There have been numerous sheriffs and deputy sheriffs in Kanawha County. Many of those
date back to the formation of the county in 1788 and continue to the end of the Civil War.
These officers of the law were elected to serve the entire county, not just the city. The
first evidence that I find of an organized
Police Force in Charleston is after the Civil War. Records survive that tell of a city
police force and some of its members prior to and during the war. The organized Police
Force did not operate under a specific set of rules until 1873.
There are several notations in the Common Council records
that indicate an individual was paid for his services as a policeman before the ordinance
of April 1873. The going rate for a police officer of the 1860's and early 1870's in
Charleston was $1.00 per day or $30.00 per month. This salary does not appear to be much,
but according to Council records, teachers at Union School made just over a dollar a day.
Union school, the first of many city-supported schools, was built on State Street (now Lee
Street just west of Court Street) in 1870.
At a Common Council meeting held March 21, 1873, discussions were held in an attempt to
obtain uniforms for the city police force. These discussions were sent to a committee, and
such as it is today, the committee did not bring this resolution back to the floor of
Council, but instead referred it to the City Sergeant for consideration.
At a regular session of the Common Council on April 16, 1873 an ordinance was passed that
has been added to and taken away from over the years. The ordinance was titled rules and
regulations of the City Police. The ordinance leaves little doubt that this is where the
Charleston Police Department was
born. The ordinance, with its misspellings and errors in punctuation, is presented in its
entirety just as it was written more than 125 years ago.
April 16th 1873 On Motion the following Ordinances were passed. An ordinance by the
Council of the City of Charleston from and after the 1st day of May 1873. The Police force
of the City of Charleston shall consist of not less than six men beside the Chief of
Police. This number may be added to from time to time as the council Shall direct and all
of said force to be appointed by the council, except the Chief who is elected by the
people and removed by them at their will and pleasure or by order of the Mayor. The said
force shall be governed by the following regulations and such others as may from time to
time be added thereto by Council.
1st. The Chief of Police shall be subject to the instructions of the mayor of the City and
shall obey his directions in all matters relating to the keeping of the peace and order
within the City in accordance with rules herein after prescribed.
2nd. The members of the Police force shall receive and
obey all orders from the Chief of Police or Mayor, promptly.
3rd. The said Police Force together with the Chief thereof Shall always
when on duty wear such uniforms and badges of office as may be herein after
designated, to wit
4th. No member of said force shall while on duty sit down on the streets or
enter any house, store, or any other building except in the exercise of his duty
or called thereto by some person or persons requiring his services as a police
officer. Nor shall any member of such force stop on the streets to talk while on
duty or engage in any conversation except it become necessary in the discharge
of his duty, or to give information to those desiring it, and this he shall do
at all times in a polite manner and render any assistance to those requiring it
which is not inconsistent with his duty.
5th. No policeman may leave his regularly appointed beat while on duty
except to take a prisoner to the lock up, or is ordered so to do by the Chief,
or when another policeman may within his hearing signal for assistance, in
either case, he shall act promptly in returning there to.
6th. No Policeman shall abuse or harshly treat any prisoner whom he may
have in his charge unless necessary so to do in self defense, or to prevent
7th. Any Policeman found drunk on duty, shall be immediately discharged by
the Chief, or if found drunk more than twice off duty while in the employ of the
City, or within six months maybe discharged by the Mayor.
8th. Whenever any Policeman hears a signal of another Policeman he shall
immediately answer such signal in accordance with the secret signal rule to be
laid down by the Chief of Police and such code of signals shall not be revealed
or betrayed by members of this force.
9th. All Policemen appointed for any particular occasion shall be under the
control of the regular policeman of the beat in which they are assigned to
service, he of course being under the direction of the Chief.
10th. No Police officer shall allow any crowd of persons to gather on the
streets, about any corner or elsewhere so as to obstruct the free passage of
foot passengers or teams, nor shall he allow any nuisance to be committed or
allowed to remain on the streets but shall report to the proper Officer at once.
11th. It shall be the duty of the policeman whenever or wherever they know
by sight or reliable information from others of any ordinance of the City, or of
the State being or about to be violated to immediately exercise all his powers
and authority to prevent such violation, or if accomplished to arrest the
parties engaged therein. This Section applies to all Ordinances of the City, but
particularly to the enforcement of the Liquor law of the State and the City
Ordinance in regard to Gaming Houses, & Gambling, unknown word, (could be
fast racing) Immorality, measuring or weighing coal and unlawful occupying of
the sidewalks, and also when on duty to preserve the peace of the City. Secure
the inhabitants thereof from personal violence, and their property from fire or
unlawful depredations, and to secure these ends, they are individually and
collectively empowered with authority immediately to arrest upon sight and
without warrant any person or persons found Violating any Ordinance madepursuant
to these ends.
