Police History

The Town of Sanford built a lockup in Sanford and one in Springvale in 1883, but the first mention of any type of police was found in the following entry of the Town Report for the year ending February 23, 1888.

"James B. Allen, for watching and patrolling streets of Springvale, October 7 and 8, 1884, $3.00."

An examination of the Springvale Advocate for October 10, 1884, reveals this item of news:

"If in the stilly watches of the night you should hear the sound of footsteps on our streets, be not alarmed, 'tis but the mailed tread of the watch men who guard our Village lest the Lebanon Acton burglars should confiscate our household goods."
Further examination shows that burglars had been operating in the two towns mentioned.

Then, beginning in 1888, we find frequent references to payments of a similar nature, to include, eventually, days when a circus was in town. In the Town Report for the year ending February 23, 1893, we find record of the first payments for police service of a more permanent kind than on a special day, when Thomas Reid is listed as having received $196.00 for police duty at Sanford. The following year he received only $15.00 for police duty, but the next year he received $50.00 and C.F. Miles received $41.00. In 1895, Miles and Nehemiah K. Spinney were part-time street police; in the report for the year ending February 22, 1897, Miles is listed alone and received only $12.50; the next year no street police are listed.>

A full-time police force began in 1898. The Town Report for the year ending February 22, 1899, shows that Charles Shepard received $416.67 and W.F. Ferguson received $410.02 (he had some lost time) for service as policemen in Sanford and Springvale, respectfully. Each of them had a report in the annual Town Report. From that time forward there has always been a full-time police force. The number increased to a force of 3 in 1911, to 4 in 1921, to five in 1923, to 18 plus a Chief in 1968.

In 1889, the "lockup" became unsecure and a new one was built in a building originally designed for road machines and tools. After that, cells were constructed in the basement of the Town Hall and in the Fire Station in Springvale.

The cells were moved and consolidated in an annexation to the Town Hall. Three cells were utilized as interim holding cells for persons either awaiting transportation to the York County Jail or pending bail. The confinement area was not used for extended periods of incarceration. These cells have since been removed and the cell doors remain in the possession of the Department at an undisclosed warehouse location.

The first regular office of the police department was in the Town Hall built in 1908. A separate annex was constructed in 1964-65. The department struggled for adequate space during the 1970's. The office area was renovated by officers of the department to cut costs; the Dispatch Center was designed and built by officers of the department. The garage in the lower section of the police annex was eliminated and redesigned to house the detective area. The cell block area was eliminated as well and converted into an office area for patrol. During the 70's, the department had one of the finest darkrooms of any police agency.

This annex served as police headquarters until the early 1980's when the basement of the Town Hall Annex was renovated for the police, 911 Communications, and Emergency Management (formerly Civil Defense). The quarters quickly became too small and a portion of the former police headquarters was renovated for the Detective Division.

Until 1935, the officers of the police department were appointed by the Selectmen. In that year, the State Legislature passed an act creating a police commission for the Town and its members were to be appointed by the Selectmen for periods of 3 years each, with the term of one member expiring each year. The Commission had immediate jurisdiction over the police department, including appointments. An amendment to the act was passed in 1949 which specified that the members of the Commission were to be elected rather than appointed.

The first record of a chief was found in the list of Selectmen's appointments for the year beginning April 1, 1924, when Granville Seamans was appointed "nominally chief" and Atwood W. Allen as "nominally assistant chief." A year later, Leland Ford was appointed chief, but initially refused the appointment because the chief had more responsibility than other members of the force, but still received the same rate of pay. It is believed that he finally accepted the appointment.

Dispatchers were first employed in the police department in 1963. The total police force, as of the spring of 1968, consisted of a Chief, a Lieutenant, a Detective Sergeant, 2 Patrol Sergeants, 14 Patrolmen, 2 Dispatchers and 10 Reserve Patrolman.