief Brown oversaw the move of the police department to the newly constructed Union Township Administrative building, which also housed the Butler County Area III Court, at 9113 Cincinnati-Dayton Road. Under Chief Brown's guidance, the department grew rapidly, soon reaching 28 full-time officers. Rigid officer candidate testing and screening criteria was established to facilitate the hiring of the most qualified applicants.
In 1988, a SWAT team was created, originally consisting of six officers. In 1989, Chief Brown converted the duty weapon to the Smith & Wesson model 5906, 9MM semi-automatic pistol. In 1991, labor contract negotiations eliminated the rank of corporal. In 1992, a burglary task force was created and became the precursor for the later establishment of the Directed Patrol Unit, which performs covert and mini-tactical operations. In 1993, two canine units were established. In 1996, the Traffic Safety Unit was added to address the many traffic related issues that accompanied the rapid growth of the community. Officers assigned received specialized training in accident investigation and reconstruction. In 1998, the Youth Aid section was created to investigate all cases involving juvenile offenders, abuse or neglect.
Also in 1998, Lieutenant John Bruce was promoted to the rank of captain, and appointed as the first-ever Assistant Chief of Police.
In June 2000, Union Township officially became West Chester Township, and the police department accordingly became the West Chester Police Department. This necessitated the fourth change in the shoulder patch, and with this came a new design in the breast badge and hat badge worn by officers.
In September 2000, Chief Brown retired, leaving behind one of the most progressive police departments in the state of Ohio. The department employs a contingent of 82 officers, 14 communications officers and 10 civilian police employees. The West Chester police department is currently the largest township police department, in addition to being one of twenty largest police departments overall in the state of Ohio.
Colonel John W. Bruce was named Police Chief in 2000 to meet the challenges of a growing community. Col. Bruce retired in 2005, but stayed on until December 2008 in order to develop depth within the ranks of the department and facilitate a smooth transition.
Erik Niehaus was sworn in as Chief of Police on Dec. 2, 2008 and resigned his position in 2014 to become a partnered attorney in a local law firm. Assistant Chief David Kelly stepped in to serve as Acting Chief during the search for a replacement for Chief Niehaus.
On Dec. 16, 2014, Capt. Joel Herzog, a 23-year veteran of the West Chester Police Department, was sworn into office as the community's eighth Chief of Police.
History of Fire/Emergency Medical Services
The tradition of quality Emergency Medical Service in West Chester began on May 30, 1969 when Trustee President James Richards presented the keys to a 1969 Oldsmobile ambulance to Fire Chief Hugh Bellamy, who in turn gave the keys to Life Squad Captain John Traum.
The event was noted a month later in the Suburban Press: "The Life Squad was given an official send-off on Sunday, June 29." The article records that there were 38 squad members on hand for the "brief but significant program, which spelled pride in achievement after so many months of effort and formally launched the life squad community service."
The Union Township EMS was staffed by a small group of volunteers, men and women, who trained in basic first aid. The "squadsmen", as they were called, trained every other Monday.
As Chief James Detherage took the helm of the Union Township Fire Department in 1977, he took a proactive approach when planning for the future. At that time, the Life Squad could only administer basic first aid. Paramedics had to be dispatched from Bethesda North Hospital to the scene in Union Township, creating long response times, prolonging the time that should have been used to get the patient to the hospital. In keeping with the department goals of decreasing response times while increasing quality services, the fire department began its own paramedic service in 1982.
In 1987, Chief Detherage appointed Mike Mays to the position of Director of Emergency Medical Services. Director Mays became responsible for hiring the medical personnel, ordering and maintaining equipment, training staff, and the quality assurance program. Director Mays worked closely with the department's medical director to provide the best emergency medical services to the community.
On June 4, 1997, Dick Santel was hired as Captain of the department's Emergency Medical Services Bureau, replacing Director Mays who was promoted to Assistant Chief of Administration of the Fire Department.
After Captain Santel's retirement in 2007, Lt. Steve Kelly was promoted to EMS Captain on March 9, 2008. Captain Kelly was hired part-time in March of 1996 before being hired to a career position in August of 1997. Capt. Kelly left the West Chester Fire Department in October 2013.
In 2007, Chief James Detherage retired from the fire department was named West Chester's Public Safety Director, and Assistant Chief Anthony Goller was promoted to Fire Chief for a growing community.