The Post War Police face new problems

Michael W. Lynch, like his grandfather, Sheriff Michael B. Lynch, his father, his uncle, and his brother Sergeant James F. Lynch was well suited and trained for police work. When Michael's older brother, James F. Lynch, became a permanent member of the Warwick Police Force, Mike began to wonder if he should also enter this line of work.

The Call to Arms

Prior to World War II, Mike worked in a Providence machine tool company. his career there was cut short by thte Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States declaration of war against Japan and Germany. On December 14, 1942, Michael W. Lynch entered the army. At that time, he was living at 234 Tollgate Road in one of the houses built by his grandfather.

A Prisoner of War

Mike was sent to Europe and on December 9, 1945 was reported, "missing in action." As many other families did in similar situations, the Lynch family of Apponaug spent an uneasy Christmas and spring hoping for word that Mike was safe. Finally, on March 24, 1945, Mike's brother Clarence received a telegram stating, "safe well letter follows love." It was soon learned that Mike, now a Sergeant in the infantry, had been wounded in action in France, was a prisoner of war in Germany, and had been rescued.

Lynch was in a prison hospital at Bad Kreuznach, Germany when he and fellow prisoner Larry Dotolo of Westerly, looked out a second story hospital window and saw an American jeep speed up to the hospital entrance. A 1950 account of the episode states, "A battle-hardened American officer jumped out. Submachine gun in hand and to the cheers of the 50 American soldiers imprisoned in the hospital proclaimed he was "Captain Tessier of the famous Fourth Armored Division."

Shortly after this, Michael W. Lynch returned home. Like many other veterans of World War II, the concept of returning to their old jobs held no attraction. After careful deliberation and strongly influenced by the careers of other members of his family, Michael W. Lynch decided to embark on a career of police work, and became a professional police officer.

His timing was excellent, as shortly after World War II, the city was growing at an unprecedented rate. The population had risen from 28,757 in 1940 to over 40,000 by 1947. Albert Ruerat was still the Mayor of Warwick and Forrest R. Sprague, who had replaced William C. Kindelan as Chief of Police in 1945, was adding new members to the force as rapidly as possible.

The 1940's and 50's

When Mike became a permanent member of the force, police headquarters was in the crowded basement section of City Hall. Recruits were issued a firearm, usually a .38 revolver, and a nightstick. They had to purchase everything else during the first year. It was only after this probationary period that they received a clothing allowance.

While each town or city department usually did training of police officers, there was a great deal of similarity. This was due in a large part to fact that many patrolmen were veterans of World War II. They were acquainted with and were willing to accept a great deal of military discipline. Police Commissioner Sullivan, Mike recalled, was a retired army colonel and favored strong discipline. The dress code was very strict and "we were even required to keep our hats on while eating in a public place." Beacuse his brother Jim was a sergeant, Mike Lynch found that he was under closer supervision and discipline in order to avoid charges of favoritism.

Unlike his brothers, Jim and Walter, Mike had no love for motorcycles. Jim continued to use his motorcycle even after he became sergeant and only reluctantly gave it up when he became a lieutenant. Mike, on the other hand, felt fortunate that he never had to use the cycles.

Major Police Problems

Mike recalled that, during his early years on the force, the major police problems centered on illegal bookmaking. When his brother James became Chief of Police in 1959, bookmaking was allegedly a $70 million business in Rhode Island. During an interview in 1962, Chief James Lynch told the Warwick Beacon "bookies were at the minimum in Warwick." He said, at the time, "Booking in Warwick consists solely of small hand book operations, and is at a minimum. We have a two-man squad that devotes its entire time to the investigation of illegal gambling activities in this city. We will continue to cooperate fully with Federal and state officials."

The Drug Problem

This emphasis on crime prevention in Warwick changed in the 1960's, however, when the use of ililegal drugs increased dramatically. The use of drugs was only the tip of the iceberg and drug related crimes took on alarming proportions. An article in the Warwick Beacon in 1967 saw Capt. Alvin Nordquist, chief of the detective division of the Warwick Police Department, acknowledging that Warwick had a teen drug problem. He felt, at the time, "It isn't of great magnitude yet." By August 19, 1968, however, according to the Beacon, the police were more focused on the drug problem. According to that article, Warwick Police juvenile division chief, Sgt. George Boulds, admitted he was hard pressed to come up with a reason for the then current drug craze among youth in the city, adding, "I grew up in the depression and we didn't turn to thrills such as drugs, so you can't blame difficult or shaky times for the drug problem. I think it must be the fast pace in which we are living today..."

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