The Early Years

Police Officer in 1897Police protection in the Village of Palatine commenced the year after the end of the Civil War. The Village Board saw the need for policing Palatine and moved on the issue April 10, 1866. Finding qualified candidates 150+ years ago was as tough as it is today. The first two candidates for constable, Isaac R. Hale and William H. Dodd, both required reappointment after failing to qualify for their initial appointments. The manner of choosing the Palatine Police has changed over the years, the first two constables were Board appointed and until 1869 when the position became elected. When Palatine reincorporated in 1887 the job returned to one of Board appointment. Palatine officers today are appointed by the Fire and Police Commission following the successful completion of a two-year probation.

Constable Duties

The modern Palatine police officer would not recognize some of the duties of the constable. One of the duties of the constable was building a pound for housing horses, sheep, pigs and dogs and serving as the pound master. The constable also enforced the laws and ordinances of the time, such as animal butchering within 140 rods center of said corporate town of Palatine. Some things however never change; today the Police Assistants are responsible for securing stray animals and have dealt with everything from stray dogs and cats to the occasional horse that gets loose from the Palatine Stables.

Even though there are differences between the police of the 1880s there are similarities too. In the early days of the Village there was neither Finance Department nor Collector’s Office to collect fines for violating ordinances. The constables collected all licenses due from peddlers and showmen, for which the constable was compensated $0.25 for each license issued. Unlike today’s college-educated, well-trained officer, early constables received no salary and were compensated through fees received in the performance of his duty. For instance, he had to notify all saloon-keepers to close at 11 o’clock on Saturday evenings and received one-half the amount arising from fines collected. Officers today still enforce the Village Liquor ordinance, however, they receive no fees for doing so. Today the Police Department enforces animal ordinances for the safety of the citizens and impounds them for the animal’s well-being. The early constables killed dogs running at large, buried them and received $0.50, after they were buried. Finally, early constables received extra compensation for guarding prisoners, today it’s just part of the job; and as today’s officers are easily seen at Village festivals, the constables served as special officers at the July 4th celebrations.

Night Police

Night patrolman, night watchman, night policeman, marshal, village marshal, night police - whatever they chose to call these public servants at the time, patrolling and protecting the village at night was their responsibility. The night policeman Police Chief on a Horse in 1916was also responsible for lighting the lamps until the early part of the 20th century when electric lights were installed. At various times he cleaned and filled the lamps, took care of the fire engine and cleaned the Village Hall. On April 25, 1904 it was noted that the night police are to attend to the lower part of the Village Hall at all times and the day marshal is to attend to the second floor of the building at all times. Pay ranged from $30 per month in 1889 to $55 per month in 1912.

Unlike today, where the police can be summoned 24 hours a day by dialing 911, most of the policemen hired by the Village in the 1800s served as night watchmen. The hiring of policemen to serve during the day was an off/on proposition. Officer E Fenton was hired in June 1890, as a day policeman for $100 per year. He worked from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday and was subject to the call of the Police and Lamp Lighting Committee. Some Village employees were known to wear more than one hat, in 1899 John Bergmann was appointed superintendent of water and streets at $40 a month; however, $15 of his pay was apportioned to his duties as day marshal. He and his successors seem to have continued in this role until 1912.


In 1878 the citizens of Palatine petitioned the Board for a lock-up, the fore-runner of today’s Police Department Temporary Holding Facility. Money was in short supply and it wasn’t until five years later that a site was bought for $30. The new lockup was located on part of the triangle that is north of the tracks, south of Wood Street and west of Brockway. The 12 by 14 foot building was built until June 1885, eight years after the process began. In 1896 a jail was made part of the newly built city hall on Slade Street. Today the lock-up is a modern facility with electronic monitoring and security devices.