A Brief History
1895, the Town of Cocoa was incorporated. First in the order of business, establish a governing body. Modeling after the Mayor-Council form of government, they quickly nominate and elect the town leaders.
According to the minutes of the council meeting held on October 01, 1895, the office of the Marshall/Collector was established. Geo. (George) L. Lynch was nominated and elected without opposition as Cocoa’s very first “Chief of the Police Force,” though this office would not be formally referred to as a “Police Chief” for decades to come. The duties of this office also included those of the Town’s collector of taxes, much as the historical sheriff’s had been. By the month’s end, the clerk had reported the receipt of the handcuffs ordered for the town.
By November 1895, the town had established its first salary ordinance. The Chief/Marshall/Collector would earn $40/month plus $1 for each conviction where the fine is paid in full. Upon conviction, “vagrants, loafers, tramps, or suspicious characters” could be ordered to pay a $50 fine ($1,695 in 2020 dollars), work for the town at a salary 60 cents per day ($33 in 2020 dollars), or be hired out to the town.
Being the Town’s first Marshall must not have been all that it was cracked up to be. Although the available records do not indicate why, Marshall Lynch submitted his resignation on February 11, 1896, just shy of 6 months on the job.
Mayor W. L. Hughlett and the Town Council appointed Jas. (James) A. Paine as acting Marshall. After an advertisement had been placed in the Cocoa Rockledge News for the Town Marshall/Collector the council met again on February 15, 1896 to consider the appointment. After the Marshall/Collector salary was reduced from $40/month to $35/month, four of the applicants withdrew their applications and Acting Marshall Paine was reappointed.
By August 1896, the Town had enacted an election ordinance which established an annual election day on the Monday preceding the second Tuesday in October. Each of the Town’s administrative positions would be elected by the people on an annual basis, including the Town’s Marshall/Collector.
By October 1900, the office of the Marshall/Collector had changed hands twice more. By then the duties had been revised to permit the Mayor to order the Marshall/Collector to also act as the janitor for the Town Hall and public buildings. By November 1900, the Town had yet another Marshall/Collector, but he too resigned and Paine had been reappointed in January 1896 but will have resigned again within eleven months.
It wasn’t until October 1927 that the office of the “Chief” moved from an elected position to an appointed one. Each year, after the election results were announced, the Mayor would announce his appointment and the Council would vote to confirm. By this time, the now “City of Cocoa” had elected/appointed eleven (11) new Chiefs since Paine last held the position. They had also added two (2) night policemen to the now force of three (3).
On May 17, 1929, the Cocoa Tribune reported that Cocoa had purchased a new Ford Touring Car. Chief Wyatt Tucker and Officer H.L. Evans would use this patrol car with the words “Police-City of Cocoa” painted on either side. It was reported that the word “Police” on either side of the car means; “watch out or we will catch you.”
October 1929 brought the start of the Great Depression and with it a reduction in salaries. By October 1932 the Chief’s salary had been cut in half from $200 to $100/month and the night policeman’s from $140 to $90/month. Six months later, Chief Tucker submitted his resignation and the City had eliminated all paid vacations for their employees.
By the early 1940s, the country was already fully engulfed in World War II. The City however continued to grow. The police department had gone from Ford to Chevrolet and back to Ford. They purchased a 2-cylinder police motorcycle, which was assigned to Officer L.W. Silsby, and the City had constructed the Cocoa Municipal Airport.
Shortly following World War II in 1945, the City had appointed its 20th new Chief, W.C. Bussell, who had been with the now four (4) man force since November 1942. The City had since abandoned its Municipal Airport venture, in the vicinity of the now standing National Guard Armory, and joined forces with the City of Titusville to create the Titusville-Cocoa Airport (TICO). On October 23, 1945, E.G Harvey was appointed as the City’s first “Colored Policeman”. Officer Harvey would serve the City of Cocoa for at least the next ten (10) years.
On January 15, 1946, the City enacted ordinance No. 1273 creating the office of the city manager. Mr. Walter Bartholomew of Tarpon Springs, FL was hired and became the City’s first City Manager. By October of that year Bartholomew would also assume the duties as the city clerk and by July 1947 the City had called and received for his resignation. Claude H. Dyal was appointed as the city clerk and the city manager’s position would remain vacant until March 1952, when Dyal would be named as the new city manager.
In September 1949, just prior to the start of the Korean War, it was announced that the police department would be getting two-way radios. A sending and receiving set would be installed in the car(s) and also the police phone booth (Magnolia/Hughlett Ave) or in the police department office. In September 1950, the police department received two (2) General Electric 50-watt mobile radios and the now force of six (6) was continuing to grow.
Friday July 9, 1954, one of the most tragic days in the history of the Cocoa Police Department. Lt. Roy D. Blake was shot and killed in the line of duty. Details are sketchy at best, but reports indicate that, according to a witness, Lt. Blake was shot with his own service revolver in an apparent accidental self-inflicted incident. Lt. Blake had been an officer with the department since April 23, 1946. A plaque memorializing Lt. Blake now hangs in the current police department lobby.
