Leroy E. Coffey
Former police chief Leroy E. Coffey, 84, of 82 Third St., died Monday afternoon at Crestwood Care Center after a short illness.
Coffey served 32 years as Shelby’s chief of police–longer than any man before or since.
He came to Shelby in 1936 as a lieutenant from the Mansfield Police Dept. and moved into the position of chief Sept. 10, 1936, replacing Floyd Tucker, who retired.
Coffey retired in 1968 after initiating many changes that added more men and modernized the department.
In 1937, six officers including Chief Coffey, worked 12-hour shifts with one man on the desk and two others “walking the beat.” Although the patrol car was used only in outlying areas and for emergencies, Coffey had the first two-way communication device installed in the car and the station. The communication system, installed in 1937, also could be used to contact the state highway patrol in Findlay, according to a news article in the April 24, 1950 issue of the Globe.
By 1948, the department had grown to eight with a motorcycle added for patrolmen to use.
In 1950, the communications system was upgraded to a higher frequency. Policemen’s days were reduced to 10 hours during the first years of Coffey’s regime. In April 1950, Coffey went before council urging further reduction. He won a concession allowing officers to work only eight-hour days, six days a week–and another man was added to the department. At Coffey’s urging, council agreed in 1967 to base police salaries on a 40-hour week and purchased small transistor walkie-talkies for those on patrol.
Coffey retired the following year, leaving a better-trained and equiped police department.
Shelby’s first law enforcement official was village marshall S.M. Wiggins who was appointed in 1853. A great turnover of various marshalls served Shelby until Floyd Tucker accepted the position May 1,1917. Tucker was appointed Shelby’s first chief of police in 1922, having been a village marshall for five years. Tucker served until Coffey, came in 1936. Following Coffey
was Carl Rivers who served as chief law enforcement officer from 1968 until he retired in 1980.
Present chief John VanWagner took over the reins in 1980 as only the fourth chief of police in Shelby’s history.
Coffey was born April 5, 1902 in Shiloh to George and Flora (Fox) Coffey. He was a member of the Fraternal Order of Police and multiple other police associations. He held a bachelor of arts degree from Ashland College and bachelor of theology degree from Ashland theological seminary. He was a member of First Lutheran Ghurch.
Survivors include his wife, Esta K. (Pugh) Coffey, whom he married April 4, 1974; three sons: John of Cincinnati, Gene of Ontario, and Gerald (Jerry) of Cleveland; one daughter, Mrs. Robert (Patricia) Moore of Roanoke, VA; 10, grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; one stepson, Frank Swanger of Lakeside; one step-daughter, Mrs. Robert (Connie) Brinson of Shelby; and two sisters: Marie Murray Reed of St. Petersburg, FL and Victoria Kahldon of Lima.
He was preceded in death by his first wife, Maude (Benningham) Coffey in 1965 and by his second wife, Martha (McCammon) Coffey in 1973.
Funeral service will be 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Turner Funeral Home with his pastor, Rev. Carl L. Johnson, officiating. Burial will be in Little London Cemetery, Shelby. Friends may call from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.