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In the Beginning

Cover of the 2000 bookThis article is taken from “Saint Paul Police Department: A Historical Review 1854-2000,” a 2000 publication of the Saint Paul Police Department and Turner Publishing Company, Paducah, Kentucky.

As 1840 dawned in the area that was to become the city of Saint Paul, nine cabins were strewn along the bluffs between the Lower and the Upper Landings, according to historian Virginia Brainard Kunz. The river bottom area was studded with ancient, stately trees. Stands of cedar and tamarack followed the base of the Summit Avenue hill and a dense forest of elms surrounded the Upper Landing. The Native-Americans, particularly the Dakota at Kaposia, were a continuing presence in the village.

The little settlement was known along the Mississippi River as Pig’s Eye, named after Pierre “Pig’s Eye” Parant, a Canadian voyager and colorful scoundrel, who made a living selling liquor to the residents of the area and the soldiers of Fort Snelling. Safety was provided through the communal efforts of the settlers and by the close proximity of Fort Snelling, and to a certain extent, by way of the presence of Army officer Lawrence Taliaferro, presidential-appointed Indian agent for the region.

On All Saints Day, November 1, 1841, Father Lucien Galtier blessed a new chapel near the present-day Sixth and Wabasha and dedicated it to “Saint Paul, the apostle of nations,” and expressed a wish that the settlement would be known by the same name.

In 1848, the territory of Wisconsin, in which Saint Paul was located, was divided. The western portion became a territory named Minnesota. Alexander Ramsey became Minnesota’s first territorial governor. The territorial legislature of 1849 divided Minnesota into nine counties, including Ramsey, where Saint Paul had been established. The city’s first honor was bestowed when it was declared the county seat.

Saint Paul was incorporated as a city in 1854. One month later on April 4, 1854, the city council met and elected its first marshall, William R. Miller. His duties were to attend all city council meetings; act as rental agent and general purveyor; rent out market stalls; issue licenses for dogs, shows, billiard rooms, and liquor stores; impose fines for disobedience of mandates; collect wharfage; keep streets and sidewalks clean; destroy squatters shanties; select lots for the burial of paupers; notify owners of wandering swine, and, if failure to comply, round up the swine and shoot them; and preserve law and order. For all this, Marshall Miller received $400.00 a year, or $7.69 a week, plus ten percent of all fines collected by him.

Late in 1854, the city council passed a resolution ordering Marshall Miller to appoint “city police of such numbers and at such times, as in his opinion the same may be necessary for the public safety.” However, there are no records of the appointment of any officers for two years. By 1856, Saint Paul had grown to over 4,000 residents and saloons were the only businesses in town. Marshall Miller, unable to handle his work alone, appointed four patrolmen. With a salary of $1.50 a day, William Spitzer, Smith MacAuley, Joseph Fadden and John Nagler became Saint Paul’s first police force.

The early Department struggled with transportation as one of its many problems. Officers in the 1850s were forced to utilize whatever mode of transportation was available. It was not uncommon for poor, unfortunate inebriates to be transported up the hill to the town jail in a wheelbarrow. In 1856, a generous grocer donated his horse and wagon for use at night. The public-spirited grocer would park his horse and wagon at Seventh and Wabasha Streets every evening to be used by the police.

Before May 29, 1856, the city’s patrolmen dressed in apparel according to the local style. The city clerk was directed by the council to purchase a ‘star’ badge for the patrolmen with the words “St. Paul Police” engraved on them. The officers were required to display their badges prominently. Thirteen members of the Department now donned star badges to signify their position in the community. The standard for police uniforms began. On August 30, 1858, a resolution was passed, requiring all patrolmen to wear a band with the words “City Police” on the front of caps or hats.

On August 12, 1856, the city council authorized the purchase of a lot at Fifth and Wabasha Streets to erect a city hall with a “lock-up” located on the first floor. Shortly thereafter, Marshall Miller was proclaimed chief of police in charge of a force of three captains and nine men.

