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  City of Lancaster -> Departments -> Police Department -> History


Lancaster Police Department

Frontier Town to Establishment of Police Department

The town of New Lancaster was established in November of 1800 with a "Property Guard" performing its law enforcement duties between 1800-1831. This Guard consisted of a captain and three officers.

When Lancaster incorporated in November of 1831, the office of City Marshal was established with Adam Smith as its first marshal. The duties of the early marshals according to the Lancaster Daily Gazette were to deal with horse thieves, drunkards and saloon problems. In addition, they intervened in clashes between settlers and Native Americans.

As time went on the need for a  jail became apparent and in April of 1867 the City Prison was opened.

During the 1870's, the Marshal's office adopted metropolitan style uniforms and were issued .36 caliber Colt revolvers.

By May 23, 1881, the city felt the need for a deputy to help out City Marshal Solomon Nisely. Thus, Gottlieb Juergensmier was appointed as a police officer.

As Lancaster continued to grow into a modern city, the first electric police call boxes were installed. These call boxes were the first in the State of Ohio.

The last marshal of Lancaster, Charlie Nutter, served between 1899-1903. By November 1903, the police department was established with Henry Wallace as its first Police Chief and ten officers serving under his command.

Police Department circa 1900
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The Police Department Begins

During the early days of the police department its officers spent considerable time in the "hop yards," a notorious section of the city's East End which contained many saloons and brothels. This area generated thefts, murders and prostitution complaints, which had to be investigated by the police.

In April 1907, the department purchased a 1600 pound motorized police patrol wagon. By 1926 a Dodge Touring car was placed in service.

The first loss of an officer in the line of duty occurred in December of 1909 with Officer W. T. Osborne's tragic death. For more details see the In Memoriam page.

By 1934, the police department showed eleven officers on its roster. This number was increased to sixteen by 1945.

1937 Police Officers
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In 1950 the department appointed Charles Zollars as its first official detective. Detective Zollars was the first to receive formal forensic training.

1950's Police Car with unidentified admirers
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1960's Car Search at the Fairgrounds
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By 1970 - 1971 the Lancaster Police Department had added a Detective Bureau and Public Relations Bureau. By 1976, as the department continued to expand, it became necessary to construct a police headquarters to replace the former offices in the municipal building. This is the current police headquarters.

The year 1980 brought several memorable firsts. One was the introduction of shoulder patches for the uniform, and in July of 1980, the first female officer was hired.

Lancaster established its first 911 emergency system in 1989.

Tragedy struck the department again in February of 1993 when Officer Brett Markwood was fatally wounded in the line of duty. For more information click here.

As the department continued to expand its services the need for more space increased until in 1995, the police building was expanded.

In the year 2000 the police uniforms were changed to navy blue.

As we finish this short history the status of the department as of September 2001 shows a current authorized strength of sixty eight officers, twelve communications technicians and nine civilians.

Thanks to Professor David Contosta of Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for allowing the use of material from his book, Lancaster, Ohio 1800 - 2000 Frontier Town to Edge City and Eagle Gazette Staff writer Mr. Dwight Barnes for his assistance. Thanks also to local historian and architect Mr. John Dye for critically reviewing this article.


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