As the oldest police department in the country, the Boston Police Department (BPD) has a rich history and a well-established presence in the Boston community. The initiation of a formal department began in 1838, when the General Court passed a bill allowing the city of Boston to appoint police officers. The department was established in 1854 structured after the model developed by Sir Robert Peele for the London Police force.
The Boston Police Department was the first paid, professional public safety department in the country. First headquartered at City Hall on School Street, the department moved to 37 Pemberton Square, where it remanded until construction began on 154 Berkeley Street headquarters in 1925. These new headquarters served the department well for many years, until 1997, when the department moved into its new state-of-the-art facility at One Schroeder Plaza.
The BPD has undergone many operational changes throughout the years as well. When first initiated by the city Council in 1824, the department under the supervision of the city Marshall, was charged with "the care of the streets, the care of the common sewers, and the care of the vaults, and whatever else affects the health, security, and comfort of the city."
The first police force consisted of 260 officers and a chief. Each division had a captain and two lieutenants; sergeants were not appointed until 1857. In these early days, an officer on duty carried a six-foot pole, painted blue and white to protect himself, and a "police rattle" to call for assistance. Police communicated via a telegraph system that linked the central office and area police stations. In 1878, the first department telephones were installed on a trial basis.
Over the years, the police department has responded to a wide range of public safety issues, from "night walkers" to armed robberies to homicides, and to public crises such as the Great Fire, the St. Valentine's Day blizzard and the Coconut Grove fire. In responding to these public safety issues and protecting the public, the department has learned much, growing and evolving into one of the finest police departments in the country.
Today's department focuses on ensuring the safety and well-being of the city's residents, combining the best neighborhood policing methods from the past with the latest state-of-the-art technologies to effectively protect and serve the public.