In 1897 the Manchester by-the-Sea Police Department was reorganized by the Town Meeting, and became full-time. The Selectmen appointed Thomas Oliver Drinkwater Urquhart as the first full-time Police Chief, Leonard Andrews as its first full-time patrolman, and two reserve officers. During the early 1900s beat patrols were done on foot since the department had no transportation except a Columbia bicycle. When transportation was needed, as in the instance of prisoner transports to the Gloucester Traffic Court, rail service was used.
As time passed the department grew in both personnel and responsibilities. The following are major historical milestones:
- Around 1900 the department took over a small building next to Town Hall originally constructed as a fire station and known as Seaside One. Steel cells obtained from the Portsmouth Naval Prison in New Hampshire transformed the building into a police station. Seaside One served as the town’s police station for another 76 years until a new police facility was built on the Town Common in 1970.
- In 1901 the Town Meeting appropriated funds for the installation of a ‘call box’ system throughout Manchester by-the-Sea. Calls made to the station from these boxes were automatically registered with the location and time of the call.
- In 1902 the Town Meeting appropriated funds for the purchase of a $650 Abbot-Dowing horse-drawn ambulance. This ambulance was replaced by Manchester’s first motorized ambulance in 1919.
- The first speeding violation in Manchester by-the-Sea was recorded on May 6, 1901. These early scofflaws, known as “scorchers,” presented a significant problem during this era when traveling at the “breakneck speed of 18 mph.” The chief at the time, Samuel Sumner Peabody, enlisted the aid of his son, Allen S. Peabody, to devise a method to “clock” the speed of these violators.
- A series of wires were buried alongside a stretch of roadway leading out of Town. When an automobile entered the “trap,” an officer would signal by pressing a button which rang a bell notifying a timer, who sat in the middle of the measured course, to start his stop watch. While this signal man was sending word, his assistant, who got the number of the car, telephoned the officer at the end of the course. If the automobile reached the timer in less than 22 seconds, the car was speeding and the officer at the end stopped it and issued a citation.
- The results of young Peabody’s efforts became internationally known and placed Manchester’s law enforcement techniques on the map. At the end of the summer Chief Peabody reported, “during the months of July and August there was not a Sunday afternoon that we did not time more than 1,000 cars.”
- Chief Peabody’s system was so successful it caught the attention of New York City Police Commissioner William McAdoo who was summering in a nearby village. After being stopped for speeding, Commissioner McAdoo invited Chief Peabody to travel to New York City and share the new technology with New York City officers.
- In 1909 in a Town Meeting vote the police department accepted Civil Service for its police. The Chief of Police was brought under the same system in 1937.
- In 1911 President Taft visited Manchester by-the-Sea and played golf at the local club. Although Secret Service protection accompanied the president, local officers provided most of the security during his stay.
- Between 1909 and 1913 Town officials ventured out-of-town in seeking a police chief. During this four year period four police chiefs were appointed and each remained only one year. From then on Town officials realized the wisdom of staying local.
- In 1919 the policemen of the town were granted one day off in eight and granted 10 days vacation annually.
- In 1916 the police department acquired its first of motorcycle. Patrolman “Jack” Connors became known as one of the ten toughest motorcycle cops in the United States, as reported by a nationally published magazine. As legend would have it, Jack refused to let a U.S. ambassador off the hook when his limousine failed to come to a full and complete stop in the town square.
- Around 1924 the patrol car replaced the motorcycle as Manchester by-the-Sea’s primary patrol and response vehicle; however, the motorcycle did remain as a seasonal vehicle until the mid 1960s.
- During the 1920s patrolmen routes lasted until 3 a.m., and the station house closed at 3 a.m, reopening at 8 a.m. If a policeman was needed while the station was closed, the local telephone operator would receive the call and contact the Chief. The system continued for many years, except for during the summer months when patrolmen were assigned throughout the night.
- From the 1920s to 1940s, although Manchester remained a comparatively small community, the population swelled in the summer. Summer meant busy days with drownings, alcohol violations, deaths by accidents, motor vehicle accidents, traffic congestion, fights and disturbances and numerous visits by dignitaries. During this era several national political figures, including foreign diplomats, maintained summer residences in Manchester by-the-Sea and were often referred to as “summer embassies.”
- In 1941 the first police radio system was installed in the station and patrol cars. Prior to this a patrol officer making his rounds would be made aware of a call only when he passed the station house and noted an exterior blue light illuminated.
- In 1973 the first shoulder emblem was added to the police uniform. It depicted the town seal and was designed by police personnel. However, the badge, which represents the authority of the position of every police officer, has remained mostly unchanged since it was originally designed and implemented in 1893.
- In 1970 the police department was moved into a newly constructed modern police facility. For the first time in town history a building designed and constructed as a police headquarters housed the department.
- During the 1970s and 1980s the department grew in size, training standards improved, and new equipment was added, including traffic radar, statewide teletype communications, breath testing equipment, new firearms, a new radio system, and additional patrol cars.
Manchester by-the-Sea Police Department Today
Today the police department is known for its innovative, modern ideas of providing services to the town. An ongoing effort is made to merge the endearing qualities of its history with modern professional policing tactics. More emphasis is being placed on community policing and “getting back to basics.” The department has a new focus on social issues, and taking a “proactive/preventive” approach as opposed to being reactive.
Today the Manchester by-the-Sea Police Department places more responsibility on each member of the department. Police personnel have access to a wider range of specialty instruction and training in responding to elder abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, drug interdiction, child safety, boating safety, bicycle safety, school bus evacuation, and crisis intervention. The department is also involved in a number of programs including: D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education); programs providing children instruction on bicycle handling, school bus procedures, contacting emergency agencies, stranger contact, seat belt usage; and elderly driving programs. Equally important is our commitment to the Cape Ann Regional Drug Strike Force, a five community, multi-jurisdictional effort toward the interdiction and elimination of unlawful drug distribution.
The addition of a modern bicycle patrol unit, a beach patrol division, harbor/marine division, and an animal control unit have all contributed to the growth and diversity of the department.
The early watchmen and first police officers who served Manchester by-the-Sea would be amazed, were they to return today to inspect their department. At one time, a badge, gun, simple instructions and a healthy dose of common sense was all an individual needed to function as a policeman. Today, written and physical examinations, physical ability tests, 860 hours of recruit academy training, 160 hours of Emergency Medical training, certification in a number of disciplines and equipment usage all contribute to the qualifications of our men and women as police officers.
As the Town continues to grow, so will the police department and its challenge to provide a safe and tranquil environment for its townspeople.
its challenge to provide a safe and tranquil environment for its townspeople.