Department History

Ptl. Herbert Parkhurst on the waterfront (years of service 1941-1966)

The first Western European law enforcement function in North America was performed by one Joshua Cooper, who was appointed a “constable” for the Plymouth Court in 1633. While his position was what would today be considered a “judicial” function rather than an “executive” one, he did enforce the orders of the court. Constables were appointed through the 1700’s, often serving unwillingly.

The first appointments of police occurred in 1861, when Captain Peter Smith and Captain Josiah Baxter were appointed as “day and night police.” In 1865 the town budget showed several constables serving the court. At this time there were several entries pertaining to persons being paid a dollar a day for providing police services. Captain Josiah Baxter in that year was paid $109 for 109 days work. Others were paid some lesser amounts for police and night watchman duties. In 1871 the town budget shows the first line item for “Watch and Police” at $949. More officers were added by appointment in 1875.

In 1899 the Plymouth Police Department submitted its first Annual Report to the Town. Chief of Police B.F. Goddard reported 120 arrests for the year ending 31 December 1899, 63 of which were on warrants. Seventeen of the arrestees were minors.

In 1875, the department suffered its first line of duty death when the same Captain Josiah Baxter first appointed in 1861 was shot while trying to arrest a domestic abuser. In 1946 Officer George S. Bell was shot and killed while searching for an itinerant farm worker wanted for the murder of his wife. In 1965 Officer Paul Murphy was found unconscious at the base of a flight of ice covered steps. He died a short time later at a Boston Hospital. On April 1, 2014 Officer Gregg Maloney was killed in a single vehicle motorcycle crash. He was flown to Mass General Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. All four of our line-of duty deaths are memorialized on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.

Click here to view historical photos of the Plymouth Police Department.