Happy Birthday GBPD!
August 27th, 1857 marks the official 160th birthday of your Green Bay Police Department, making it just slightly younger than the City of Green Bay itself, which received its certified charter on March 9th, 1854.
At that time the City was home to approximately 1700 people.
Although there was no round the clock protection at that time, the city did hire a “night watchman” and did have a City Marshal. On August 27th, 1857, the City Council passed a resolution adopting the regular police force and thus the Green Bay Police Department was born.
A prominent citizen at the time, Henry Baird was appointed to be the first Chief of Police.
Henry Baird, a practicing attorney, was the Attorney General for the Territory of Wisconsin in 1836-39, and has been nicknamed the “Father of the Wisconsin Bar”. His law office was preserved and can still be seen at Heritage Hill State Park.
Like most police departments, the Green Bay Police Department has had a number of Chiefs, some of whom served in that capacity for a few years , while others had much longer tenures. For example, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Green Bay Police Department has the longest serving Police Chief on record, Thomas E. Hawley, who served from 1899-1946.
Over the 160 years of its life, the Green Bay Police Department has naturally seen a great deal of expansion and technological advancement.
In the early days, officers would be “lucky to have a horse and buggy” to chase thieves, but many times police effectiveness relied on the officer being fleet of foot.
Since that time we have seen the introduction of electricity, police call boxes, the telephone, squad cars and motorcycles, portable police radios, and more recently high tech devices such as mobile squad computers, and digital fingerprint scanners.
Our ability to send patrol officers digital photos of wanted suspects directly to their mobile squad computers would no doubt amaze and astound our predecessors.
The current police department headquarters was built in 1968. It was expanded by adding a second level in 1992.
Since that time, they have continued to try and adapt the structure in an effort to prolong its useful life and functional capacity. The facility is no longer able to contain all of the equipment and material for the agency, including an ever-burgeoning amount of criminal evidence, which must be kept secure, often for many years.
Further, many police vehicles are kept at other city facilities as there is no room to keep them at the station. For these reasons, a committee has been formed to plan a new police department headquarters, which is expected to be complete around 2021.
The City of Green Bay is now home to more than 104,000 people and has a police department with an authorized strength of 193 sworn officers in addition to civilian staff including records, mechanics, maintenance, evidence control, forensic services, and crime analysis.
Reflecting on the agency’s history and longevity, Green Bay Chief of Police Andrew J. Smith was quoted as saying, “As the Green Bay Police Department celebrates 160 years, we are extremely proud to be part of the thin blue line of public service stretching back many generations.”