"Kingston has always been a God-fearing and law abiding community - and exceptionally so - but at the time of the establishment of the new police force, the Delaware and Hudson Canal terminated in Rondout, the downtown portion of the city. The canal boats delivered large quantities of coal which was transferred to schooners and barges for shipment to larger cities. A large number of men were employed for this work. They were of the rough and ready type and were not used to police regulation. The young officers of the newly appointed force met with considerable resistance from these men when it was necessary to arrest them for minor infractions of the law. There were many battles after which the prisoner was laid up of repairs and the officers found it necessary to purchase new coats, trousers and helmets." Police Chief J Allan Wood (1936) describing the early days of the Kingston Police Department
Prior to 1891, the Police Department consisted of few plainclothes constables that were unorganized. On May 13, 1891, at the second meeting of the City of Kingston Board of Police Commissioners, ‘forty applications for appointment as policemen that had been filed with the City Clerk were turned over to the Board and ordered entered in the application book.’ Salaries were fixed at $80/month for Police Chief, $50/month for Policemen and $40/month for Constables and a set of rules and regulations for government of the police force and order of business was reported.
The Kingston Police Department was established on May 15, 1891 with the appointment of a Chief of Police, Stephen Hood along with six Police Officers (Thomas J Murray, Thomas B Cullen, John J Kiernan, James D McIntyre, William Schuberg and George Roach) and four Constables (John Barry, John Sullivan, Michael J Cahill and Thomas B Johnston). Murray was assigned to detective duty. On June 2, 1891, four additional Police Officers were appointed (Patrick McGeeney, William Vogt, Edwin Shader and George Minor). Two months later, Fred Heppner was appointed Police Officer to replace Schuberg who was dismissed for disciplinary reasons.
In 1899, the results of the first City of Kingston Civil Service test for Police Officers were filed, and subsequently, the Kingston Police became a Civil Service Department. Between 1891 and 1913, the force grew from ten men to twenty men. By 1919, the police force numbered twenty-seven. In 1936, the force consisted of thirty-seven men. Today, the force consists of eighty-four sworn personnel. The departmental budget for the first full year of operation was $7,500.00 and didn’t exceed $100,000 until 1947. The Department presently operates on a $7.089M budget.
The mobility of the department has changed a number of times. In 1897 the Police Department began using horses for patrol and wagons for transport of prisoners. In 1900 a bicycle was purchased for patrol. Patrols became motorized in 1917 with the purchase of a touring sedan and an ambulance. That was quickly followed by the first motorcycle patrol in 1918. The Department did have an active mounted patrol unit for ten years, 1988 through 1998. Various types of vehicles are now used, from the highly visible marked cars used for conventional patrol, to specially equipped covert vehicles for surveillance missions.
In 1913, a resolution was drafted that each member of the department be armed with a revolver. Savage Automatic .32 caliber guns were purchased and issued to the Officers. Revolvers were the standard department weapon until semi-autos became the issued equipment in 1986.
Technology has regularly brought improvement to the Kingston Police Department since 1891.
Communications have also greatly improved since 1902 when a contract was given to the Standard Telephone Company for telephone services in the Police Department. The Police Signal System was installed by New York Telephone Company in 1915 and was eventually replaced in 1937 by 21 phone boxes used by Officers to communicate with headquarters. The boxes were removed in 1987. In 1931 a Police Teletypewriter System was installed to provide inter-agency communication through NYSP and NYTEL. Radio equipment came into use in 1935 when a 15 watt transmitter was installed at HQ and 3 receivers were placed in the patrol cars. The system became capable of two-way communications in 1939. Radio communication has been continuous and ever-improving.
The City of Kingston Police Department has always been a forward looking agency that uses some of the newest available police technologies. Todays Kingston Police officer utilizes electronic fingerprinting, license plate readers, in-car video, mobile computers, global positioning systems, and other technologies to complete their daily activities.
Organized Training for all members of the Police Department became mandatory in February 1945 when the FBI began instructing Kingston Police Officers in various topics and methods of law enforcement. Kingston Police Department began hosting the present-day Police Academy in 1975. KPD continues to participate in the instruction and certification of newly appointed or soon to be appointed Police Officers from our region.
Two Kingston Police Officers have given their lives in the line of duty. In March 1918, on duty Officer John Boyd suffered fatal injuries when a train struck the trolley he was riding at the Broadway crossing. And in February 1919, Officer James Lawrence suffered a fatal stab wound during a struggle with a prisoner he had been taking to headquarters. The prisoner, James Byrd was later convicted and sentenced to death. Byrd was executed in the electric chair at Sing-Sing Prison on July 22, 1920.
In May 1946, the position of Detective was created and two men were assigned to “plainclothes with detective duties”. Today, there are thirteen members of the Detective Division including four that are specifically assigned to URGENT (the Ulster Regional Gang Enforcement Narcotics Team). Case Detectives handle the investigations of serious crimes as well as ongoing criminal activity. The Narcotics Unit was established in 1989 and has grown proportionately to the increased drug trafficking and substance abuse in our community, which is often accompanied by weapons and violence.
A Hostage Negotiations Unit, led by Officer George Deyo was established in October 1974 and presently has five FBI-trained Negotiators assigned by this department. In 1982, seven department members, who would go on to become the first SWAT team, received Counter-sniper training, Defensive Tactics and Police SWAT training. Today’s Emergency Services Unit is comprised of thirteen members with a wide array of training and expertise. They are called upon for tactical operations and special emergencies.
In 1989, the new Kingston Police Department Operations Manual was put in effect as part of the New York State Accreditation Project that was undertaken the following year. In 1990 the Kingston Police Department met all of the requirements set by the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Council. The City of Kingston Police Department was one of the first accreditated agencies in the State of New York. The police department has continuously maintained its accreditation status since then.