Police Department in the US

12 Oldest Police Department in the US

Every city has its own peculiar set of challenges. Some cities are prone to natural disasters, others have violent crime rates that require an active police force, and so on.

Not every city is equipped with the same resources and services to meet these needs. That’s why it’s important to understand how labyrinthine the world of law enforcement can be.

There are several police departments across the country that have been around for centuries. Some were established as early as 1200 years ago!

If you want to know more about them, read on, as this article talks about 12 of the oldest police departments in America.

12. Chicago (IL) Police

Year Established: 1854
Sworn-In Officers: 11,965
Current Chief: David Brown (since 2020)
Annual Budget: $1.7 billion (2021)

photo source: Teen Vogue

The Chicago Police Department (CPD) is the largest police force in the US state of Illinois. It is organized into 25 districts and is patrolled by almost 12,000 sworn officers. CPD also has about 2,500 civilian employees.

The department is headquartered at 3510 South Michigan Avenue in the Near South Side community area of Chicago.

The CPD was established in 1854, making it one of the oldest modern police forces in the world. It was founded by a group of businessmen led by John B. Sherman, who became its first superintendent.

The CPD quickly gained a reputation for being one of the most efficient and effective police forces in the country.

Today, CPD is responsible for policing an area of about 2,700 square miles with a population of over 2.7 million people. The department is divided into 25 districts, each of which is patrolled by a team of police officers.

CPD also has a number of specialized units, including a bomb squad, a SWAT team, and a marine unit.

Did You Know?

The department has been involved in a number of high-profile cases, including the capture of notorious gangster Al Capone and the investigation of the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots.


11. Boston (MA) Police

Year Established: 1854
Sworn-In Officers: 2,099
Current Chief: Michael Cox (2022)
Annual Budget: $414 million (2020)

photo source: WBUR

The Boston Police Department (BPD), dating back to 1854, holds the primary responsibility for law enforcement and investigation within the American city of Boston, Massachusetts.

The BPD is also the 20th largest law enforcement agency in the country. In 2012, there were an estimated 2,367 full-time employees on the force.

The Boston Police Department has a long history of being at the forefront of both policing innovations and social reform.

The Boston Police Strike of 1919 was a watershed moment for the department and for the American labor movement. The strike, which began on September 9, 1919, was sparked by a dispute over pay and working conditions. After several days of peaceful protests and picketing, violence broke out between police and civilians on September 11.

The conflict escalated over the next few days, culminating in the death of a police officer on September 13. The strike ended on September 16, after the Massachusetts State Police agreed to take over law enforcement duties in the city.

Did You Know?

The department has been involved in some of the most famous cases in American history, including the arrest of serial killer Albert DeSalvo.


10. Milwaukee (WI) Police

Year Established: 1851
Sworn-In Officers: 1,879
Current Chief: Jeffrey B. Norman
Annual Budget: $297 million (2020)

Milwaukee (WI) Policephoto source: The Milwaukee Independent

The Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) is the primary law enforcement agency serving the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is the largest police department in Wisconsin and is responsible for policing an area of almost 96 square miles with a population of over 600,000 people.

The MPD is organized into five bureaus: Field Services, Investigative Services, Support Services, Administrative Services, and the Office of the Chief of Police. The MPD has a budget of almost $300 million and over 1,800 sworn officers.

The MPD, on the other hand, operates out of eight district stations and a centralized Detective Bureau. The eight districts are generally based on geographical areas, with each district having its own station and a complement of officers.

The Detective Bureau is responsible for investigating crimes and is divided into several units, including homicide, robbery, burglary, and sexual assault.

Did You Know?

The MPD is also a member of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office Metropolitan Milwaukee Area Narcotics Task Force and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.


9. San Jose (CA) Police

Year Established: 1849
Sworn-In Officers: 927
Current Chief: Anthony Mata
Annual Budget: $447 million (2020)

San Jose (CA) Policephoto source: San Jose Spotlight

The San Jose Police Department (SJPD) is the police department for the city of San Jose, California.

