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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Early Policemen

Early Policemen

GRHC - May 12th, 2010

Glance at the Past makes the case for the creation of the GRPD.



An old time editor recalled the days before the first police department was formed, “The police department of Grand Rapids was organized in June of 1871. Before that the lives and property were more or less safeguarded by five constables and two night watchmen, employed by the merchants of Canal and Monroe streets. The constables were an unreliable lot, addicted to drunkenness and laziness.

Officers Bacon and White, the night watchmen were too old to discharge their duties satisfactorily and no one would be so cruel as to disturb them when they slept peacefully after midnight in chairs drawn close to the stoves in the offices of the National Bank, the Rathbun House, the Bronson House or Sweet’s Hotel. The city was notoriously disorderly, and when one of the papers published a series of articles showing the incompetence and the dishonesty of the police an amendment to the charter was sent up to the legislature. When it had been made a part of the municipal constitution a police force consisting of a chief and eight patrolmen was organized.

The old constables and a number of former sheriffs sought the position of chief. The choice of the council finally fell to James Moran who had not sought the position, but because Moran had never voted in an election he was not offensive to any political faction.

Moran, who served as the first police chief of the city from 1871-1878 and again in 1880, was a kind, warm-hearted man and was loved as well as respected by most of those who served under him.

Full Details

TitleEarly Policemen
KeywordsGlance at the Past, history, police, James Moran, GRPD, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission, Podcast
Pubdate StringMay 12th, 2010

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