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Previous to 1856 there were no regular patrolmen or watchmen in the city. The only street lighting was by lanterns, with candles or oil lamps, in front of the hotels, and these were usually extinguished at the hour for retiring. Otherwise the darkness of nature prevailed during the night time. The initial steps toward policing the town as a protective measure were taken about that time by the principal merchants, clubbing together and hiring a night watchman at their own expense. Henry Baker was the first watchman, and performed the duty as faithfully and efficiently as one man could for several years. His beat was between Lyon and Ottawa streets, on Canal and Monroe. In those nights of darkness a keen eye and a quick ear were the valuable requisites for an efficient patrolman, and Baker's acuteness has seldom been excelled, even with the aid of gas and electric lights.

Under the revised charter of 1857, the Common Council had the power to appoint a police constable and one watchman for each ward. The police constables were endowed with similar functions to those of ordinary town constables, with certain limitations, and the watchmen also had the power to make arrests in certain cases. Comparatively few of these officers were appointed previous to 1871. In some cases watchmen were appointed upon request and at the expense of private parties in the vicinities where they were to serve. A regular organization of the police force in this city was eight patrolmen. By act of May 24, 1881 establishing the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, the powers and duties connected with the government and discipline of the police, and also the power of appointment of men to that service, were transferred from the Common Council to the Board, and since them the full power of control and regulation of that Department has been in the hands of that Board. It is their duty to appoint on the first Monday in May of each year, by ballot or otherwise, a Chief of Police, and so many police constables and watchmen as they may deem necessary, not exceeding the number prescribed by the charter, and they may also appoint special constables at their discretion in cases of emergency or apprehended danger. Of late the title of Chief of Police has been in practice superseded by the designation Superintendent of Police. Chiefs of the Department have been:
1871-1878 James  L. Moran
1879 Isaac Sigler
1880  James L. Moran
1881 Horace W. Davis
1882 Van Epps Young
1883-1886 John Perry
1887-1889 Israel C. Smith
1889 William H. Eastman

Prior to 1882, for near a dozen years, the police headquarters were at the corner of Monroe and Ionia streets; in June of that year they were removed to their present station at the corner of Lyon and Campau streets.

June 19, 1885, the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners contracted with the Police Telephone and Signal Company for twenty signal stations and the necessary apparatus to operate a central office, in two circuits, for the sum of $3,200. These were provided and put in use a few months later.

As now constituted the Police Department numbers seventy-one officers, men and employees, as follows: One superintendent, two sergeants, two detectives, two court officers, one truant officer, fifty-one patrolmen, two patrol-wagon men, three drivers, two clerks, three operators, one janitor and one matron. There are twenty-seven beats in the city, nine of which are constantly patrolled. The remaining eighteen bears are patrolled from four o'clock p.m. until four o'clock a.m. The patrolmen are divided into three squads, or watches. The day watch patrol from eight a.m. until four p.m.; the dog watch from four to eight p.m. and from four to eight a.m.; and the night watch from eight p.m. to four a.m.

In connection with the beats is the patrol box system, one of the finest features of the department. There are thirty-six of these boxes, twenty-eight of which have telephones, all connected with police headquarters. Twenty-five miles of wire are used in the system. Each patrolman reports to headquarters at each end of his beat, and the exact time is there recorded by an operator. These reports are carefully saved and bound so that in after years a person can tell, by referring to the records, where an officer was at a certain hour on a given date. In connection with the system is a two-horse wagon, with a man constantly in charge. The wagon attends all alarms from the patrol boxes and many calls by private telephone. It also attends all fires, in order to give necessary police protection.

The officers are all well-drilled in the use of revolver and club, and are required to spend a portion of their time in practice. The entire force is as well drilled as most military companies in the State. From May 1,1886, to May 1, 1887, there were 1,472 arrests made by the officers. Of the numbers, 1,393 were males and seventy were females, and only nine of the number neither read nor write.


