History of the Waltham Police Dept.
The first official police officer in Waltham, Massachusetts, was James Coolidge. He was appointed in the year 1852, when Waltham was still a town and had a population of only 17,000.
The local lockup, as it was referred to in those days, was located in a portion of the Alvin L. Jewell and Company weather vane factory. The factory was located on the southwest corner of Main and Elm Street, a site that is now occupied by the Waltham City Hall. The factory served as the police station until 1871, when larger quarters were provided. During that year the old brick District 1 schoolhouse was altered and converted into a police station. This building was located on the southeast corner of Lexington and School Streets, and adjacent to land which was eventually to be used as the site of a new police building.
The police department had increased to five men by 1872, and at that time Nathaniel A. Moody was appointed as clerk of the department.
Officer Moody kept all records of the department and he handled all communications. In 1880, the town selectmen decided that the department would run more efficiently under the direction of a chief. Moody, who was the senior officer at that time, was appointed Waltham’s first Chief of Police. He remained at the department’s helm for five years, until Waltham incorporated a city.
On January 5, 1885, Waltham officially became a city, and as such began drawing up its charter. The ordinance pertaining to the police department, which called for a chief and seven patrolmen, was voted on and approved on February 3, 1885. The very next day the mayor presented a list of candidates, from a civil service list, to the Board of Aldermen for approval. The Aldermen voted to appoint Charles H.D. Stockbridge as Chief of Police. Stockbridge was only thirty-five years of age, and had no previous police experience.
Ex-Chief Moody was returned to the ranks as a patrolman. The Alderman also approved six other patrolmen, eight special police, ten substitute officers, and eight men to serve as fire-police, under the direction of the chief of police.
The Pay Scale for the police department at that time was; Chief: $1,500 per year, Patrolman $2.50 per day for the first year and $2.75 per day thereafter.
Chief Stockbridge held the position for less than a year. He retired on January 1st, 1886, and Naroy G. Burleigh was named the new chief.
Chief Burleigh’s administration saw the department increase to eleven men by 1888. The rank of sergeant was created in May of that year, and William McKenna was appointed to the position. The pay for sergeant was set at $3.00 a day. The working schedule in that year found the chief and two patrolman working the day shift, and the sergeant, six patrolman, and the keeper of the lockup working the night shift.
On November 29, 1889, the idea of service stripes was introduced to the department. An officer was to wear one stripe on his right sleeve for each five years of service with the department. The basic idea is still used by the department today.
In May 1890, the first police signal boxes were installed in Waltham by the Game well Company. Ten of these boxes were installed in various sections of the city and allowed an officer to record his duty calls in the police station from his route.
Chief Burleigh resigned on March 25th, 1891, and James H. McKenna was named as Waltham’s fourth Chief of Police. A new police station was built adjacent to the old one during 1892, at a cost of $36,000.00. It was dedicated on July 28, 1892. The building, which is now number 25 Lexington Street, remained in service as the police station for seventy two years. The district court was located on the second floor of the station.
The population of Waltham had grown to approximately 22,000 by 1893, and the department had increased to thirteen patrolman, one wagon driver, one sergeant and the chief. The rank of Police Inspector was created during that year, and on February 27th Sergeant William McKenna was appointed to that position.
The position of liquor officer was created in 1906, and the department’s senior officer, Thomas Tully was appointed to that position. Tully went on to serve a total of forty six years and two months.
December 18, 1911 saw the creation of the ranks of Lieutenant and captain. The department now had reached a total of twenty-seven men. In that same year the chief requested to add a motor vehicle to the budget. The request was denied by the alderman. Waltham Police would not take delivery of its first motor vehicle until February 5, 1917. The first vehicle was a patrol wagon built by Buick Company. The body and Chassis was painted black, and “City of Waltham” was painted on the sides in six inch letters. “Police Department” was painted in two inch letters at bottom of the driver’s seat. The wagon was capable of carrying sixteen men, including the driver. The new patrol wagon was to serve a dual purpose, transporting injured persons to the hospital and transporting prisoners to the station. The wagon eventually acquired the nick name of “Black Maria.” The man designated as the driver of the department’s first vehicle was Officer Stephen Connolly. In April of that same year the department purchased a seven passenger Chandler cruising car. The three platoon system was first introduced to the department in 1918, at which time the complement of men had reached thirty-one. The officers at this time were receiving one day off in eight, and ten days of vacation.
Chief McKenna retired on April 26, 1926 and Richard Currin, a thirty four year veteran of the department was appointed chief. During Currin’s administration the department increased to forty-four men. Chief Currin also increased the superior officer ranks to one captain, three Lieutenants, and three sergeants.
On August15th 1936 the department acquired its first “mugging,” or photo equipment. The “mugging” was purchased for $250.00 and placed in the inspector’s office. Photos were taken of persons charged with serious crimes. Common practice prior to purchasing this equipment was to go to the Newton Police Department or local photographer to take a criminals “mug shot.”
