Early department history
The regularly organized police force began August 12, 1889, prior to which time the arresting officers of the law were known as constables and were not uniformed.
As taken from the Board of Commissioners the beginning of the police department was on August 12, 1889, when an ordinance "for the appointment and regulation of a Police Force" was adopted. This provided for the appointment of a Captain of Police, three regular Officers, and as many special policemen as the Board of Commissioners shall from time to time deem necessary, to be appointed at a regular meeting and to hold office during the pleasure of the board.
The President of the Board of Commissioners and the Committee on Police shall constitute and be known as the Board of Police of the Town of Somerville. An ordinance was adopted at this meeting "Regulating the morals, peace, and good order of the Town of Somerville."
The compensation fixed for the Captain and each regular Policeman was $2 for each arrest made, provided the offender was convicted. In the event of a sudden emergency the Board of Police shall have the power to call the special policemen into active duty and during such service their compensation shall be twenty five cents per hour.
On August 12, 1889, Charles S. Capper was appointed Chief of Police, and Manning T. Crow, John G. Keener, and O.S. Kitchen were also appointed Police Officers. The Chief was required to make a monthly report to the board.
At the January 27, 1890 meeting, Chief Capper reported that the Police Force was unable by reason of the small number of warrants to serve, to maintain the force and keep the streets patrolled, but that if a small monthly salary is paid by the commissioners, the merchants in town will make up enough to warrant him in promising to reorganize the force and place one man on patrol in the daytime and two at night, and one man at all times. The board then fixed a regular salary of $15.00 per month for each Policeman, this sum to be in lieu of fees upon warrants, to begin February 1, 1890.
On May 22, 1890 Chief Capper reported as follows: "When the Police Force was first organized in Somerville you appointed three regular police officers and the chief, and the hours are too long for the men to attend to their duty as ought to be done. At present one man is on in the daytime and two at night, one of them until 1 a.m., and Manning T Crow as night watch until morning, or daylight. I would request that another regular Policeman be appointed. I would also request that the Committee on Police supply me with rules and regulations governing the force when on duty. As the summer is fast approaching, our winter uniforms are too hot, and our salary is not sufficient to enable us to buy summer uniforms, therefore, I request that the board consider these requests."
On June 9, 1890, Chief Capper requested a six month leave of absence and Elias Vanaman was appointed a regular officer to fill the vacancy. Manning T. Crow was advanced to Chief of Police.
In May 1891, the Board of Commissioners adopted a set of Police Regulations, making the Chief of the Police Department a member of the board, Commissioner George W. Abbott was elected Chief of Police, with power to appoint one of the Policemen to have charge of the books and papers, but the Chief to have supervision of the force. A set of rules fixing the duties of the Police was adopted and a salary of the Police was increased to $25 per month.
The headquarters of the Police Department, when one was had during the early days, was situated at various locations. The old county jail at Grove and West High for a time served as a depository for certain equipment. At the August 11, 1890 meeting, the Police Committee reported that they had secured the office now occupied by them on Division Street at an annual rental of $50.
From 1908 until 1939, the headquarters was located at the Fire House on Maple Street. From there it was moved to the carriage house of an estate, whose main house became the Borough Hall. In 1978 it was moved to it's present location on South Bridge Street.
Line of duty heroes
Two members of Somerville's Police Force have lost their lives while in the performance of duty. Both are listed on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Manning T. Crow, the first appointed regular officer was shot by one of two burglars he surprised in the act of robbing the Somerville Beef House, (on the site of the U.S. Post Office), on South Street at 3 a.m. January 19, 1899. A .38 caliber bullet pierced his chest and lungs. Despite his wounds, he walked to the police station and informed the night operator, George Fritchman. Crow died on February 1.
On February 3, 1917, another regular officer, Julius Sauter, was shot by Ernest C. Quick. According to the police report, Quick had been drinking and was about to take his own life when Sauter came along. Suddenly, Quick turned the gun on the policeman and shot him. Then Quick drove a bullet into his own head. Sauter died instantly; Quick lived for two days.
Fortunately, while other officers have been shot and injured in the line of duty, none have been killed since that time. In 2010 a memorial was dedicated and placed in front of Somerville Police Headquarters recognizing the ultimate sacrifice these two fallen Officers made to Somerville.
Somerville is the county seat of Somerset County, with a daytime population of 30-40 thousand people, and a nighttime population of approximately 15,000 people. Currently our department numbers 34 police officers and 2 secretaries.