Law Enforcement Through the Years
The history of the Salisbury Police Department is relatively short, compared to how long Salisbury has been in existence. Before 1881, the county sheriff handled all the legal problems. When Salisbury was incorporated, the bailiff for the sheriff at the jail was also the tax collector, clerk and police officer. The first person hired for additional “police” duties was hired in 1881 and was called a night patrolman. His main beat was Main Street from Division Street to the river.
The Court House was built in 1872 and a jail was built behind it in 1879. Before Salisbury had its own jail, prisoners had to taken to the Somerset County Jail. The single building jail was razed in 1936 and an addition was added to the Court House to house both prisoners and the sheriff.
The first official Chief of Police was appointed by Mayor Jehu T. Parsons onMay 23, 1898. His name was Elijah M. Elliott. The whole force consisted of the Chief and three policemen or night watchmen. By 1907, the Chief had only two policemen on the force.
The picture above shows the entire force in 1921. Only five in the picture are policemen. They are Mayor Arthur W. Kennerly, Chief of Police Woodland Disharoon, George H. Williams, Fire Chief Fred A, Grier, Jr., Roland Cahall, George Sullivan and Sydney O. Furniss.
The Police Department’s first attempt to become motorized was in 1927. They purchased a motorcycle that was probably previously owned since it required repairs in early 1928. Their last attempt to utilize a motorcycle was in the 1950’s when one was purchased for use by Sgt. Paul Barnette. He rode it for many years and always led the Christmas parade. For this reason, he became known as Sgt. Santa Claus. I’m sure many can remember him roaring around town on his motorcycle.
As the City of Salisbury grew, so did the Police Department and the sheriff’s duties were confined mostly to the County. Since the city boundaries are so complex, many times the City Police and the County Sheriff’s Department have to co-ordinate their efforts in their pursuit of crime. Modern technology has made some things in crime fighting easier, but it is still a never-ending battle to keep our streets safe.