First Badge

first badge
The first law enforcement officers in Lincoln wore the badge of "Constable".
Badge courtesy of Kevin Sommers (LPD)

The first police force for the City of Lincoln was formed in July of 1870. The desire to create a police force started with the City Board. They were concerned with the waning morality among citizens of the community and felt there was an influx of naturally immoral and lawless elements coming from other cities.

The police force was started with just three men: William Barber as a patrolman and Matthew Donahue and Charles Norton as watchmen. In 1871, A.E. Hastings was appointed Marshal of Lincoln. He also served as Street Commissioner, Fire Warden and was a member of the Board of Health. His salary was $180 a month, a sum which many thought was too much. The City Board in 1871 set salaries at $100 a month for the marshal and $2 a day for policemen. By 1885 the City Council had reduced the Marshal's salary to $60 a month and increased the officers' salaries to $55 a month. By 1913, the Chief was paid $1800 a year and an average police officer received $960 a year.

The first jail for Lincoln was at 8th and Q streets and was originally Landons Milk House. Officers used the milk house from 1871 until 1872 when a room was rented for $15 a day from councilman D.A. Sherwood. In 1873 the Lincoln Police Department had their first jail break. Two prisoners escaped from the jail, and three Councilmen were appointed to investigate. They were authorized to spend not more than $25 for their entire investigation. They reported that the jailer and perhaps one policeman were asleep at the time of the escape.

1871  |  First court case for the Lincoln Police Department

Case #1, Docket #1.


Courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society

City Council Meeting Minutes

City Council minutes

#1 An ordinance to suppress House of ill fame and prostitution and to punish the keeping and maintaining the same in the City of Lincoln.

#2 An ordinance to restrain and prohibit desecration of the Sabbath Day within the City of Lincoln.

#3 An ordinance to provide for the making and repairing side walks in the City of Lincoln.

The first city ordinances listed laws and numbered them in the order they were passed. They did not separate the criminal laws from the building codes.