FOP Lodge 5

 

New Castle County, Delaware Lodge # 5, of the Fraternal Order of Police, was chartered, by the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, on November 18, 1967. The original charter was found recently during a move of the lodge office. It was signed by the thirty-three charter members. They are Dave Strawbridge, Rodney Reynolds, Allen Rogers, Alan Kerrigan, Roger Elderkin, Gilbert Ogden, August Antoine, John Ingram, Robert Whayland, Earl Biddle, Jr., Felix Poppitti, James Leonard, Sr., Ralph Biddle, Jr., Carl Wilhelm, Donald Shaw, Robert Klosiewicz, Michael Larotonda, Edward Kotz, Jr., Emmanuel Rodriquez, James Pierson, Donald Hill, Harvey Stryker, Donald Bennett, Charles McNatt, Henry Snedecker, Clarence Knox, Harry Hitch, Robert Hayes, Louis Montressor, Frank Astfalk, Joseph Nissori, Wesley Johnson, and Elwood Mowdy. Lodge 5 member Verne Orndorff was commissioned to frame the charter, and it now holds a place of honor on the Lodge 5 office wall.

The first president of Lodge 5 was Elwood Mowdy (1968-1970). He was followed by Michael Larotonda (1970-1972), Robert Carmine (1972-1974), and William Gallagher (1974-1976). The earliest membership meeting minutes now available are for a meeting that took place on March 7, 1968. During that meeting the members present created a “List of Objectives for Lodge 5.” The list contained the following items:

Complete and reasonable amount of uniforms for all men.
The banning of uniforms for civilian employees.
Complete and uniform equipment for all members.
Improved and effective chain of command.
Improved cooperation with other departments.
Improved communications between shifts.
Improved work schedule.
Lockers for all men.
Two man cars or a state radio in cars.
Two man operations room on the 4-12 shift.
Fair system of allotting extra jobs.
In service training.
Eliminate favoritism.
Define basis for promotions.

The monthly membership meeting held on July 31, 1968 resulted in President Mowdy issuing a letter to all members. The letter chastised the membership for not attending meetings and reminded them that their support, opinions and ideas were needed. The members were told that there was strength in numbers, and that the only way to achieve the goals of the Lodge was through the support of all of its members. He reminded the membership that the fledgling lodge was already responsible for winning “A substantial pay raise of $400.00 for the new men and $1200.00 for the older men of the County Police.” During President Mowdy’s term, the FOP also achieved time and a half pay for overtime for the first time. The letter went on to state that there were only a very few members working hard for the benefit of all of the other members. If the membership expected working conditions, salary and benefits to improve, then everyone needed to pitch in and work hard. Some of President Mowdy’s quotes were “Talk is cheap, only action gets results.” “The road is rocky and narrow and the load is unbearable with so many sitting on the sidelines, but if everyone helps the burden will be lessened.” About the management-employee relationship of the time, President Mowdy said that, “the harassment and pressure cannot go on forever.”

Apparently, the early days were rife with attempts by management to dissuade employees from joining and remaining as members of the lodge. This is probably best evidenced by the number of members who dropped out, then re-joined during the early years. But, the young lodge continued to grow in numbers and on June 27, 1969 a momentous event took place in the history of the Lodge. Then New Castle County Executive William Conner, and President Mowdy, signed the first written contract in Lodge 5 history. The original contract was eight pages long, and called for a starting salary of $6,786.00 annually for a patrolman. The FOP was also recognized as the exclusive bargaining agent for all New Castle County Police Officers up to the rank of Lieutenant.


During the year 1969, lodge members worked to acquire a grievance procedure, health insurance and a pension system. Meetings were sometimes held in a motel room at the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge in Newark. The price was $10.00 a meeting. Members later complained that the price was too high and meetings were moved to the Greater Wilmington Airport Terminal Building, where they were held for free. At a membership meeting on June 3, 1969, a motion carried to donate $1.00 per member to the legal defense fund of the Chicago FOP. After the riots at the Democratic National Convention of 1968, Chicago FOP members were charged in relation to the disturbances. FOP Lodges nationwide lent financial support to Chicago members.

The earliest grievances filed involved high levels of heat in offices in the basement of the New Castle County Engineering Building, where temperatures soared to 85 degrees. The Sergeant’s Promotional Testing lent itself to several grievances. No written criteria had been established as to what the requirements were for promotion. Also, persons outside of the New Castle County Police Department could take the test, and make a lateral entry. This could explain why so many early members were previous employees of the Wilmington Bureau of Police and the Delaware River and Bay Authority Police.