Chief Currin retired on October 23, 1937 after forty six years of service with the department. Lieutenant Inspector Asa McKenna was appointed chief. During Chief McKenna’s nineteen years as chief he instituted many changes. October 1937 saw officers work schedule reduced to one day off in six instead of the previous one day off in 8. Chief McKenna created the Accident Prevention Bureau now known as the Traffic Division which is part of the Community Services Division. Officer Joseph Cunningham was placed in charge of the Accident Prevention Bureau. The first two way radios were installed in the police cars in May of 1939. The cost of installing the radios was $1700.00 plus $300.00 per year rental charge.
The Auxiliary Police and the position of War Officer were created September 1941. Lieutenant Cunningham was appointed War officer and placed in charge of a fifty man Auxiliary Police Force. The main purpose of the Aux. Police at that time was National Defense. These men were volunteers, and served without pay.
The department increased to a complement of fifty eight men in 1949 with forty five of those being patrolman, six sergeants, five lieutenants, one captain, and the chief. Officer days off changed from one day in 6 off to two days off in seven in 1947.
In 1953 police cruisers were marked in two tone blue. Prior to this police cruisers were unmarked and there was no indication that they were police vehicles. Four of the cities cruisers were painted green and cream with the word “POLICE” painted on the rear window. The city seal was placed on both front doors and the words, “EMERGENCY, WA5-1126” painted on the trunk.
Chief McKenna retired in 1955 and Captain William Cunningham was appointed acting chief pending the appointment of a new Chief.
Chief William F. Carmody was appointed chief on June 30, 1956. Shortly after Chief Carmody took office he created the Woman’s Police Traffic Force. These woman were dressed in the traditional police blue and wore badges signifying the office. The duties of these woman were to attend to various traffic assignments at selected intersections. The woman worked five days a week and paid $50.00 per month. This position is now known as School Traffic Supervisors whose primary duty is that of a “School Crossing guard.”
The department’s first deputy chief was appointed on May 28, 1958. Provisional Deputy Chief Francis A. Dacey remained at the position he held for many years as head of the departments Detective Bureau.
Detective Charles Feeley was appointed as the department first juvenile officer in 1957. All Juvenile problems brought to the attention of the department were handles by Detective Feeley, weather they involved court action or not.
A new police department was included in a 1.5 Million dollar municipal center which was dedicated in 1964 ($560,000 was paid for the new police department). The Waltham Police Department still occupy this same building located at 155 Lexington Street.
Under Chief Dacey the department ranks swelled to eighty six patrolman, eleven sergeants, seven lieutenants, three captains, the deputy chief and the chief. The detective bureau increased to thirteen men and the traffic bureau rose to five men. Chief Dacey retired July 30, 1971. Edward J. Sicotte was appointed to replace Dacey as Chief.
In April of 1972 the department underwent a complete reorganization. An additional deputy position was created, Captains John Gallagher and John F. Rooney Jr. were appointed to the position. The department’s manpower now stood at one hundred two patrolman, sixteen sergeants, ten lieutenants, four Captains, two deputy chiefs, and the chief.
On September 10th 1978 Officer Clare Schroeder was hired and became the first female police officer at the Waltham Police.
Chief Sicotte retired on June 1, 1982. Deputy Chief John R. Gallagher was appointed acting Chief on June 1, 1982. In September of 1982 Chief John F. Rooney Jr. became the tenth man to hold the position of Waltham Police Chief.
Chief Rooney oversaw the department until his retirement and was succeeded by Chief Stephen H. Unsworth on January 7th, 1989. Under Chief Unsworth Waltham established the E-911 police and fire consolidated dispatch system. This system went on line February 18th, 1998 at 03:00hrs.
Chief Edward Drew was appointed on February 2nd, 2002 after the retirement of Chief Unsworth. After Chief Drew’s retirement Thomas Lacroix was appointed chief on August 13th, 2007.
The current chief of the Waltham Police Dept. is Keith D. MacPherson who was appointed on June 14th, 2012.
In 2017 the city of Waltham had a rash of threats directed at our public schools and as a result it was decided that it would be best if the schools added officers to every public school in the city to ensure the safety of the students. Waltham had started assigning officers to the Middle Schools and the High School in 2001 with Officer Kevin Devoe and Ann Frassica being assigned first to the middle school followed by Michael Burke and William MacEwen being assigned to the high school. These officers were all pulled from the existing ranks of the Waltham Police Department. In the years since 2001 Waltham had seen much growth and could not pull more of its numbers from its exciting ranks. As a result it was decided by Chief Keith D. MacPherson, Mayor Jeannette A. McCarthy, and the City Council to add an additional seven officers to the Waltham Police Department. A total of eleven school resource officers would be assigned to the Waltham School System, two at the High School, one at each of the Middle schools and one at each elementary school.