In 1897 the Town Meeting voted to reorganize the police department and place it on a permanent basis making it the first full-time police force in the town.  The Selectmen appointed Thomas Oliver Drinkwater Urquhart at the first full-time Police Chief and appointed as full-time patrolman Leonard Andrews and two reserve officers.

As time passed the department grew in both personnel and responsibilities, marking a number of historical events.  About the turn of the century the department took over a small building next to the Town Hall that was originally constructed as a fire station and was known as ‘Seaside One’.  A number of steel cells obtained from the Portsmouth Naval Prison in New Hampshire completed the transformation from a fire house to a police station.  This building served as our 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 the Town.  Calls made to the station from these boxes were automatically registered as to location and time a particular officer called in.

In 1902, the Town Meeting appropriated funds for the purchase, at a cost of $650, of an Abbot-Dowing horse-drawn ambulance.  This ambulance was replaced by Manchester’s first motorized ambulance in 1919.

During the early 1900’s, it was the practice to patrol a beat on foot as the department had no transportation except a Columbia bicycle for calls in the outlying sections of town.  When transportation was needed, as in the instance of prisoner transports to the Gloucester Traffic Court, rail service sufficed.

The first speeding violation was recorded on May 6, 1901.  These early scofflaws, known a “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.

The results of young Peabody’s efforts became internationally known and placed Manchester’s law enforcement techniques on the map.  The system developed proved to be foolproof in apprehending the unsuspecting speeder of the day.  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 in turn rang a bell by the side of a timer, who sat in the middle of the measured course and started 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.  In the event the automobile reached the time in less than 22 seconds, it was obvious the auto was speeding and the officer at the end stopped it and issued a citation.  

Chief Peabody reported, at the end of the summer, “ that during the months of July and August there was not a Sunday afternoon that we did not time more than a 1,000 cars.”

Chief Peabody’s system was so successful it caught the attention of Mr. William McAdoo, who was summering in a nearby village, when he was stopped for speeding.  Seeking more information on the mysterious system, the then New York City Police Commissioner McAdoo invited the chief to travel to his city and instruct New York’s finest in the process.

In 1909, the police department, by Town Meeting vote, accepted Civil Service for its police, excepting the Chief, who was brought in under the same system in 1937.

In 1911 President Taft visited the Town 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 period four police chiefs were appointed and remained for a period of one year each until the community 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 the first of several motorcycles it would have over the years.  One of these officers, 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 the ‘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 our primary patrol and response vehicle.  However, the motorcycle did remain as a seasonal vehicle until the mid 1960’s.

During the 1920’s patrolmen were assigned routes until 3 AM each morning.  At this time the late shift officer would lock the station house and go home.  The station would remain closed until the 8 AM shift officer reported for duty.  Should the need arise for a policeman in the hours the station was closed, the local telephone operator would receive the call and contact the Chief, who would in turn respond.  The system continued for many years, except for during the summer months when patrolmen were assigned throughout the night.        

During the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, although Manchester remained a comparatively small community, it had a significant summer population with which to contend.  These were very busy days for our policemen who had to deal 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 here and were often referred to as “summer embassies.”

In 1941 the first true police communications system was installed with radios in the patrol car and station.  Prior to the radio system, 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.

During the next several decades, many changes were noted within the police department including the first shoulder emblem on our uniform.  Depicting the town seal, the emblem, designed by police personnel, was added in 1973.

The badge, representing the authority of the position of every police officer, has remained basically the same since it was originally designed and implemented in 1893.

In 1970 the force 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 ‘70s and ‘80s the department grew, both in personnel and equipment, with traffic radar, statewide teletype communications, breath testing equipment, new firearms, new radio system, additional patrol cars, detective, and possibly most important, the level of training.

Today the police department in known for its innovative, modern ideas of providing services to the town.  A constant effort is made to merge the endearing qualities of our predecessors with modern professional policing tactics.  More emphasis is placed on community policing and  “getting back to basics.”  Social issues, a long-forgotten term in the police vocabulary, is once again one of our ‘buzz’ words.  And a “proactive/preventive” posture is the order of the day as opposed to merely a reactive one.

Today, we place more responsibility on each member of the department.  Along with the typical training police personnel are exposed to, more in depth instruction is offered annually.  Elderly abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, drug interdiction, child safety, boating safety, bicycle safety programs, school bus evacuations drills, and crisis intervention are just some of latest concerns requiring training for our police officers.  We also maintain an involvement in a  number of programs including:  D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), annual safety programs aimed at providing children instructions on bicycle handling, school bus procedures, how to contact emergency agencies, how to handle contacts with strangers, 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 our department.

The early watchmen and first police officers who served our Town during the early years 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 a man 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.