History of the Newburyport Police Department
Compiled by Ghlee Woodworth
*It seems prior to 1851 – the police were referred to as: constables, night watchmen and police. Some doubled as a sexton – ringing the church bells.
*After 1851 – when the town of Newburyport became a city……. there was an ordinance for a City Marshall.
*In January of 1832, Newburyport voted to establish and maintain a police court. The court was eventually approved, after some dissension, by an act of the legislature. Hon. Stephen W. Marston was appointed as judge in 1833 and served until 1866.
*After the new Newburyport Town Hall (City Hall), at Brown’s Square, was completed in 1850, and the old Town Hall discontinued, the police station and police court moved into the Market Hall building (Firehouse). The old town hall was long known as Washington Hall. Washington Hall was on the corner of Essex and State (this building has a sign that reads today Essex Hall toward the roofline), but earlier Washington Hall was mentioned to have been located on Green Street.
*Mayor Isaac Boardman (1863) recommended that members of the police force be given salaries. At that time, the policemen received a bounty for each arrest and there were many complaints from the public that arrests were made for economic, rather than criminal reasons. George Janvrin was appointed to serve as city marshal.
*1866 Capt. James P. L. Westcott, with his family, having returned from Virginia, relatively unscathed by the war, was once again appointed as city marshal. The police department consisted of three constables (including the marshal) and nine night watchmen.
*1868 – The police force consisted of City Marshal William Fitts, two other day constables, nine night watchmen and nine special (unpaid) police officers.
*1869 – On 4/7, the Newburyport Herald published the quarterly police report. It revealed that there had been 162 arrests and were 87 lodgers at the jail. Among the arrests were 68 for drunkenness and 3 of nightwalkers. Of those arrested, 131 were discharged without penalty. The salaries of the city officials were published. Elected officials received no salary. The city clerk received $700 and fees.
*1873 – Mayor Currier was concerned about the police force. It consisted of a city marshal, two day policemen, a captain of the night watch and six watchmen. It had been virtually unchanged since 1851. Of the 998 arrests during the previous year, 500 were for drunkenness. William H. Fitts was reappointed as city marshal.
*1880 On 2/6, the Herald noted that waltz parties were ―fashionable. The Telephone. Scarcely any invention has met with such success from the outset as the telephone…in every city in the state of any consequence, save this, a district telephone system is in vogue…At the next meeting of the city council, a proposition will be laid before them…to connect City Hall, with the police station.
*1880 The newspaper editor wondered why ―in this enlightened age” the police station was not provided with a telephone. Newburyport was said to be the only city in the state in which the police station did not to have a telephone.
*1881 – On 3/18, the Herald reported that the police station had been connected to the telephone.
*1882 On 10/20, the Herald reported that malaria ―prevail in New Haven. The interior of the police station was being ―thoroughly renovated and painted.
*1883 On 6/15, the Herald reported that the remodeling of the police station at Market Hall (Firehouse) was nearly completed.
*1883 On 8/6, the Herald reported that the work of remodeling the police station had been completed, and the police force had a large, pleasant room for their use.
*1884 – The police force was increased in size. The day force consisted of five men, including the city marshal, assistant city marshal and newly established sergeant of the watch. The night force was increased to eighteen, eight of them constables. To the Editor: ―Newburyport now boasts the largest police force she has ever had — twenty-six.
*1884 – On 2/8, the Herald commented that the city had received no rent from Essex County for use of Market Hall as a police courtroom because Judge Pike had refused to fix his signature to the required endorsement. Judge Pike insisted he would not sign it until he had ―decent quarters.
*1884 – On 1/5, the Herald reported that 1355 tramps had been furnished with food and lodging at the police station during 1884.
*1885 – Mayor Simpson recommended rigid enforcement of the liquor law, especially on Sunday. He asked for drastic changes in the police department. The efficiency of the police department I do not question, its magnitude is beyond all reason…it has increased from nine to twenty-eight. He reminded the council that the expense of the police department had doubled. He reappointed Charles H. deRochemont as city marshal, and reduced the size of the police force to 12 men, but 3 more were added later. The number of arrests dropped from 869 in 1884 to 534 in 1885. It is impossible to say at this time whether the reduction was due to an increased effectiveness of the police department, or whether having few officers on the streets, particularly in the night force, simply led to fewer arrests.
*1885 ((That the police were forced to extinguish street lights implies that the city council was refusing to pay enough for a person to light the street lamps and to extinguish them.
*1888 – The wages of police officers were set at: night and day patrolmen, $1.00 per day; Capt. of the watch, $2.50 per day.
*1889 – On 1/28, the News reported that the prospect of a new police station was once again gaining ground among the members of the city government.
*1891 On 1/14, in the News: The Police Station. Does Newburyport need a new police station?…during the last ten years…there have been locked up…20,428 human beings…Many believe that a room 40 feet square with only seven cells…underground, without the least chance of ventilation, is not the right place.
*1891 The high tides yesterday drove the rats up through the sewers into the police station.
*1940s – new station on Green Street