In April 1947, the City submitted a legislative request to modify the City charter and to change their form of government from a Mayor-Council to a Council-Manager system. Although the city ordinance had already been revised, the proposed charter was reportedly rejected by the people. By June 1957, this would become a volatile point of contention and a major power struggle between the mayor, H.L. Hughlett, the City Manager, Claude H. Dyal, and the Police Chief, G.E. Dempsey. Who had direct control over the police department?
The City was still operating under the charter from 1929, wherein a Mayor-Council system was in place. However, the ordinance No. 1273 from 1946 had established a Council-Manager system. In a letter to council, Mayor Bennett called for the immediate suspension of the police chief for insubordination and cites his dissatisfaction with the city manager as well. The council rejects his request and Mayor Bennett ultimately files suit against the city council and City Manager Dyal.
Three months later in September 1957, as the Nation was in its 2nd year of the Vietnam War, Chief Dempsey submits his resignation after 11 ½ years of service. Lt. Arthur Corlew was named acting chief of police. Three (3) months later, Mayor Bennett submits ordinance No. 1433 abolishing the office of the city manager. The next day, City Manager Dyal submits his resignation.
In January 1958, now Chief Art Corlew is authorized to hire the City’s first “policewoman” to serve as parking meter enforcement. Available records indicate that on Monday February 10, 1958, Doris Adkins filled that position with an annual salary of $3000 ($28,711 in 2020 dollars). It is unclear just how long she served in this capacity as her name never appears within the council minutes’ employee roster.
Providing the police department with a FY59 budget of $77,439 ($741,134 in 2020 dollars), the 1957 and 1958 council had been tagged with the title “A Do Something Council.” Relations between the mayor, council and the police department seemed to have settled for the time.
Chief Arthur C. Corlew was hired by the City of Cocoa in May 1952 as a parking meter patrolman with a salary of $220/month ($2,148 in 2020 dollars). At the time of his retirement in March 1983, the City had finally almost settled into a Council-Manager form of government. Chief Corlew had served his community for nearly 30 years, 25 of which were as the Chief of Police. To date, Chief Corlew is the longest-sitting police chief ever to have served the City of Cocoa.
Over the next 10+ years, the City would see five more chiefs and in 1994 Chief Richard Masten assumed the helm. By December of his first year at his new post, Masten will have lost two of his leaders in the department. Acting Captain Mike Blubaugh and Officer Roy Swinson were the first of many to fall after the FBI and the IRS announced a federal probe into gambling and racketeering. Though no arrests had been made yet, 22 federal search warrants had been served and Blubaugh and Swinson were suspended. In the next three months, it was announced that two more detectives were under investigation and were suspended. Before the investigation concluded, several officers submitted their resignations and walked out in protest of the investigation and support of the suspended officers. The Department was divided and bleeding. Chief Masten would resign his post after only two (2) years while the rest of the department tried to heal. To date, there remain only a handful of employees who worked through this who still remain.
June 1999, the department moved into its newly-constructed current home at 1226 West King Street. Under the leadership of Chief David Crawford, the agency left its former home at 300 Brunson Blvd. and began to build its reputation as a professional law enforcement organization. The Brunson facility was occupied in December 1964 after moving from the City Hall building in the 200 block of Willard St.
The new facility was a state-of-the-art police facility and quickly gained recognition throughout the law enforcement community. After receiving certification from FDLE as a designated training site, the agency began to host a multitude of outside quality training to agencies throughout the country. Portions of the basic recruit academy through the Brevard Community College (now Eastern Florida State College) were also held at the facility.
In June 2003, the agency entered into a contract with the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation and began the three-year process of obtaining state accreditation. In June 2006, Chief Phillip Ludos, Deputy Chief Mark Klayman (later Chief 2007-2013) and Accreditation Manager Sgt. John Hankins (now retired chief) appeared before the commission and were awarded the agency’s first State Accreditation. The agency has been reviewed and has received reaccreditation every three years since, and in April 2021, the agency was reviewed and passed for the 6th time under the guidance of Chief Michael P. Cantaloupe.
Chief Cantaloupe was hired in December 1990 and had served as the Chief since 2013. After 30 years of service, Chief Cantaloupe retired in December 2020. Upon Chief Cantaloupe’s retirement, (then) Commander John Hankins assumed the duties as Chief of Police until his own retirement a few months later. In the interim, the City cast a nationwide net, in search of top candidates for the next chief.
In 2021, the City of Cocoa appointed its first African-American chief of police, Evander Collier IV. Chief Collier retired from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, where he served the county as Assistant Chief of a district, and now leads the Cocoa Police Department into the third decade of the 21st Century.
Now, after over 125 years, the agency employs roughly 100 paid employees, over 70 of which are sworn, as well as a host of volunteers, and the agency is on its 33rd named Police Chief.
This project has been a 125-year journey through time. Currently our walls of history throughout the police department do not extend beyond 1957. It is hopeful that this research grows and our employees are reminded of where we once were, so they understand where they must go.