History of the Springfield Police Department

The Springfield Police Department is part of a long history of Law Enforcement in New England, dating back to the city's founding in 1636. The information on the SPD history sections explores some of the early years of "law and order" in the settlement as well as its development as a modern day law enforcement agency.

There's information on some of the early responsibilities of the Constable, the role of Marshalls, and the emergence of police officers as a profession. There are some informative historical books that even describe one of the first "traffic laws" and the consequences of violating it.

In Henry M. Burt's book, The First Century of the History of Springfield; The Official Records from 1636 to 1736, there is a description of the law and one of its first punishments for violating that law. Apparently, people were riding their horses too fast on the main streets. The problem was corrected, "...it is therefore ordered that if any person be observed to Run his horse or to ride faster than an ordinary gallop in ye streets of this town, except upon such urgent occasions as shall by ye Selectmen be judged unwarrantable so to do, he shall be liable to a fine of 3s 4d, to be paid, one shilling to the Informer & the rest to ye Town. This order not to extend to Troopers in times of their exercise." And, there you have it, the first traffic law for speeding.

There are photographs, articles, and movies covering various aspects of the SPD history. If you would like to contribute any information or media elements to the history pages, please contact the Webmaster.

History of Community Policing

The History of Community Policing video was sponsored by a grant from the Springfield Cable Endowment. It explores the history of the Springfield Police Department as a whole with a focus on Community Policing.

The project was done in the late 1990's and contains film footage of Main Street from the 1930's and old images of the SPD from the early 1900's.  It is divided into twelve segments and starts here.  The Adobe Flash Player is required to watch the film.

Historical Traffic Survey Film Footage

When someone decided to assess traffic on Main St. in the late 1920's, they chose a clever way to do it. The Mitchell Photo Shop in 1928 mounted a movie camera on top of one of the trolley cars and rode it up and down Main St. during the morning and afternoon hours.

There are some great historical details of Main St., the cars, the officer on the most busy corners directing traffic, the styles of cars, dress, the buildings, and more. It's a five part piece that provides a brief look at life in Springfield, Ma. in the late 1920's.

The film is a little choppy and shaky because the film was made with the camera operator riding on top of the trolley car as it moves up and down Main Street.

Magazine and News Articles

There have been numerous articles written about the Springfield Police Department; its development, innovations, community policing, and more. As they become available, they will be listed below.

The 1950 Coronet article "Behind the Badge" is a sort of "Day in the Life" story about the Springfield Police Department and the people that worked here.  (The article is in Adobe Acrobat format.)

The Monsanto Advertisement features a product named Resloom and the tag line for the ad is "320 officers prove Resloom makes wool shirts washable."  Apparently, Monsanto gave all the officers of the SPD the product to use at home for a study on its effects on wool shirts. 

We are always interested in historical information and contributions to the growing archives. If you have any old articles about the Springfield Police Department, former Chiefs, officers, events, or any other information, please contact the Webmaster.

Historical Photographs

The photographs and illustrations from the SPD archives has some unique history. There is the image of Bertram Spencer's gun and tools. Known as the "gentleman robber," Spencer terrorized Springfield residents for almost two years, between 1908 and 1910, by his boldness and persistence.

"Beginning in June, 1908, and continuing for nearly two years, a series of sensational crimes occurred in Springfield, Massachusetts, which completely baffled the police and so terrorized the inhabitants that when these crimes finally culminated, on March 31st, 1910, in the murder of Miss Blackstone, a young woman much beloved and respected in the community, public indignation and excitement reached a fever heat and the city was in a condition little short of panic.

There was not very much doubt in anyone's mind but that these crimes had all been committed by the same person. Although they alike exhibited an almost un-paralleled daring and bravado, they were evidently not the work of a professional burglar. In all there seemed a singular lack of motive; although houses were entered, lives threatened and property stolen, the actual gain was trifling and, in most instances, the risk taken was out of all proportion to the possibility of gain. Indeed this burglar frequently passed by valuable articles and took pretty trinkets of lesser value; the hours chosen for his entries were generally early in the evening when there was every risk of his being detected; when confronted, as he frequently was, by members of the family whom he was robbing, he seemed quite fearless so long as no noise was made; but a scream or any other loud noise excited him and frequently led to some demonstration of violence. He was known even to go out of his way while robbing a house to encounter the inmates, and on several occasions had conversation with them."  (From the book The Manner of Man That Kills: Spencer-Czolgosz-Richeson; excerpt available here.) 

He was finally caught after one of his typical bold robberies resulted in the shooting and death of Miss Blackstone.   He was then wanted for murder, and a full scale manhunt ensued.  Read more about Springfield's first notorious criminal.

Page last updated:  Tuesday, October 16, 2018 02:47 pm