During the early 1970’s President Michael Larotonda continued to work toward expanding the lodge. An associate lodge was established and a bounty was paid to members who could sign up at least three associate lodge members. An annual Dinner Dance was held at a local fire hall as a fund-raiser. The first FOP “office” was established when President Larotonda demanded and was given a locker to store the lodge’s property in. A “ladies auxiliary” was established and a newsletter was started.

In May 1970 a grievance issue arose that seems comical today. The problem was that County Police vehicles did not have sirens in them. The County stated they could not afford to install sirens in the marked police cars. The matter was resolved when the FOP pointed out that Delaware State Law required sirens in police cars, and the County found the funds. Police cars were on member’s minds a lot in 1970. The cars were poorly maintained and frequently broke down. Members were forced to make minor repairs themselves and were buying things such as replacement light bulbs out of their own pockets. A FOP safety committee was established to document problems and the members were advised to refuse to drive any vehicle that was found to be unsafe.

By November of 1970 members of the City of Middletown Police Department had joined Lodge 5. A wrongful termination was fought before the Middletown City Council on November 2, 1970. The Lodge 5 representation resulted in all charges against the member being dismissed and the member being re-instated. Years later the City of Middletown’s Police Department would be disbanded, with most members being absorbed into the New Castle County Department. Middletown then contracted with New Castle County to provide police service. That relationship continues today. In December of 1970 newly hired Director of the County Police, Harvey Miller, addressed the membership meeting. He espoused his philosophy of “Good law enforcement and good police work form the strong girder on which a stable society is built.” He also promised that by 1973 the County Police Department would have 220 members.

President Larotonda proved to be quite an expansionist. In March 1971 he brought the New Castle County Deputy Sheriffs into Lodge 5. They had been members of Lodge 1 previously. They were permitted to join only after a protracted fight with New Castle County, who did not want them to be represented. That same month President Larotonda filed with the Delaware Labor commission to bring New Castle County Police Lieutenants, Captains and the Chief of Police into the FOP. He was successful in admitting the Lieutenants first, and later, the Captains. He also filed a petition with the Labor Commission to have Lodge 5 be the sole bargaining agent for the Delaware City Police Department. This effort was also successful. For the first half of 1971 it was reported to the Grand Lodge that Lodge 5 had 87 members. For the second half of 1971 Lodge 5 reported that its membership had risen to 127 members. In 1971 the State and Grand Lodge dues were only $1.00 per year per member.


During the National FOP Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, in August 1971, Lodge 5 saw its first member elected to a national office. Former President Elwood Mowdy was elected Conductor of the Grand Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police. Conductor Mowdy had run on the successful ticket of then National President John Harrington of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Lodge 5.


After the Phoenix Conference, National Conductor Mowday was accused by members of the Delaware State Lodge of “misconduct, and certain actions or in-actions.” It appears that the State Lodge was upset because it did not have a say in the selection of Conductor Mowdy by National President Harrington. Legal aid was provided and the case was thrown out. It can be summed up best by National President Harringrton’s letter dated October 13, 1971, in which, he stated: “The case against Elwood L. Mowday, our National Conductor, is absurd and asinine.”


In October of 1971 Lodge 5 ratified its second contract after negotiations had gone to federal mediation. The two-year deal provided raises of 9% the first year and 7% the second year. For the first time health insurance, life insurance, paid sick days, a clothing allowance, meal allowance pay, emergency call out pay and stand-by pay were all added to the contract. An improved pension plan was established and the FOP was permitted to name a trustee to the Pension Board. The Federal Government imposed a wage freeze in 1971 due to the oil embargo and economic recession. The negotiated pay raises were delayed as was the retroactive pay.


By the end of 1972 Lodge 5 had 137 members. Robert Carmine was elected President in March of 1972. A controversial dues-increase raised dues from $2 to $4 per month. A dispute broke out with Lodge 1 over alleged solicitation in Lodge 5’s area. This was a common problem between many lodges until later years when the State Lodge was made responsible for all solicitations, and local lodges were banned from soliciting. Grievance issues revolved around the overcrowded working conditions within the County Engineering Building. By 1972 it had become obvious that the Engineering Building was way overcrowded. The Police Department was crammed into one corner of the building. Besides complaining about the heat and lack of ventilation, members began to complain about a total lack of security. The Engineering Building housed all elements of County Government. It was an open building and the public had access to almost all areas. Members expressed concern about the public at large walking through the locker room where weapons, and other police equipment, were stored. Prisoners were also being processed in the locker room. The rear parking lot was unlit and items were being stolen from police and personal vehicles.