Members of the police force, other than Superintendents, since the organization of the Board, up to 1888, with the year of appointment of each:
Ansley Daniel 1879
Bettie Charles H. 1881
Behan Dennis 1883
Bement Harley 1887
Billings Albert F. 1887
Bonnell Leslie 1881
Breese S. A. 1883
Britt William 1885
Brown George F. 1888
Brownell S. R. 1882
Bush Wm. S. 1881
Catlin F. W. 1882
Catlin Mrs. F. W.
(Matron) 1885
Chaffee Charles H. 1886
Coggswell D. F. 1884
Cook L. D. 1884
Conlon John 1886
Connelly John 1883
Connolly James 1872
Connolly John 1879
Connor C. O. 1882
Cowell David 1873
Curry Alexander 1887
Cutler W. P. 1883
Davison Edward 1885
De Bruyne Marius 1881
Denison James R. 1887
Doherty Patrick 1883
Duga William 1887
Engle Thomas E. 1887
Ennis Alex 1882
Erb Oliver 1881
Fee F. B. 1883
Fisher Van E. 1886
French Elbert E. 1886
Fritz Nelson 1882
Gardner John M. 1882
Gast Cornelius 1872
Gates Charles H. 1886
Gault C. A. 1883
Gill M. P. 1883
Gould Emmett 1887
Gould Mrs. F. 1887
Gitchell Harry 1885
Graves Wm. H. 1884
Grimson Theo L. 1881
Groff Hubert 1872
Guild William 1887
Healey Bryant 1883
Hemstreet Alfred 1887
Hennessey James 1881
Hinzleman Adolph 1888
Hirnburger John 1882
Howe Cornelius 1880
Howell James 1883
Howell Thomas 1885
Hurley Wm. J. 1881
Hyland Patrick W. 1886
Jakeway Sherm'n G. 1887
Johnson Jacob C. 1885
Johnson John 1879
Johnson John B. 1880
Johnson S. A.  1885
Kearney Patrick 1880
Klyn John C. 1881
Latham Jackson E. 1887
Leatherman C. 1883
Lecompte Joseph 1881
Lucia Jefferson 1886
Lynch Michael 1887
McCarthy John F. 1887
McCarthy Thomas 1887
McCaul Frank 1885
McCulloch Sam'l 1886
McDorman Geo. W. 1885
McHugh James 1883
McKay James 1882
McLean Thomas 1871
Madden John 1882
Madden Timothy 1881
Madigan Timothy 1885
Maher Thomas 1881
Manly J. L. 1883
Millalley D. 1884
Miller George 1881
Mooney James 1885
Moran Charles L. 1885
Murphy Michael 1873
Nash Mort 1885
O'Neil Charles C. 1885
O'Neil Patrick 1881
Partington W. I. 1882
Pelton E. L. 1881
Pimpert Frederick 1885
Platte A. 1883
Post Charles 1882
Price Thomas C. 1882
Purple Thomas 1872
Quigg John 1880
Raynor Aldelbert D. 1885
Robbins Thomas 1883
Robie John F. 1882
Rowland Dwight P. 1885
Rubedew James 1883
Ryan Thomas 1883
Saunders C. H. 1871
Sauter Gotlieb 1880
Schobey John 1881
Scoby John M. 1882
Scoby H. V. 1883
Scott John 1882
Sears C. H.  1883
Seeley Charles A. 1886
Shields Patrick 1887
Slattery Thomas J. 1887
Sliter Emmery J. 1887
Smith Emmett 1886
Smith Joseph U. 1885
Smith L. O. 1883
Traxler George W. 1881
Tubbs George W. 1887
Van Dine N. J. 1887
Viergiver Daniel 1881
Wade Charles 1881
Walsh Wm. P. 1881
Ware Howard R. 1885
Warren Robert 1885
Washburn Wm. E. 1881
Webb Ralph S.  1887
Webber Fred W. 1885
Wells George 1883
Whalen Wm. 1887
Wheeler George W. 1887
Wiersma C. D. 1882
Willey E. F. 1883
Willey F. W. 1883
Williams Delano S. 1887
Worden George 1888


In connection with this department, is the Grand Rapids Police Relief and Benefit Association, formed for the purpose of assisting distressed members. The officers as given by the first annual report, May 13, 1887, were: President, Patrick Doherty; Vice-President, Edward L. Pelton; Treasurer, George W. Traxler; Secretary, John B. Johnson. Board of Trustees---Maurice P. Gill, John Quigg, George H. Wells, Thomas Maher, Timothy Madigan. The society has prospered, having in 1888 fifty-nine members, and a fair amount of funds in the treasury. The present officers are: President, Patrick Doherty; Vice-President, Edward L. Pelton; Treasurer, John B. Johnson; Secretary, Wm. J. Hurley.

Document Source: Baxter, Albert, History of the City of Grand Rapids, New York and Grand Rapids: Munsell & Company, Publishers, 1891. (Name Index)
Location of Original: Various.
Transcribers: Ronnie August
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/baxter1891/18police.html
Created: 2 August 1999[an error occurred while processing this directive]