The beginning of the Danvers Police Department dates back to 1752 when four persons were initially elected to an office of Constable at the first town meeting to offer some protection to the citizens. Constables were elected yearly and the selectmen appointed several persons to be employed as a “police watch.” One of the primary duties of the first patrols was to light the gas street lights at sunset and put them out at 10 p.m. The hours for duty were 7 to 10 p.m. only and they were not uniformed at this time. The establishment of a police force was a slow evolution from the constables to regular uniformed policemen.
In 1874 a petition was filed by the townspeople for more protection and in the late 1800s, the first Chief was appointed permanently because he was the only full time officer. Danvers elected George Kimball in 1879 as its first police chief appropriating $200 for him to use at his discretion for expenses. In The Salem Evening News of 1927, there are conflicting reports regarding the succession of police chiefs in the 1800s. Historical articles written about the Danvers Police Department indicate that Timothy D. Crowley served in this capacity from 1882 to 1883. Chief Charles C. Patch was succeeded by Chief Alfred W. Bacon on July 6, 1894. The salary of the chief at this time was $1,000 per year. The chief’s duties consisted of acting as custodian of the station, feeding lodgers and prisoners at his own expense, and serving as the milk inspector. Homeless people were often traveling by foot from one place to another at this time in history and the townspeople were forced to set up what was known as a “tramp station.” Crime would follow in the ranks of this jobless army as it grew. Obeying the laws at this time would not be easy today: it was illegal to drive on Sundays, to use profane language, and even to leave dogs unleashed (a violation that caused many dogs to be shot and killed). Preventing the sale of illegal liquor proved to be the most difficult task for the officers. In 1900 an all night patrol was put into effect and officers worked from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m. for $14 per week and there was no extra pay for overtime work.
Town records make little mention of the police department until the 1930s except for appointments. J. Freeman George, Joseph E. Merrill, Walter T. Stone and Timothy J. Connors served as chiefs from February 1908 to August of 1931. Upon the death of Chief Connors in 1931, John T. McDewell was appointed to lead the police force.
The first police station consisted of an old structure on School Street behind C.F. Tompkins. The building, once an elementary school, housed the fire and police departments for 72 years. A firing range for the officers was purchased in 1933 and a new motorcycle replaced the old one in 1934. A two-way radio was installed the following year as vehicular traffic and speeding became serious problems. In 1947 the first four-door police cruiser was purchased and the struggle for a 40-hour work week ended when eight hour shifts replaced the customary nine-hour shift and 54-hour work week.
In 1952 an ultra-modern police station costing $50,000 was built on Maple Street adjacent to the fire station. It was considered to be one of the most practically laid out buildings of its kind in this part of the country. It accommodated a force of 16 officers and 2 police cruisers. Two-way communication between the police, fire, and electric departments was implemented. An auxiliary force was established in 1956 with Leslie A. Clark as head of this select group of men. Raymond F. Kirwin served as police chief from March of 1950 to December of 1959. In 1959, Joseph D. Nangle became head of the department. During this period, Charles S. Tapley donated a polygraph machine to the department and one-man patrol cars were adopted. By the 1970s the “doll house” station became inadequate. The chief’s office was used to store all evidence for trials, the police safe, and other confiscated materials. There were only three functional cells and the front office was so small that they had to wheel a typewriter out when questioning a suspect. The station doors were not secure and there was little privacy from the public. The Maple Street headquarters spanned an era that saw the town grow from a farming community to a busy town split by three major highways. The station was eventually bought and moved by the Town of Middleton and in 2005, still serves as their police headquarters.
In 1971-1972 there were 10 armed robberies and many police assaults as the legal age of drinking decreased. The rise in these crimes led to a referendum vote in 1976 when 70 percent of the voters in Danvers supported building a new and larger facility to serve as the police headquarters. The owners of the Liberty Tree Mall donated 1.8 acres adjacent to the Mall to the town and in July of 1976, ground was broken for a new and more efficient police station. The station became a gabled colonial at 120 Ash Street and dedication ceremonies took place on September 10, 1977. The new structure boasted a new alarm system with a capacity of 999 separate alarms and a sophisticated communications system off the lobby. There were three closed circuit television systems, a scanner at the rear of the building and monitors in the cellblock. The chief, deputy chief, captain, prosecutor and detective division all had offices. Three air-conditioned booths on the electronic firing range were also a welcomed addition. Chief Edward B. Farley was well respected and most instrumental in the building of this new station. He remained in office until his retirement in 1979. Christ J. Bouras followed in the ranks of Chief Farley and held this position for twenty years, longer than any other chief. In February 1999, he was replaced by Richard C. Landers. When Chief Landers retired in 2002, Stuart M. Chase was sworn in as the new commander until his retirement in 2005. Today Chief Neil F. Ouellette presides over the ranks of 47 officers which include two captains, two lieutenants, eight sergeants, and thirty-one officers. Among the police, there are three detectives, a prosecutor, firearms licensing officer, DARE officer, and a K-9 officer. Additionally, there are nine dispatchers, a crime analyst, a records clerk, and an executive assistant to the Chief. The department serves a population of 25,212 and last year there were 18,521 calls for service. As Chief Ouellette notes, “The Danvers Police Department is a community-service law enforcement organization, striving to maintain the safety of its citizens.”