In May of 1972, County Executive William J. Conner was the first County Official to declare by proclamation that May 15 was Police Officers Memorial Day and the week of May 15 was Police Week. He provided a copy of the Proclamation to the Lodge. During 1972 the State Lodge and all subordinate lodges worked to lobby the State Legislature for a “Line of Duty Death Insurance” bill that would pay a lump sum of $50,000.00 for an officer killed in the line of duty. The Director of Police, Harvey Miller and then Governor Russell W. Peterson went on record publicly supporting this legislation. In August of 1972 a new battle simmered. It seems that members of the lodge desired to wear moustaches. The County’s policy was to forbid them. Letters back and forth between President Carmine and Director Miller cited case law on the wearing of moustaches as a Constitutional Right. Eventually the County relented and moustaches were allowed. Director Miller commented in a memo to the President that “under no circumstances will a policy be adopted that will allow members of the New Castle County Police Department to look like Tartar Invaders from the West,” whatever that means.


On October 20, 1972, Officer Paul J. Sweeney became the first New Castle County Police Officer, and thus, the first Lodge 5 member, killed in the line of duty. After that date the minutes reflect the somber mood of the membership. There were frequent comments related to the incident, such as, the collection of donations, and thank you letters being sent to supporters. In December of 1973 the Lodge learned that the New Castle County Police coats then issued were a fire hazard. The insulation in the coats was made of polyurethane foam that proved to be extremely flammable. This became an issue with Lodge members since Officer Sweeney was burned when his police vehicle was struck from behind and burst into flames. The Lodge worked to have the coats replaced and members expressed that they no longer wished to drive American Motors Matadors.


In 1973 the establishment of an equitable Vacation Policy was a priority. Some members began to openly question County Government hiring practices. Members pointed out that there were an insufficient number of female police officers available to handle the growing number of females being arrested. The condition of patrol cars and the quality of uniforms and of the radio system were persistent problems.


In 1974, President William Gallagher tried several ways to get the members to turn out for meetings. He established an attendance prize that grew each month if it was not won. You had to be present to win. He also started a 50/50 drawing as an attendance incentive. These traditions continue today. On one of President Gallagher’s meeting announcements he urged the membership to “Come to the meeting and stand up for what is right – or stay home and have someone else cram it down your throat. If that happens don’t complain about the taste.”


A successful campaign by the Lodge paid off in March of 1974 when members with prior Delaware River and Bay Authority experience were allowed to purchase that time toward their County Pension. Meetings were moved back to motel rooms and the membership complained. A Building Committee began to search for a home for the Lodge. On May 15, 1974, Police Memorial Day, Lodge 5 and New Castle County Police Department began the tradition of holding a service at Officer Paul Sweeney’s grave. In the summer of 1974 Past President Larotonda was promoted from Sergeant to Colonel of the County Police Department. This created a dilemma for the Lodge because Past President Larotonda was the Lodge’s Pension Board Representative. He agreed to resign from the Pension Board. The promotion caused much discussion of the County Merit System and County Politics. Lodge 5 started working on getting rid of the15-minute roll calls prior to each shift for which the members were not paid. A system wide grievance eventually ended the practice. The August and September minutes reflect that Lodge 5 met with and vowed to assist Lodge 1 in manning picket lines over Lodge 1’s labor dispute with the City of Wilmington.


At the State Conference in 1974 Lodge 5 member Anthony Grello was elected State Lodge President, the first Lodge 5 member to hold that office. Although, the existing contract held that officers on call would be paid for being on call, New Castle County refused to honor this contract clause. Lodge 5 filed a grievance that went through the first steps and was denied at each level. Lodge 5 then filed for arbitration as was called for in the contract. New Castle County refused to submit the dispute to arbitration saying that arbitration only applied to terminations. The Lodge was forced to sue the County over their refusal to honor two sections of the contract involving on-call pay and submission to arbitration. The court ruled in favor of the lodge and the involved members were paid.


In 1975 the membership meetings were moved to the Telephone Workers Hall on Churchman’s Road, where they remained for many years. President Gallagher wrote memos to the membership as meeting announcements. They were rote with sarcasm and humor and attempted to prod the members into attend meetings. For example, the January announcement hinted that it was good to see so many members at the December meeting who came for the “free Christmas Party.” On the February announcement, he said that, the membership must not want a raise, or any improvements in benefits, since they were about to enter contract negotiations, but members were not coming to the meetings.

