On June 22, 1937, Easton’s Board of Police Commissioners was formed following the enactment of a town ordinance — and the police department was born.
The first chief of police, Edward Knight, was initially the only police officer in town.
The current chief of police, James Candee, is the fifth police chief for the department. He took over the leadership role just this past January but has been with the Easton Police Department 40 years.
At present, the department has 14 full-time police officers, three part-time police officers (special officers), three full-time and eight part-time dispatchers, one full-time and four part-time animal control officers, and an office staff of two.
A lot has changed since Chief Candee joined the force, in the town and within the Police Department.
When the chief began
Chief Candee started with the Police Department in 1972 and was the sixth officer hired by the Easton Police Department.
He was fresh out of four years in the Navy following his 1967 graduation from Joel Barlow High School.
He had served as an aviation ordnance man on an anti-submarine squadron. Chief Candee was stationed in Rhode Island and patrolling the North Atlantic and Mediterranean hunting Soviet submarines.
When he found himself back at his parents’ house in Easton, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do — and then the opportunity with the Easton department presented itself.
“I needed a job, I just thought I’d try it,” he said.
Chief Candee’s family has deep roots in Easton.
His grandfather had a dairy farm on the corner of Route 59 and Church Road back when there were several dairy farms in town — including the Edwards family farm (now Maple Row Tree Farm), Snow’s Farm and Gilbertie’s Farm (then named Kellers farm).
The chief’s father, a banker for 45 years, built a house on the family’s farm — across from Christ Church — in 1954 and, along with the chief’s mother — raised his children there.
Many of the families Chief Candee knew growing up had been in town for generations but have since left.
“The old families that I grew up with are gone,” he said.
A part of that is the loss of a lot of the town’s farms.
“Bigger farms put the little guys out of business,” Chief Candee said.
There are no more dairy farms in Easton, and some of today’s town farms are not what they used to be in other ways as well.
“Three acres is not what I considered a farm,” Chief Candee said.
The more things change …
Chief Candee thinks of his family’s now-gone farm every time he drives past the old familiar intersection.
He estimates that the town has grown in population quite a bit since his childhood.
“When I was growing up, it was about a third of what it is now,” Chief Candee said.
And there is less continuity.
“[There are] a lot more people in town from out of town,” he said.
But it is still as peaceful as he remembers.
“It was always a quiet town,” Chief Candee said.
And it is still pretty unspoiled.
“P & Z has managed to keep out commercial development,” he said.
The inner workings
When the department started, it was housed in a small space under the stairs in town hall adjacent to the library’s old home.
Then the Police Department moved into the basement to the area that now houses booking and cells.
When the new library was built across Morehouse Road in the late 1990s, town hall was also renovated and the police were given the space they are in today.
Since Chief Candee started working at the Police Department, the biggest change to the department that he has noticed is the way they do their paperwork.
They went from longhand reports to typewriters to computers.
“Everything’s done electronically [now],” he said.
But some things have remained the same.
“We still patrol like we used to, interact with the public like we used to,” he said.
And the “paperwork.” They still have to report everything from phone calls to minor and major incidents.
“That’s something that hasn’t changed,” he said. “About 80% of our work is paperwork.”
Moving up the ranks
When Chief Candee started, he worked as a patrolman on an eight-hour shift about five days a week. The department had just begun patrolling 24 hours a day.
“From around 2 a.m. until 7 a.m. there was nobody working before then,” Chief Candee said.
He started working as a police officer before there were labor unions.
“If the chief said you’d work 10 hours, you just worked that much without extra money,” he said. “Now you have regulations for pay.”
After 13 years as a patrolman, Chief Candee became a sergeant.
About 13 years after that, when John Solomon became chief, it was decided they needed more rank. So, they added lieutenant and captain ranks and Chief Candee was appointed captain.
“I was second-in-command to the chief,” he said.
He remained a captain for 13 years, until he was appointed chief earlier this year.
Chief Candee has always liked to help people. And the most rewarding part of his job is seeing things get worked out.
“[I like] solving somebody’s problems, making a difference for somebody,” he said.
And he has come to see the biggest thing he can do in a lot of situations is done in a way that has not changed with advances in technology.
“Just talking to the people and listening,” he said. “That’s what people want.”
That is how he tries to solve issues.
He hopes the officers under his command show the old-fashioned values of respect and courtesy when they are working in Easton.
“If they conduct themselves well … it reflects well not just on me, it reflects well on the Police Department and the town,” he said.
Chief Candee feels that the horrors of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 have affected a great many people.
“I believe this incident has changed a lot of people,” he said. “In the things they’ve seen and had to deal with.”
He speculates that there will be transformation because of it.
“I think you’re going to see some changes,” he said.
Chief Candee thinks new gun control laws could come from this, but questions if new laws will fix everything.
“I don’t know if that’s going to solve the problem,” he said.
In the wake of the shocking chain of events, questions have surfaced about the mental health of the shooter and why nobody noticed something and stopped him before this happened.
The Easton Police Department has always asked that residents report anything suspicious or troubling, even if it turns out to be nothing.
“We’ve always encouraged people,” Chief Candee said. “If you see something, say something.”
“I get a little upset. … Someone will call and say, I saw something yesterday,” he said. “Pick up the phone and call right away.”
And they keep things confidential.
“[With] complaints, we don’t announce it to the world who you are,” he said.
What can they do though?
“Maybe [we’ll] do some interviews,” he said. “A background check.”
School security is a concern that is not new to Easton — especially not to the Police Department.
“We’ve dealt with this a long time ago,” Chief Candee said.
When neighboring Newtown needed some help, Easton’s police have been there for them.
“We have officers working up there on house watch and at the school,” Chief Candee said in an interview last week.
A new generation
Tara Candee, the chief’s daughter, is also a part of the Easton Police Department.
“She started working as a [summer] intern while she was in college,” Chief Candee said.
She worked part-time in records doing clerical work.
Then a part-time dispatcher job became available and she took that.
Now she is a full-time dispatcher for the department.
At 28 years old, her future might not yet be etched in stone, but she is happy right where she is for now.
“I like the people, I like the job,” Tara Candee said.
To learn more about the Easton Police Department, visit eastonctpolice.