Police Department History
The Town of Wrightsville Beach was incorporated in March of 1899, but did not have an established police presence until 1916. On February 23, 1916, the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen passed a series of ordinances, as an addendum to the original Act of Incorporation establishing a seasonal “regular” police force. A police officer(s) patrolled the town between June 1st and September 1st of each year and in the winter months they hired “Winter Watchmen” to check on the homes that were generally vacant in the off season.
Starting around 1941, M.S. Faircloth was appointed as the as both Police and Fire Chief for the Town of Wrightsville Beach. At around this same time, the Wrightsville Beach Police Department and Town Hall was housed in a small cottage located at 400 Waynick Boulevard.
During World War II, the Town of Wrightsville beach grew from 252 residents in 1941 to 1500 residents in 1945. As a result the police force developed into two full time officers in the winter months and three full time officers in the summer months. Off duty Wilmington Police Officers were often employed to fill this demand.
In 1943, while patrolling the boardwalk around the Lumina Pavilion, Assistant Police Chief Brooks was shot by a soldier that was assigned to Wrightsville Beach during the World War II. The circumstances surrounding the shooting are unclear but it is believed that Brooks failed to identify himself after being verbally challenged by the soldier. Assistant Chief Brooks fully recovered from his injuries and returned to service.
Starting in 1947, Riley Wiggs was appointed Police Chief for the Town of Wrightsville beach and remained Chief of Police until 1953.
In 1953, Milliard Everette “Stinky” Williams was hired by the Town of Wrightsville Beach as a police officer, but soon took over as the Chief of Police when Chief Wiggs left the Department. Chief Williams had reputation for being firm, but fair in his enforcement of the law. He was then, and still is highly regarded by the citizens of Wrightsville Beach as great police officer and Chief of Police.
On October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel hit Wrightsville Beach, at high tide and with a full moon destroying approximately 200 houses and damaging 500 more. Town Hall and Police Department was among those destroyed by the storm.
After Hurricane Hazel, a combined Police Department and Town Hall was built by Police Department Desk Officers Walter Grimes and Fred Futch from recovered cider blocks and scrap lumber. The structure that housed the Wrightsville Beach Fire Department and Police Chief Williamson’s residence, above the Fire Department was spared by Hurricane Hazel. Grimes and Futch built the Police Department and Town Hall onto what was left of the Williamson’s residence and the Fire Department.
The Police Department continued to develop in the 50’s and 60’s but even as late as 1969, Wrightsville Beach Police Officers would still pass the Department’s only handgun and badge off to the oncoming police officer at shift change.
In 1970 Patrol Officer Carl E. Davis was shot at six times by a suspect in the front seat of his patrol car. Two bullets passed through Davis’ shirt but did not injure him. One bullet slightly burned his skin, the other ripped through a pack of cigarettes in Davis’ shirt pocket. The suspect John Jay Bernasconi was sentenced to prison. In 1990 Benasconi was again arrested at Wrightsville Beach by Patrol Officer John Carey. Carl Davis retired from WBPD as a Captain in 1996.
In 1971, John Hubert Ward who was hired as a police officer in 1965 was promoted to Chief of Police when Chief Williams retired. Chief ward continued the efforts of Chief Williams to further develop the Wrightsville Beach Police Department.
By 1971 the Wrightsville Beach Police Department developed from a three man department to a ten man department with three patrol vehicles, including one assigned to the Chief of Police and two way radios for communication between the patrol vehicles and dispatch.
On November 11, 1978, the newly formed Wrightsville Beach Police Department Recreation and Benevolent Association held its first annual Policeman’s Ball at the Blockade Runner Motor Hotel in Wrightsville Beach. The organization has held the Policeman’s Ball in Wrightsville Beach every year since 1978. On June 20th, 1986, the organization was officially incorporated as a non-profit corporation and later designated as 501 (c) (3) status by the Internal Revenue Service. This organization, separate and apart from Town, provides assistance to association members and their families in time of crisis or need, as well as fund social activities not funded by the Town.
