The City Charter of 1851 organized the Erie Police Department. In 1856, the Erie Police Department consisted of the Chief of Police and three Patrolmen. By 1888, the compliment grew to 25 Officers, who walked foot patrols throughout the City of Erie. There was one horse drawn wagon, which was used to transport prisoners. Some officers used bicycles to patrol the City of Erie and were called “Roundsmen”.
The 20th Century brought lots of change to the Erie Police Department. In 1904, Rufus D. H. Baxter was appointed as the first black police officer. In 1912, the Erie Police Department started using motorcycles to aid them in patrolling the city. In 1915, a flood devastated the City of Erie, and the Erie Police were involved in rescue efforts and purchased the first “Auto Patrol Wagon” to aid the rescue effort.
In 1912, Police Chief William Detzel requested the appointment of a female police matron to attend to the matters of searching women prisoners and other instances of a delicate a nature. Five years later, in January 1917, Mrs. Elizabeth Jeffs became the first female Erie Bureau of Police Officer. She was often referred to as “Ma Jeffs”. Believed at the time to be the first female officer in Pennsylvania, Jeffs was the first policewoman included in a police pension fund. Jeffs retired in 1950 at the age of 74 and was then the oldest active policewoman in the United States. She was replaced by Officer Jeanne McQuaid
In 1925, cars were incorporated to assist Officers with patrolling the City of Erie. In 1932, short wave radio communications were used in the form of “Call Boxes”. They were placed in strategic locations throughout the City of Erie that allowed Officers to contact police headquarters. They were later modified to smaller versions that were placed in patrol cars to allow officers to have contact with headquarters from anywhere in the city.
Between the years of 1938 through 1941, the Erie Police attempted to meet the FBI’s National Standard of two police officers per 1,000 residents. The compliment of police officers rose to 136 officers during this time. The City of Erie was broken down into six patrol areas, which were patrolled by Officers in patrol cars, 12 Motorcycles Units, who began to focus on traffic enforcement and ten Officers walking on foot mostly in the downtown area.
Training for Police Officers was limited and mostly based on life experience, until 1960, when the City formed the Erie Police Academy. Currently, all Officers are required to complete a six month police academy through the Municipal Police Officers Training & Education Center (MPOTEC). Officers are also required to attend yearly legal updates to the six-month course, in order to maintain their status as a Police Officer.
The K-9 unit was introduced in 1967, in which Officers used dogs to aid them in their police function. In 1972, the Erie Police Department formed the Family Crisis Intervention Unit, which was one of the first units of its kind in the United States to handle emotionally disturbed persons and family violence. The Erie Police compliment rose to an all time high of 224 active Police Officers in 1974. Ten of those Officers’ salaries were reimbursed to the City through federal grants. Shortly thereafter, the Erie Police started using Crime Analysis, Crime Prevention and Saturation Patrols to aid in the apprehension of offenders.
The first computerized police record system, called PIDAS was instituted in 1985. In 1996, the Erie Police Department received several federal grants allowing police to switch from the PIDAS to AEGIS computer system, dictation for officer reporting, desktop computers and laptop computers for patrol cars allowing officer more accessibility to police records. In 1997, it was replaced with the AEGIS system. This made it easier for the police to keep better records, review reports and track criminal activity.
The Citizen’s Police Academy was started in 1995, to give people a better understanding of how the Erie Police Department operates. In 1994, the Community Policing philosophy was incorporated into the Erie Police Department. This philosophy is to help the public see the police as people and make it easier to relate to them. The Quebec Unit was formed to patrol all areas owned and operated by the Erie Housing Authority. In 2004, the Neighbor Action Team was formed to target high crime areas and work with the residents who live in those areas.
Currently the Erie Police Department consists of 173 active police officers.