The SJPD is one of the largest municipal police departments in the United States and is one of the few agencies to successfully transition from a traditional model of policing to a community-oriented policing model.

The SJPD has a long history of serving the community and keeping the city safe.

The department was founded in 1849 and has grown to become one of the most respected police agencies in the country. The SJPD is a full-service police department that provides a wide range of services to the community.

The department has over 900 sworn officers and 800 civilian employees. The SJPD is divided into four bureaus: patrol, investigations, support, and administration.

Did You Know?

The department is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC). The SJPD is also a member of the Major Cities Chiefs Association (MCCA).


8. San Francisco (CA) Police

Year Established: 1849
Sworn-In Officers: 2,356
Current Chief: William Scott
Annual Budget: $706 million (2020)

San Francisco (CA) Policephoto source: San Francisco Chronicle

The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) is one of the largest municipal police departments in the United States, with over 2,000 officers. The SFPD is responsible for law enforcement in the city of San Francisco and its surrounding communities.

The SFPD employs a variety of technologies to keep citizens and officers safe, including body cameras, crime mapping software, and explosive detection dogs.

The SFPD also operates the Special Investigations Division (SID), which is responsible for investigating serious crimes such as homicide, rape, and arson.

In addition to its law enforcement duties, the SFPD plays a vital role in community outreach and prevention efforts.

The SFPD participates in programs such as Safe Streets/Safe Neighborhoods, which aims to reduce crime and improve public safety; and the Youth Violence Prevention Task Force, which focuses on reducing youth violence.

Did You Know?

The SFPD is also responsible for providing security for major events such as the annual San Francisco Giants baseball game, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bay Bridge.


7. Fort Worth (TX) Police

Year Established: 1849
Sworn-In Officers: 1,541
Current Chief: Chief Neil Noakes
Annual Budget: $355 million (2020)

Fort Worth (TX) Policephoto source: foxworthtexas.gov

The Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) had an annual budget of $355 million in 2020. The department employs over 1,500 sworn officers and over 1,000 civilian employees.

In 2006, the department received the “highest rating” from the National Commission on Correctional Safety and Security.

The department has been recognized for its innovative programs, such as its canine unit and its traffic safety initiatives.

The Fort Worth Police Department also operates the North Tarrant Regional Intelligence Center, which serves as the primary federal law enforcement liaison for the metropolitan area. The center is responsible for coordinating investigative activities with other federal, state, and local agencies.

The center also provides support to the Department of Homeland Security’s National Targeting Center.

Did You Know?

The FWPD has jurisdiction over an area of 268 square miles (696 sq km), which makes Fox Worth the tenth-largest city in the United States by area.


6. New York (NY) Police

Year Established: 1845
Sworn-In Officers: 35,030
Current Chief: Keechant Sewell
Annual Budget: $5.4 billion (2022)

New York (NY) Policephoto source: Flickr

The New York City Police Department (NYPD) is one of the most widely respected and well-known police forces in the world. With over 35,000 officers, it has the manpower to manage a population of over 8 million people.

The NYPD also has a strong presence in the city’s major tourist destinations, such as Times Square, Central Park, and The Museum of Modern Art.

The NYPD has a long history of fighting crime and maintaining order. It was founded in 1845 and originally consisted of a small group of officers who patrolled the city’s streets.

Today, the NYPD is one of the largest and most technologically advanced police forces in the world.

The NYPD maintains a strict policy of nondiscrimination and employs a variety of strategies to fight crime, including preventative policing, community outreach, and intelligence gathering.

Did You Know?

The NYPD is also known for its elite units, such as the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team and the Emergency Service Unit (ESU). These units are responsible for tackling high-risk situations, such as terrorist attacks and hostage takings.


5. Houston (TX) Police

Year Established: 1841
Sworn-In Officers: 5,203
Current Chief: Troy Finner
Annual Budget: $989 million (2022)

Houston (TX) Policephoto source: Wikipedia

Houston police are one of the most highly respected law enforcement agencies in the United States.

The Houston Police Department has a long and proud history, dating back to 1841. Today, the Houston Police Department employs more than 5,000 sworn officers and civilian staff.

