The Watertown Police Department is dedicated to serving the community by protecting life and property, by preventing crime, by enforcing the law, and by maintaining order for all citizens, in accordance with the constitutions and laws of the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
For information regarding Watertown services, history, businesses, government, cable, etc., please visit the Town website. Information on the Watertown Public Schools can be found on the Watertown Public Schools website.
The first Town employees specifically described as police were appointed in the spring of 1864. For more than 200 years previously, the responsibility of preserving the law and order had been at the hands of constables, who served as officers of the Court of Common Pleas at Cambridge, in criminal as well as civil cases. The office of constable was an elected position that was held annually. There were two constables elected and paid a small sum for serving warrants.
The office was so unpopular that around 1860 a list of voters was made and, beginning with the eldest, they were to serve in rotation unless excused for good cause. Evidence of the type of work which used to be expected of our constables may be found in the record of a special Town meeting, held November 3, 1863, when the sum of $38 was voted to compensate Joshua Learned, a constable, “for loss of time and expense incurred in consequence of injuries received while doing police duty on the eve of July 4”.
It would seem that the night before the fourth celebration in Watertown in July, 1863, was one of the most uproarious ever held up to that time. No doubt the news which had just arrived of the Union victory at Gettysburg, added to the excitement of the occasion.
Adoption of Police Regulations
It was this same special meeting, possibly as a result of Mr. Learned’s unpleasant experience, that the Town voted to adopt a set of police regulations. It was also voted, as follows:
“The selectmen shall appoint annually two or more police officers whose special duty it shall be to see that these police regulations are strictly enforced, and who shall remain in office until others are appointed in their stead, subject to removal by the Selectmen. The police officers shall receive from the Town such compensation as the Selectmen may deem reasonable.“
Police Department Today
This was the start of the Watertown Police Department. Today the department has a total complement of 68 officers plus 13 civilians, and 26 crossing guards. Is should also be noted that the total appropriation for operating the town government in March, 1864 was $22,500. The appropriation for the town government in 2007 was $87.5 million dollars.