The Chelsea Police Department remains one of the oldest police departments in the United States. In 1834, the position of Constable was established in the Town of Chelsea and given statewide powers when serving warrants in both civil and criminal cases. There was no regular salary attached to this office but if called upon to “keep peace at assemblies”, the constable was paid a fee of one dollar for each activation. John Low and Benjamin Shurtleff were both elected the first Constables for Chelsea.

In 1847, a Night Watch was instituted by the town fathers at a cost of forty dollars for the year. As a result, the Town authorized the Selectman to employ a Night Watch whenever “they deemed it necessary.” A Police Court was subsequently established in 1855 and was located at 220 Broadway with Hamlet Bates serving as the First Justice of the Court.

In 1857 the first Chelsea “City” form of government passed a city ordinance establishing a Police Department comprised of a City Marshal and six assistants. Erastus Rugg was appointed the first Marshall at a salary of $800 a year with a total operating budget of $4,450. The first entry in the Chelsea Police Journal, made on July 13, 1857, read “Write anything you think will be interesting to the Police Department each day with your name.-E. Rugg.”

On July 7, 1871, the first death of a police officer, killed in the line of duty, was recorded in the police journal which read: “For no explainable reason a man approached David Weber, on duty at the time, and shot him in the region of the heart from which he died.” In 1881 the title of City Marshal was changed to Chief of Police, with two deputies and fifteen patrolmen.

As the population of the city continued to grow through the years of the late 1800s to the early part of the 20th century and to the recent waves of newcomer immigrants to the City of Chelsea so too did the size of Police Department. Today the Police Department is considered a “Massachusetts Major City Police Department” and is comprised of 111 Permanent Police Officers with Keith Houghton serving as the department’s 21st permanent Police Chief.