In 1979, George McMillan Antley, who was hired as a police officer in 1966, was promoted to Chief of Police. During his tenure, Chief Antley expanded detective division’s capabilities with night vision equipment and a dark room for in-house photo processing. He began some in-house Records Management System (RMS) with a stand-alone system. He purchased a radio repeater so officers could talk from one end of the beach to the other end. At the time, a portable radio could rarely reach the base station at the dispatch and it was difficult to talk car to car with clear transmissions. Chief Antley upgraded the VHF radio system and the dispatch center base station. At this same time Chief Antley began updating and expanding the police department’s fleet of patrol cars.
In 1984, the federal government’s Saline Water Treatment Plant was donated to the Town of Wrightsville Beach. The Wrightsville Beach Town Hall moved into the east end of the facility and gave the Police Department $2500.00 for renovation of the west end of the building (currently housed by Lanier Parking). The Police Department, using its own officers and on their own time and with some help from public works, renovated the structure to house the Police Department. Chief Antley was instrumental in moving the police department from its original location on the 400 block of Waynick Boulevard to the new location on Causeway Drive. (See below) Chief Antley served the Town of Wrightsville Beach until his retirement in 1996.
In 1996, Joseph Arthur Noble, who was hired as a police officer in 1974 was promoted to Police Chief. Chief Noble was instrumental in computerizing the department’s Records Management System (RMS) with the addition Police-PAK software. He also increased the staff through the use of the COPS Grant and the COP MORE 2000 grants which initiated the bicycle unit program. Chief Noble was instrumental in the privatization of the Parking Program, which is now handled by Lanier Parking as opposed to the Police Department. Prior to Chief Noble, the department’s technology was limited to a fax machine and a few old desk top computers. Chief Noble served the Town of Wrightsville Beach until his retirement in 2000.
Between 2000 and 2001, Lt. John S. Carey and Lt. Lloyd R. Narramore served as acting Co-Chiefs while the selection process for a new Police Chief was underway. In 2001, John Saunders Carey who was hired as a police officer in 1982 was promoted to Chief of Police. Among his many accomplishments, Chief Carey was instrumental in the planning and development of the new Public Safety Complex located at 3 Bob Sawyer Drive in Wrightsville Beach. Chief Carey was also responsible for transitioning the department from an in-house dispatch system to New Hanover County 911 Central Dispatch and 800 MHz. radio system.
Chief Carey was instrumental in the move of Ocean Rescue from the police department over to the fire department where they could expand their rescue capabilities. This move not only enhanced Ocean Rescue, but proved to be an asset to the Town of Wrightsville Beach.
Chief Carey was the first to implement the use of a police marine vessel to patrol the waters around Wrightsville Beach and address the issues that arise on the water.
Chief Carey implemented the first mobile data terminals in the police cars, as well as in-car video systems and interfaced radar units. He also did some initial testing and evaluation with personal body cameras and implemented the departments use of Electronic Controlled Weapons (aka Taser). Chief Carey served the Town of Wrightsville Beach until his retirement in 2011.
The new Public Safety Complex was completed in the summer of 2010 with the ribbon cutting on June 25, 2010. This new state of the art complex now houses the Police and Fire Department and is a testament to Chief Carey’s determination and dedication to the Town of Wrightsville Beach. Ironically, Chief Carey and Captain Theresa Fountain were the only two police department employees to work in all three Wrightsville Beach Police Department locations.
In 2011, Captain Mike Core and Captain Teresa Fountain served as acting Co-Chiefs while the Town of Wrightsville Beach conducted a search for a new Police Chief.
In June of 2011, Daniel L. House Jr. was named the new Wrightsville Beach Police Chief. Under Chief House’s leadership, the Wrightsville Beach Police Department made application to the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) in 2012. Additionally, in 2012 Chief House expanded the Police Department’s use of body worn cameras, initially on the beach strand and later a full deployment to the patrol division. In 2013 Chief House implemented a second degree trespass program in the Town of Wrightsville Beach. In 2014 Chief House worked to update town’s downtown camera system. In 2015, Chief House implemented the Police Department’s first smart phone App. This App is part of a public safety application network in New Hanover County and tied to over 800,000 App users in the system.