In 1636, Constables* were elected by the General Court at Plymouth. Miles Standish, Captain of the Guard,
had performed the duties properly belonging to such an office. The Office of Constable became necessary
because of the gradual growth of the colony. After the union of colonies in 1692, the General Court of
Massachusetts passed a law requiring "tithingmen" to be chosen in every town. At first, they seemed to
have had general police duties but after a few years, they were concerned only with keeping the laws of the
Sabbath. The records, or perhaps the lack of records, indicate that Freetown was a law-abiding community.
It is recorded that in 1690, stocks were erected near the meetinghouse at Mother's Brook but were seldom used.
*John Hathaway of Taunton was made Constable of Falls River and places adjacent on September 20th, 1680.
Fall River Police Department
Fall River did not establish a night watch until forty three years after its incorporation. At a town
meeting held April 13, 1835, it was voted to "authorize an application of the Justice of the Peace to the
Selectmen of said town to appoint or establish a night watch or street watch in said town." In May 1839,
a committee recommended that a night watch "be established according to law" but no action was taken until the
year after the fire, when six men were appointed in July 1844. Previous to this, the old town reports reveal
that payments were made to Constables, health officers, and town prosecutors. The first Chief Constable was
paid $1.50 a day. The first night watch had quarters in rented rooms. The total expense from July to the next
annual town meeting amounted to $965.20. Lanterns cost $5.95 and rattles $6.38.
In 1854, the city charter was adopted, the force consisted of seven day and eight night men, the head of the
department being known as the chief constable, and the chief of the night watch. Nearly all the officers were
over fifty years old. William Sisson, the Chief Constable, was paid $10.50 a week and the watchmen $8.50 a week.
Three years later, the title of Chief Constable was changed to City Marshal and in subsequent years to Chief of
By 1872, the force had been increased to twenty eight men, twenty two of whom were on night duty. In the
following two years, the number was increased to seventy. In 1874, the city was divided into four districts,
in addition to the Central Station. Stations were erected and connected to fire stations in the eastern,
northern, and southern sections.
For a number of years, the annual report of the City Marshal contained an occupational list of those arrested.
In 1877, among those listed were one phrenologist, two physicians, one school master, one music teacher, one
druggist, eleven firemen, two undertakers, and one hundred forty four housekeepers. The remainder were laborers,
spinners, and weavers. Out of a total of 2,419 arrests, 1319 were for drunkenness.
Until 1882, the police department was politically controlled. Conditions were improved by an amendment to the
city charter, approved by the legislature, which made all appointments permanent but subject to removal for
cause. Mayor Cummings in speaking of this ordinance said, – "It has developed a spirit of self
reliance, encouraged individual judgment, and happily removed the department from active politicians."
In 1894, the control of the police department was placed in the hands a commission appointed by the governor
of Massachusetts. At various times attempts have been made to shift control back to the city government, but
these efforts have not been successful.
The patrol-wagon system was instituted in 1890 and twenty years later, the automobile replaced the horse
drawn wagon. The progress of the force kept pace with modern inventions, including the adoption of the police
signal system and in later years the use of radio cars. Francis T. Estes was for many years the electrician in
charge of the signal system.
The police department, under the supervision of the commissioner of three appointed by the Governor, is now
(1940) composed of the Chief of Police, a deputy chief, five captains, seven lieutenant inspectors, ten deputy
lieutenants, one detective sergeant, nine deputy sergeants, one hundred and forty five patrolmen, two police
matrons, and one police surgeon.
In order of their appointments, the following have served as City Marshal or Chief of Police:
- John Hathaway 1st Constable 1680
- William Sisson Chief Constable 1854
- Chester W. Greene - City Marshal
- Samuel Buffington - City Marshal
- Asa Eames - City Marshal
- Henry Wilcox - City Marshal
- Franklin Gray - City Marshal
- Albert Winslow - City Marshal
- Andrew R Wright - City Marshal
- Sewell D Brigham - City Marshal
- Josiah A Hunt - City Marshal
- Rufus B Hillard - City Marshal - 1886-1909
- John Fleet - City Marshal - 1909-1915
- (Change from City Marshal to Chief of Police)
- William Medley - Chief of Police - 1915-1917
- Martin Feeney - Chief of Police - 1917-1931
- Abel Violette - Chief of Police - 1931-1946
- Edward McMahon - Chief of Police - 1946-1952
- Charles McDonald - Chief of Police - 1953-1956
- Norman Bowers - Chief of Police - 1957-1969
- James Powers - Chief of Police - 1970-1974
- Henry Ramos - Chief of Police - 1975-1980
- Raymond Conroy - Chief of Police - 1981-1985
- Ronald J Andrade - Chief of Police - 1986-1989
- Francis J McDonald - Chief of Police - 1989-2000
- John M. Souza - Chief of Police - 2000-2010
- Daniel S. Racine - Chief of Police 2010-Present
Learn more about past Marshals and Chiefs
The first city owned police headquarters were in the old town house on Central Street and subsequently in the
basement of the City Hall. From 1857 to 1916 the "Central Station" was in a large granite structure on Court
Square. Before Purchase Street was extended from Franklin St to Bank Street, and later from Bank Street to
Granite Street, Court Square ran from North Main Street to Bedford Street. The old Court House, where police
headquarters were housed, was at the right turn of the way, now the south west corner of Purchase and Granite
In the inaugural address of Mayor Nathaniel B. Borden, delivered on March 28th 1858, he reported that
"Early in the season, from some cause or for some reason, the building in which was kept the city horses
was burned. The horses were also burned; but the roads could not well be worked until their places had been
supplied by others. The supply was secured; but afterwards it was found a suitable place for their keeping was
not easy to obtain. This determine the City Government to secure a stable, of which the city should be the
owner. Hence that purchase was made. The property as was supposed, was obtained at a reasonable rate; and
although in the purchase, a stable, only, was contemplated, it was found on examination, of capacity to
furnish other accommodations for which the city was in want, and of which, some at least, had been a subject
of consideration by the former as well as also by the present government. Hence the construction of the
building in a manner and form as it now appears. It accommodates the Police Department in all its branches –
in it is a lockup for which the want had long been manifest, and which probably is not equaled in the Commonwealth
– it affords better accommodations for a branch of the Fire Department than any other in the city,
connected with it is a spacious reservoir and a good place; on it is the city bell, to be used for alarms of
fire and for other purposes, if thought desirable; and for stabling the city horses, ample provision is made."
The fire station, which occupied the first floor front, remained in the old Court House from 1858 to 1876.
The city stable was in the back of the fire apparatus, and the police station was on the second floor. When the
building was reconditioned, the police station occupied all of the first floor, with the executive offices and
sleeping quarters on the second floor. The west side of the second floor, with an entrance on Granite Street
was occupied by the police court. When the Second District Court House on Rock St was completed in 1911, the
police succeeded to the entire use of the building. In 1916, the Police Headquarters Building, on the corner
of Bedford and High Streets was ready for occupancy. The old court house, along with the other buildings, was
torn down and Purchase St was widened.
In 1996, the construction of a new police facility began. The building was completed in March of 1997, and
the doors to the old Headquarters at Bedford and High Streets were closed. The Police Department now operates
out of its new facility at 685 Pleasant Street; the site of the old Fall River Stadium, McDonald Junk Yard,
and most recently, Britland Park.
Other Headquarter Pictures