The early police in Warwick
As the municipal center of Warwick, Apponaug was also the center
of the early police stations. Whenever old-time Warwick residents
gather, colorful stories of the early fire and police departments
are told. Time and time again, the names of Forrest Sprague, Theodore
Andrews, Elias Cranston, Albert Izzi, Amasa Sprague and, of course,
Apponaug’s Lynch family, are cited. For over sixty years now,
members of the Lynch clan have had a profound effect on law enforcement
in the city.
Constables to keep the peace in town.
While the date usually applied for the first permanent police force in Warwick is 1921, constables were used to keep the police as early as 1648 and continued to do so through the Colonial Period and well into the early 20th century. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, sheriffs and deputy sheriffs were given the job of ensuring domestic tranquility and of directing the constables in the various towns of the state.
In addition, popular resorts, such as Rocky Point, found it necessary to hire special personnel to help control the large crowds and to ensure the safety of their patrons as well as to keep law and order. Michael Bernard Lynch, the almost legendary High Sheriff of Kent County 1902-1929, his sons, Owen and Thomas, and his grandson, James F., all served as special constables at Rocky Point. Michael B. held that position in 1879 and grandson James held the same post nearly 54 years later. When Michael was special constable, Rocky Point was known as "Horn Spring." Michael patrolled Rocky Point until 1884 and at that time became a special constable at Oakland Beach, which was beginning to rival Rocky Point in popularity.
Michael B. Lynch’s reputation as an outstanding officer was recognized very quickly. In 1886, two years after he built his home on Tollgate Road in Apponaug, Michael B. Lynch's special talents for police work earned him the appointment as Deputy Sheriff of Kent County. Lynch served in this capacity under High Sheriff William H. Arnold of Arctic and, when Arnold died, Lynch continued as deputy sheriff under Amasa Sprague who was Arnold's successor. Sprague, prior to the Panic of 1873, was one of the wealthiest men in Rhode Island and is often cited as being an avid supporter of horse racing in Rhode Island. At the time of Lynch’s appointment, the Sprague family had suffered severe financial reversals. As High Sheriff of Kent County, Amasa Sprague had a definite need for a strong deputy sheriff to contend with the problems encountered in the office. Mike Lynch was very well suited for the task.
High Sheriff of Kent County
In 1902, following Sprague's death, Governor Charles Dean Kimball appointed Lynch High Sheriff of Kent County. Lynch, writing for the Sunday Tribune in 1929, said, "I was then appointed sheriff by Governor Kimball ...and I have held the office continuously from that time to now. I told Governor Kimball that I hoped that he would have no cause to regret his appointment of me, and I am satisfied in my own mind that he never did have." Lynch concludes this episode in his life by commenting, "I have always tried to do my duty as I saw it."
In addition to his other duties, Michael B. Lynch was appointed as a “Special Liquor Constable” by the Warwick Town Council. This position, which was given to him by the powerful political boss, Charles Brayton, saw Lynch and his close friend, Patrick H. Quinn in conflict. During the 1880s Rhode Island a battlefield between those favoring prohibition and those opposed. In the center of this controversy was Charles B. Brayton. Strong feelings on both sides prevailed and Lynch and his fellow constable, Michael H. Riley, soon found themselves under attack by Town Solicitor P.H. Quinn.