The Houston Police Department is divided into six districts: Central, East, North, South, Southwest, and West. Each district has its own command center, as well as its own specialized units, such as homicide, narcotics, SWAT, and K-9.

The Houston Police Department also has a wide range of equipment and resources at its disposal, including an aircraft squadron, a marine unit, and a dive team.

Did You Know?

In addition to its traditional law enforcement duties, the Houston Police Department is also responsible for providing security for major events, such as the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star Game.


4. Memphis (TN) Police

Year Established: 1827
Sworn-In Officers: 2,012
Current Chief: Cerelyn C.J. Davis
Annual Budget: $273 million (2020)

Memphis (TN) Policephoto source: Memphis Police Department

The Memphis Police Department (MPD) has over 2,000 sworn officers and 1,782 civilian employees. The Memphis Police Department has a total annual budget of $273 million in 2020.

The Memphis Police Department is one of the largest municipal police departments in the United States.

The Memphis Police Department was founded in 1827. At that time, Memphis was the capital of the state of Tennessee. The Memphis Police Department was initially a private force.

The Memphis Police Department has been involved in many high-profile cases, including the 1992 case in which three white police officers were acquitted of the murder of a black man, the 2005 case in which four white police officers were charged with the murder of a black man; and the 2006 case in which a white police officer was charged with the murder of a black man.

Did You Know?

MPD operates the Memphis Drug Enforcement Agency (MDEA).


3. Columbus (OH) Police

Year Established: 1816
Sworn-In Officers: 1,838
Current Chief: Elaine Bryant
Annual Budget: $360 million (2020)

Columbus (OH) Policephoto source: Wikimedia

The Columbus (OH) Police Department is a full-service police department serving the citizens of Columbus, Ohio. Founded in 1816, the Columbus Police Department is one of the oldest police departments in the United States.

The department is currently led by Chief Elaine Bryant.

The Columbus Police Department is divided into five divisions: Administrative Services, Investigation, Patrol, Special Operations, and Support Services. The department has over 1,800 sworn officers and more than 400 civilian employees.

Did You Know?

The Columbus Police Department is a nationally accredited law enforcement agency through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). The department is also accredited by the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE).


2. St. Louis (MO) Police

Year Established: 1808
Sworn-In Officers: 1,193
Current Chief: Michael J. Sack
Annual Budget: $133 million

St. Louis (MO) Policephoto source: St. Louis Magazine

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is the primary law enforcement agency serving the City of St. Louis, Missouri. The department is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department was founded in 1808, making it one of the oldest police departments in the United States.

The department has a long history of serving the community and protecting the rights of its citizens. The department has a strong commitment to community policing and works hard to build relationships with the community.

The department is also a leader in using technology to help solve crimes and keep the community safe.

Did You Know?

The agency has been nationally recognized for its community policing initiatives and was one of the first agencies to implement such programs. The department is also known for its role in the 1967 police riot during the Vietnam War protests.


1. Philadelphia Police Department 

Year Established: 1751 (officially in 1854) 
Sworn-In Officers: 6,400 (2021) 
Current Chief: Danielle Outlaw 
Annual Budget: $774 million (2020) 

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

While many of the police departments on this list trace their history further back than their official founding dates in the 1800s, the Philadelphia Police Department claims to be the oldest police department in the U.S. and cites 1751 as its true starting date. 

That year, the Common Council of Philadelphia established an ordinance that paid constables and night watchmen wages for the first time. 

Over the years, this night watch grew and according to one source people began calling these watchmen “police” as early as 1780

In 1833, Philadelphia employed its first daytime police officers. A few decades later in 1854, the city combined the daytime officers and night watchmen into one entity, thus forming the Philadelphia Police Department. 

Since then, the Philadelphia Police Department has grown into the fourth largest police force and sixth largest non-federal law enforcement agency in the country. 

Did You Know?

The Philadelphia Police Department has a deep rooted history of corruption. In fact, for the department’s first hundred years in operation, it was under the direct control of politicians who used the department to protect the reigning party’s personal interests. 

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