An ethnic issue caused consternation for the Department in February, 1858. Some people believed that a few Irish policemen should be fired and more Germans hired in their place. People surmised that this would make the Department more representative of the community it served. The city council decided that it didn’t care about the nationality of its officers “as long as they did their duty.” As a result, the Department, comprised of three Americans, six Irishmen, and two Frenchmen, remained as it was.

When Norman W. Kittson was elected mayor of Saint Paul in 1858, he enlisted the advice of a friend, Henry H. Sibley (the first Justice of the Peace of the territory). After several conferences with Sibley regarding the best direction the city’s Police Department should follow, Marshall William R. Miller was removed from office. Mayor Kittson appointed J.W. Crosby in his place with a salary of $1,000.00 per year. At that time, Saint Paul’s population was seven thousand, and it was determined that the city was large enough to give the marshall a real title. For the first time, the head of the Police Department was officially designated “Chief of Police.”

With the onset of the Civil War, a business depression resulted in several changes that greatly affected Saint Paul and its police force. Municipal services were reduced due to lack of funds. The police force was greatly decreased, as men enlisted in the war effort. John Stoughtenburgh Prince, mayor in 1862, and the city council adopted a unique measure to afford Saint Paul sufficient protection. They cut the force from fourteen to seven men and established a “Home Guard.” Each ward of the city enrolled the names of sixty men, who were willing to serve as patrol officers without pay.

The Home Guard eventually consisted of two hundred civilians, who were divided into four companies, one for each of the city’s four wards. Two men were paired to walk a pre-assigned beat one night a month at no pay. This community service was known as “night-hawking”, and it supplemented the remaining policemen, who patrolled the streets during the day. According to the City News of the time, night-hawking was favored by wives and mothers, although they viewed it as a necessary evil.

In 1863, the city fathers realized the Home Guard was only a temporary solution. In the first city council meeting of the year, a provision was made for the return of a regular paid police force. Because the city had recouped its finances, a chief paid a salary of $600.00, a captain at $500.00, and seven officers at $480.00 per year became the first step towards that goal. The mayor, concerned over the coverage that these few patrolmen could provide, addressed the council:

Two policemen are stationed on the Levee during the day and one at night. Two on Third Street by day and two by night. One above and one below the bridge (Wabasha Street); this exhausts the entire number. Robert, Jackson, and Minnesota Streets should have at least one night policeman. There should also be a watchman on Seventh Street and another on Fourth Street. These regular beats being established, the public, if they bear in mind, will always know where to look for a policeman whenever disturbances in neighboring streets occur. The police, moreover, have stringent instructions always to wear their stars, so that they may be easily identified.

The city council responded to the mayor’s message by hiring three additional patrolmen, and prohibiting citizens from wearing a police star without authorization. Violators would be fined.

In 1864, a letter was sent to the city council by the mayor, who wanted to create a Detective Bureau. The mayor stated:

...the office of the ordinary police is to prevent crime... not of a detective to follow out secret clues and bring to light the perpetrators. It will not do, to withdraw men from their regular beats and set them to trace out the intricacies of an ingenious robbery which may take days and perhaps weeks to unravel. While the men are thus employed, other robberies might and probably would take place in the neighborhoods of their described beats. It would be well known that the men were away and their post unguarded. And thus, crime so far from being diminished, would be increased.

To facilitate the creation of a Detective Bureau, $200.00 was appropriated by the city council under the direction of Chief Michael Cummings in 1864. Also recommended was the establishment of sentry boxes in every ward “...as places of refuge for police on cold and stormy nights. This would obviate the apparent excuse they now have for resorting to saloons.”

In 1868, a new charter was granted and the city was divided into five wards. These wards comprised the following geographic areas:

The House of Good Shepherd was built in 1868 to be used as a workhouse for women prisoners.

During the same year under, the chief’s salary was increased to $1,200.00 under Chief James McIlrath’s administration. Additional responsibilities came with the raise, including the mandate to attend all fire scenes. The Department consisted of one detective and fourteen patrolmen.