1889-1892

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The Administration of Chief R. M. Reese

On July 11, 1889, the City of Greensboro instituted a new city charter. Section 36 of the new charter read, in part, "...the Board of Alderman shall have the power to appoint a police force, to consist of a Chief of Police and such number of policemen as the good government of the city may require, who shall hold their offices during the term of the Board appointing them..." Under the terms of this charter, the Greensboro Police Force came into existence.

The Board of Alderman established the duties of the Chief: "The Chief of Police shall have the supervision and control of the police force... He shall attend the Mayor's Court each day and report any violations of the law or ordinances of the city... and shall see that the laws and ordinances of the city are enforced."

In broad terms, the charter went on to state the new officers' powers and duties: "The Chief of Police and each member of the police force shall have all the powers and authority vested in Sheriffs and Constables for the preservation of the peace of the city, by suppressing disturbances and apprehending offenders. The police shall generally have power to do whatever may be necessary to preserve the good order and peace of the city, and secure the inhabitants from personal violence and their property from loss or injury."

With the passage of this charter, Greensboro had its first official police force. On July 11, 1889, R.M. Reese was elected by the Alderman as the city's first Chief of Police. In addition to Chief Reese, four officers were appointed as patrolmen: W.J. Weatherly, W.J. Lynn, W.M. Donnell and M.A. Whittington. Each patrolman received a salary of $40 per month, or 11 cents per hour.

Those officers were the first of thousands over the years who had to contend with shift work. Their shifts were 12 hours on-duty and 12 hours off. They had no off-days and were not compensated for off-duty attendance in Police Court. For the first time, uniforms became a part of the Greensboro Police Department.

Uniforms Required

The new city charter mandated that, "The Board of Alderman shall require the entire police force to wear badges and to be armed and uniformed as to be readily recognized by the public as peace officers." The first uniform worn by Greensboro Police Officers consisted of a long overcoat with two rows of bright brass buttons. Trousers were dark navy and matched the overcoat. The uniform was topped by a tall, felt hat with a rounded top and small brim. The hat badge was a wreath-type, and the breast badge was a tin shield. Each officer's badge number was in the center of both shields. Officers carried short nightsticks but it is not known what type of firearm was carried.

By 1890, the city's population had reached about 3,000. In April of that year, Chief Reese reported that the Greensboro Police Force's annual budget was $2,045.50. In May of 1891, the position of Sergeant of Police was created and the force's first promotion was announced. Officer M.A. Whittington was advanced to the rank of Sergeant at a monthly salary of $60. Each patrolman's monthly salary was raised to $50. In May of 1892, the Alderman separated the offices of Chief of Police and Tax Collector. R.M. Reese was appointed as full-time Tax Collector and resigned as Chief of Police on May 15, 1892. In describing the quality of Chief Reese's six-man force, a special town committee declared, "We find the present force as efficient as any set of men we could likely get."

Clearly, the spirit of excellence which would manifest itself over the next century had been firmly established by the first members of the fledgling Greensboro Police Force.