Police Department (Lawrence,MA)

Lawrence Police Department March 1919

This collection is composed of a police blotter that covers from January 2, 1865 to March 30, 1867.  This blotter is in an account book and records the individuals arrested over that period.  Information is composed in columns: date, number, name, offense, judge, officer, complainant, by whom arrested, and sentence.  There is also a souvenir the Golden Jubilee, April 6, 1939 and two copies of a pamphlet called “History of the Lawrence Police Department.”  The latter is dated 1934 and includes text from Maurice B. Dorgan’s History of Lawrence, Mass., a list of the chiefs of police, a roster, list of reserve officers, one matron, honor roll, pensioned members, deceased members, resigned members, and war veterans.  There are also articles in the booklet that talk about police athletics, present day police methods, crime prevention among the young, Lawrence District Court, and photographs.  The rest of the booklet is filled with advertisements.  Finally there is an illustrated calendar published by the Lawrence Police Relief Fund for the year 1998.

The history of law enforcement in the City of Lawrence begins at the first town meeting when ten constables were appointed to preserve law and order.  Gilman F. Sanborn was the head of this body of officers.  The first lock up was located at the corner of Broadway and Common streets.  By 1850 the board of selectmen voted to provide a headquarters and jail in the town hall.  The cells were located in the arches supporting the vaults of the town clerk.  After allegations by citizens of unsanitary conditions, a new place of incarceration at the corner of Common and Jackson streets was built.  For a short time during this period there was also a small wooden jail on Elm Street.

In 1853 Lawrence was incorporated as a city.  A police force supplanted the constabulary with the first chief of police being Harvey L. Fuller.  In 1867 a brick police station replaced the earlier structure at the same location, the corner of Common and Jackson streets.  Civil service rules went into effect in 1888 changing the way all city employees were hired.  Before that date officers were political appointees.

Before the advent of electricity, policemen were responsible for the lighting of gaslights on the main streets and kerosene lamps in the outlying areas.  These lighting devices would be lit at dusk and put out at midnight.  The means of communication between headquarters and the patrolmen was a horse drawn wagon in which the captain covered the routes passing along messages and checking up on the officers as well.   Lines of communication were improved when a Gamewell Police Signal System was purchased.  This allowed the men to call into the station by telephone for assistance.

In 1914 a new police station replaced the one built in 1867.  It included 42 cells for male prisoners and one for female prisoners.  An emergency room was installed in the basement and the District Court was on the second floor.  This court held the civil jurisdiction for Lawrence, Methuen, and the Andovers and was an outgrowth of the Lawrence Police Court started in 1848.  The city added a motorized patrol wagon in 1915.

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