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Congratulations to the PLATTSBURGH POLICE DEPARTMENT for More Than 125 Years of Public Service

by Mary Carpenter

Although watchmen had been common from early colonial times, the first police departments in the United States were established in the mid-1800s. Their purpose was the prevention of crime and disorder. Officers had little training and unpaid volunteers were common.

Plattsburgh’s first police department, organized in 1895, was made up of Chief M.J. Wool and six sworn officers. A patrolman of that era walked his beat for eight hours a day. He carried a night stick, handcuffs and a lantern or flashlight. He bought his own uniforms and, if authorized to carry a weapon, bought his own gun and bullets. He also carried a whistle and a key that gave him access to call boxes that were mounted on telephone poles.  When trouble arose, he would blow his whistle to alert nearby officers and use the call box to report to the station. 

Plattsburgh’s first police headquarters was located in what was called the Weed building on the corner of Marion and Court Streets in the center of the city. A few years later the office was moved down the street to the Court House on the corner of Margaret and Court Streets. The next move was to City Hall where the department remained until a new facility was built on Pine Street in 1975.

By the 1920s, police began to professionalize and there was an increased emphasis on training. With the advent of the police car, two-way radios and telephones, policing changed. City residents called to report all manner of problems and police officers were transformed into a reactive force.

Changes in technology and the development of scientific policing has transformed the profession more than could have been imagined 125 years ago when Plattsburgh funded it first police force.

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