In the 1850′s part-time constables and “Night Watch” men were hired by the town to preserve law & order. By 1872 the town records listed officers instead of constables. Full time police officers were Lewis Manning, James E. Blanchard, and Joseph W. Skinner, the first chief & “Keeper of the Lockup”. He was followed by John F. Moore (1879-1880) and Thomas W. Peaseley (1881-1895).
In 1874 the town voted to fix up the old fire house on Foster Street , to be used as a “Watch House” and police station. That year the town expended $1733 for night watch and $2283 for police officers.
Peabody voted in 1877 to establish an efficient police force consisting of one day man and six night men. It was considered necessary since the town was then receiving $3000 for liquor licenses. $5000 was appropriated for their salaries.
By 1883 the police station had been moved into the basement of the “new” town hall, where it remained until 1980. The first police report to the selectmen and citizens in 1893 listed the force consisting of Chief Peaseley and ten patrolmen.
In 1896 the police department was reorganized by Chief W. Fred Wiggin. Chief Wiggin served as chief of the department until 1899.
Each year the citizens were called upon to decide between temperance and liquor. When the town went dry the local police had to contend with boot-legging, and when it went wet, the local jail was the home for many drunks. Whenever Peabody voted for licensed sale of liquor, and by chance the other communities went dry, a great wave of transients moved in to town. One such instance took place in 1898. The town of 11,000 acquired a population of more then 50,000 through it’s summer months. That was the last year that Peabody voted for the open saloon. It was not until the repeal of prohibition in the 1930′s that the barroom returned.
In 1900 the selectmen appointed Michael H. Grady as the new chief. Chief Grady purchased the first new police wagon for the sum of $500, and by 1908 he had brought the departments firearms up to standard with the latest colt revolvers, riot guns, and winchester repeating rifles. In 1915 the town motorized the police department by giving Chief Grady a first class automobile to be used for emergency purposes.
The selectmen, in 1916, granted to the police officers, one day off in fifteen. The force consisted of fifteen permanent men, four Sunday men, three evening men, and seven reserve officers.
Chief Grady was one of the best loved of all the heads of the Peabody Police Department. In the entire history of the department, he served the longest as it’s chief, for a quarter of a century. when he retired Mayor Bakeman presented him with the automobile he had used in his duties as chief.
Courtesy Peabody Historical Society & Museum.