Kalamazoo’s first Police Department was organized on April 13, 1882, under the direction of Marshal Wattles, employing six men. The budget was $6,000, which covered all expenses. During the first year of operation, 597 persons were arrested, including 258 drunks.
The Village of Kalamazoo passed legislation during this year to become a city. Due to some errors in legislation, the city had to resubmit for a charter in 1884. By some records, this indicates that the police force was reestablished in 1884 — as the first Kalamazoo Police Department.
The Kalamazoo Police Department’s inventory under Marshall Wattles included: one office desk; one sofa; seven chairs; four spittoons; two inkstands; one police register; one day blotter; one scrapbook; one set of Local Acts of Michigan; six pairs of handcuffs; one pair of leg-irons; six belts; four clubs; 11 police badges; six dark lanterns; four oil cloth coats; and five overcoats.
After a fight between two officers, an ordinance was passed prohibiting officers from drinking liquor on duty. Officers were not to enter any saloon unless performing a specific police duty.
It was the responsibility of the marshal and officers to collect village and sewer taxes, to see that streets were maintained, and to issue violations to those failing to maintain streets in their area.
There were six officers with only four overcoats available, requiring the officers to share. The first two officers were dismissed from the police department after they were found to be frequenting gambling halls on duty.
An excerpt from the Annual Report reads: “The number of men on the force (including the night clerk) is eight, and with the present management and the situation of affairs in the city being very favorable, we consider this number sufficient for our present needs, but we are of the opinion that the efficiency of the force would be largely increased if they were furnished with a patrol wagon. The amount necessarily expended each month for carriage hire is not very large, but it makes an item in the yearly expenditures of the dept., and we are disposed to recommend such an addition to the working material of the department be made at an early day.”
Marshal Lyman M. Gates reported that “the Department still needs a patrol wagon. The marshal has to provide his own horse at his own expense to do the city work. A patrol wagon ought to be procured at once and relieve the marshal of that expense and save the city expenses in other directions.”
The first vehicle was purchased, a brass and chrome patrol wagon pulled by a horse named “George.” The wagon was used extensively on East Main St., which was called “Saloon Row,” where most of the city’s 48 saloons were located.
Thomas F. Owens was marshal in 1891, with 12 men under his command. Six patrolmen were on duty at that time and averaged 200 pounds in weight — and they were nearly all six-footers.
The first speeding ordinances were passed to stop wagon drivers and horsemen from traveling at dangerously high speeds on city streets. The city abolished the office of marshal and appointed their first Chief of Police.
The city still needs an electric signal system, says Marshal William Hare. Further, a patrol wagon was reported as now being a necessity, and officers were given nightsticks and lanterns, but no guns.
The police were still asking for an electric signal system, and also requesting an officer in civilian clothes.
Officers have been provided with new helmets and other supplies as needed. The city provided care for tramps and 512 applied for quarters.
According to Calvin Rasor, Chief of Police, two bicycles were purchased for officers, giving them mobility. He also reported that police rooms were very shabby and a disgrace to the city. Another addition was the use of special police during the street fair in October.
The needs for another horse were made known, as the current one was reportedly old and not dependable. An electric light at Burdick and Main was installed to summon officers, who started using electric flashlights go replace oil lanterns, according to Chief Calvin Rasor. Also in this year Marshal Gates found 14 girls and 137 boys, under age, frequenting the saloons of the city. Later he cleaned out all “stalls,” which were popular in saloons in those days.