162nd ANNIVERSARY OF THE MILWAUKEE POLICE DEPARTMENT
The Milwaukee Police Department was officially formed October 4, 1855. The included photo is the oldest known photo of Milwaukee Police Officers taken sometime in the first few years.
Also pictured is William Beck, the first Chief of Police, and his badge which is proudly on display at the Police Academy. Beck was also the 4th and 6th Chief of the Milwaukee Police Department.
When the Village of Milwaukee was founded in 1834, it had a town marshal. When Milwaukee became a city in 1846, it had a city marshal. At that time, most of the crime fighting was served by Sheriff’s Office, which tried to keep crime down, but the rapidly growing Milwaukee with a huge flow of immigrants was too much for the Sheriff and his deputies to handle.
In 1853 Herman L. Page, who later became MPD's third Chief, was elected Sheriff. He knew a farmer named William Beck living near Granville who had been a detective on the New York police force. Page made Beck a deputy sheriff and told him to get busy catching thieves.
Beck caught a lot of them but lawlessness continued, and citizens began demanding their own dedicated police force. On September 3, 1855, Alderman Powers introduced an ordinance for the creation of a police force. The ordinance was printed in the official papers of the city the next day. After some amending the ordinance passed and on October 4, 1855, officially creating the Milwaukee Police Department.
William Beck was chosen Chief of Police by Mayor James B. Cross and given the unanimous vote of the Common Council. His salary was $800 per year. The first policemen were Fred Keppler, John Hardy, George Fischer, James Rice, Lawrence Ryan, William Garlic and James Smith who were paid $460 per year.
Lawlessness and social misconduct reached such proportions in the 19th century that the State Legislature in 1855 authorized Milwaukee County to build a penal institution to be called “The House of Refuge,” the first house of corrections.
Also in 1855 Milwaukee, German immigrant Friedrich Eduard Johannes Müller, founded the Miller Brewing Company.