Michael Steuer was our first officially appointed Marshal. He took charge of policing duties on September 30, 1911. He had no office except his home on Wilhelm Street. He had no jail except the one at Crown Point. His protection was his billy-club and a star. Most of his time was spent in walking up and down the main street of the town and “patrolling” in front of Gard’s Store. He retired in 1925. His deputy was Fred F. Henderlong. Mr Steuer died in 1932.
Peter Cope, who lived at 36 Wilhelm Street, was our next Marshal. His uniform was said to be a black vest and his star. Cope, however, had a gun for his weapon. His patrol car was his own Model T Ford. His term of office, lasting for just two years, began on April 4, 1925.
Peter Redar, who lived on a farm on Cline Avenue with his family, was hired on July 7, 1927, and was a policeman for Schererville until his death on August 4, 1964. He began his tenure as Marshal with a Model T and later graduated to a Model A. These automobiles, as well as all future ones until the early ’50s, were Pete’s personal autos which he used as police cars. At one time, in his early career, he could be seen riding along on his motorcycle complete with uniform and puttees. Before the police cars had a radio hook-up, a signal system was in effect for the police department. It consisted of a phone and two porch lights. Mr. Redar would take all phone calls at his home and when the police were on patrol they would watch for the porch light. If the light went on, they were to come up to the house and find out what the trouble was. This “modern” system was used into the early ’60s according to Bob Florkiewicz, a retired former Schererville policeman. In 1956, the Schererville police Radio was connected to the Highland-Griffith Radio System. Pete’s first deputy-marshal was Philip Spivak, who began his duties on November 1, 1955. These two law enforcement agents kept order in our town by putting in many, many hours on duty. on January 1, 1961, Bob Florkiewicz joined the staff and everyone was, more or less, on a regular shift.
Pete Redar was made Chief-of-Police on May 4, 1964, by order of the Town Board and a Metropolitan Police Force was formed on August 3, 1964. In July of 1964, the town was shocked to hear that Pete had been injured in an accident by Teibel’s Restaurant. His squad car (still Pete’s personal car) was waiting to make a left turn in the southbound lane of Route 41 when it was hit head-on by a semi that jackknifed on the rainy, slippery pavement while attempting to make a stop at the light at 41 and 30. He died from his injuries on August 4, 1964. Redar park is named in his memory.
Robert Teegarden, Town Board President, became acting chief until September 17, 1964, at which time the Police Commissioners appointed Philip Spivak to the position of Chief.
As of August 1964, the sleepy town of Schererville had just two policemen. A month later William Ellis was added and on February 1 of the following year, Elmer Doctor joined the force.
Schererville had a car-per-man policy. Each policeman had his own car. According to bob Florkiewicz, in the days before 1988, Schererville purchased used State Police Cars. The cars were about one-year old and were purchased very cheaply.
October 3, 1973 was the date when the Police Department moved to the location along the railroad tracks. That building, which had been built many years ago, once was the site of town board meetings, provided a home for a fire truck, and had the town well inside it. Organization, such as the Schererville Town League, held meetings there.
In July of 1975, Schererville became the first Lake County Police Department to have a Police Canine Unit. The first dog handlers were John Wade and John Siedelmann. This was a community project. The Schererville Businessmen and Civic Fund provided the capital and Bob Florkiewicz provided the time and ability to construct dog pens, runs, and training areas. The dogs were used for purposes from seeking a murderer to finding lost children.
The Officer Friendly Program was started in 1975 with Steve Neese as the first Officer Friendly. The D.A.R.E. program began in 1989. At this time, Tim Mitchell took over and the two programs became one. Brian Vandenburgh served for a time as Officer Friendly and ran the D.A.R.E. program starting in the early 90s.
The first Schererville Radio Room for the department started in the fall of 1975. Prior to that time, as mentioned previously, Schererville was “hooked to” another town for radio use.
Credit for the majority of this information goes to Rich Jonas and the Schererville Historical Society for researching, writing, and compiling it.