12th. Where there are private Watchman appointed or paid by private
Citizens for the protection of their own premises or property they shall after
being properly Sworn in, be Empowered with like authority with the other police
and shall be under the control and direction of the Chief of Police except that
they may not by him be removed from the prescribed beat for which they are
employed and may by consent of the Chief assume and wear the prescribed uniform
of the City Police.
13th. The place of confinement of all prisoners arrested by the Police
shall be the County Jail, unless otherwise ordered by the Mayor and shall be
brought to trial as soon as possible.
14th. The Police Shall receive such compensation as shall be prescribed by
the Council, and all uniforms ordered in accordance with section 3 of this
ordinance shall be furnished by the City, but charged to each policeman and
deducted from their regular pay in equal sums so that it shall al be paid for in
four months, but no such officer in case of discharge shall be allowed to wear
any part of the uniform after such discharge but the City may take Such parts of
it from him by paying him a reasonable amount therefor according to the
15th. Each officer shall give immediate alarm in case of fire by crying
" Fire" repeatedly and by ringing any of the Bells to which he may
have access particularly that of the Court House, and during the progress of
such fire or any other public excitement be especially watchful for thieves and
incendiances and shall arrest all Suspicious persons.
16th. All Such officers shall take the following oath before entering upon
their duties. I "A B" do solemnly swear that I will Support the
Constitution of the United States and of this State and will faithfully perform
the duties of a Policeman in the City of Charleston and obey all orders received
from the proper officers if within my power, and also comply with all
requirements of the Police Laws of the City.
17th. The hours of duty Shall be Six hours on duty and six hours off duty
alternately under the direction of the Chief.
18th. And be it further ordained that the members of the City Council be
Special Police officers without pay, with power to do all that the regular
Police may do or to delegate that power to another by Transfer of his badge for
the preservation of the peace, (unknown word) good order of the City, in
accordance with the forgoing ordinance.
This ordinance remained in effect until it was amended in January of 1880. The
body of the new ordinance continued to read much as the 1873 ordinance. One
major change to the ordinance is contained under section 1. This change allowed
the council to reduce the force to not less than two men and no more than four,
not including the Chief.
Section 1 in its new state also gave specific language saying that a police
officer could be dismissed or suspended by the Mayor for dereliction or neglect,
until the next meeting of the Council, when the Mayor was required to report the
fact and grounds of the suspension.
During the suspension the Mayor was to appoint someone to fill the vacancy. The
Chief of Police, at the time the ordinance was adopted, was an elected official
who was by law the Town Marshall or Chief of Police. Later the Mayor of the city
was to become the Chief and still later the "Captain of Police" would
become the Chief.
By the early 1900s the department had expanded to 25 officers, a Lieutenant,
and an appointed Chief. The population of the city had risen to almost 20,000
citizens, this large increase in population occurred after the area west of the
Elk River previously known as "Elk City" was incorporated into the
Throughout the early 20th century the city as well as the
department continued a steady, if not slower growth. More officers were added, a
detective division was organized, still later a traffic unit became a reality.
In 1937 officers became protected by Civil Service. This new coverage came with
a benefits package that included retirement pay, and job security. Higher
standards were set for the hiring of new officers, some being physical others
being mental. A new application was developed, the "Good Ole Boy"
system of being a policeman was apparently over. At the advent of the "new
application" more than 500 men turned their applications in at City Hall.
The force had started to move away from the old foot and mounted patrols, they
were on motorcycles and in cars.
They still used call boxes but some cars had one-way radios that would announce
calls tell the cruisers to respond to an emergency or to call headquarters. As
the department moved through the 50s and 60s even more officers and
divisions were added, a vice squad, accident cars, and a crime prevention unit,
two-way radios were common place. The 70s brought federal monies and new
programs to the department, more officers, and the hiring of the first sworn
female officer, new state of the art equipment, such as, radar for the
apprehension of speeders. With the advent of dangerous drugs in our community
the Vice Unit was split and a Drug Unit was formed. This unit was the
predecessor of todays highly publicized Metro Drug Enforcement Unit.
The 80s and 90s have been even better for all involved
with the Charleston Police Department. From our humble beginnings the department
has grown to an authorized strength of 161 sworn officers, and 50 civilian
employees. These employees police an area approximately 33 square miles. The
population of the Capitol City swells to over 200,000 on any given day. The
department revolves around a Patrol Division that has four shifts working 12
hours a day.
Each shift has 12 beat cars, 3 Sergeants and a Lieutenant. The officers of this
division are supported by a Criminal Investigation Unit, a Metro Drug
Enforcement Unit, Bicycle Unit, Street Crimes Unit, Records Division,
Professional Standards Unit, Information Services Division, a Training Division,
Grants Section and Community Services Division. The department utilizes Mobile
Data Terminals to complete incident reports and to run criminal queries. As well
an Automated Fingerprint System is utilized to book arrestees.