On January 10, 1975, Lodge 5 sponsored “The All Star Family Revue” as a fundraiser at Dickinson High School. Such notable stars as Dana Valery, Stanley Myron Handleman, Jerry Coyle, George DeWitt, Carter and Lynn, and The Lloyd Johnson Orchestra performed. The program for the show contained articles written by President William Gallagher. One was entitled “The Fraternal Order of Police in Delaware, a National Organization.” Another was entitled “The History of the New Castle County Police,” and the last was titled “The History of Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 5.” The program also seemed to serve as a recruitment device as Roger Elderkin contributed an article entitled “Requirements for County Police Officers.” Several photos of recruits in training, and photos of County Officers performing their duties accompanied this article.

Problems with the radio system continued to plague the membership. The lodge began to document safety problems with the radio system. The membership was happy to hear that the County was purchasing 33 new patrol cars. The lodge continued to hold annual dinner/dances as fundraisers. The Engineering Building’s disrepair and overcrowded conditions led to several more grievances. The County tried to deal with the overcrowded building by placing several trailers in the rear parking lot. Several police offices were moved into the trailers. This led to more problems with the heating and air conditioning of the trailers.


In 1975 the building committee recommended the lodge purchase nine acres of land on Whitacre Road. The asking price was $59,500.00. The Board felt that was too high, so they offered $42,000.00. Apparently, that was too low, because someone else bought the land. The lodge decided to hold an annual dinner to honor any member who retired during the previous year. This is a tradition that still remains. Another controversial dues increase raised the amount to $8.00 a month. Regular bus trips were scheduled to Philadelphia Phillies games as another fundraiser. Tickets were $7.50 each and that included the bus ride to and from the stadium. Members were expected to bring their own beer. The lodge purchased furniture for a lounge area near the men’s locker room. The lodge was asked by a community group to support the building of a “county hospital.” This must have been the precursor of the Christiana Hospital.


A dispute broke out in May of 1975 over promotional testing. The County refused to allow members to view their examination papers after the testing. The FOP held that this was in violation of the County’s Merit System. An attempt was made to file a grievance and the County ruled that the Merit System could not be grieved. The lodge sought an injunction against the County. The County then became angered and withdrew from contract negotiations. Prior to going to court an agreement was reached whereby the contract negotiations were re-started, all documents relating to the promotional testing were opened for review, and the lodge dropped all court action. A grievance involving the radio system was dropped when the County acknowledged that it was inadequate and promised to replace it as soon as funding was available.


At a special meeting on June 10, 1975 Lodge 5 members ratified a two-year contract that provided raises of 9% for each year. Many language changes were made that extended rights and benefits to members. Retirees picked up medical benefits and call in pay was increased to four hours. Binding arbitration was established for all contract disputes and a procedure was developed for handling internal investigations.


On June 13, 1975 the lodge held a special meeting to address a pending bill in the General Assembly. The infamous Senate Bill 252 which called for New Castle County Police to be stripped of much of their police powers. The County Administration mobilized the entire Government to fight this bill. Lodge 5 paid for several buses to transport lodge members, county employees and their families to Dover to rally in support of the Police Department. The lodge also purchased and distributed 10,000 bumper stickers that said: “Support Your County Police.” The bill was eventually enacted into law, but was soon abolished when it proved unworkable.


By the end of 1975 the Lodge had surpassed the 200-member plateau. But it would continue to grow, and would more than double by the year 2000.

At the 2001 National Conference in Phoenix, Arizona, much discussion took place about documenting the history of the Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodge has re-released it book “The History of the Fraternal Order of Police 1915-1976” as a fund-raiser. The Grand Lodge hopes to use the proceeds of this book to commission a second book entitled “The History of the Fraternal Order of Police 1977-2002” Soon after returning home from Phoenix the original Lodge 5 Charter was found. That led me to wonder if anyone had ever documented the history of Lodge 5. My research led to finding of the article written by former President William Gallagher. President Gallagher’s history was used as a starting point for this article. Hopefully the future holds another article documenting the remainder of the history.

Any Lodge 5 retiree who has documentation, photos, or memorabilia of historic value to the Lodge, we would appreciate if you would share it with us. Any member wishing to provide information on the history of Lodge 5 please forward it to FOP Lodge 5, Box 652, New Castle, DE 19720.