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Pre-Civil War


Pre-Civil War

On December 20, 1839, the Tennessee legislature passed "an act to establish the town of Chattanooga in the county of Hamilton, and to incorporate the inhabitants thereof."

The names of Chattanooga's early constables are not known, since the city's records were destroyed by Union forces during the War Between the States, but it is known that constables were appointed by the city councils until 1852.

By 1851, Chattanooga had outgrown its primitive form of government and was a thriving community. The state legislature, feeling that the 1839 charter was no longer adequate to meet the needs of the growing city, passed a 2nd charter under the title of "An act to incorporate the city of Chattanooga, and for other purposes."

This act reorganized the city council and authorized the appointment of a city marshal to replace the town constable. Unlike constables, city marshals could hire assistants and term them "policemen"

On January 5th, 1852, Thomas McMinn was appointed as the first city marshal of Chattanooga and a small number of "policemen" were appointed with him. The Chattanooga Police Department was born.

A committee was formed to look into the construction of a jail for the city. The committee was told to see that the cost of the lockup did not exceed $200!

The policemen's duties were virtually the same as those of the previous town constables, but since they were full time, they received a salary of $15 per month with a $1 bonus being paid for each arrest and conviction. The city marshal was a powerful figure and was allowed to patrol while mounted (as long as he provided his own horse).

The new force was divided into day and night squads but there was no official uniform for policemen to wear. The city lockup was finally finished in 1854.

In 1856, the council passed a city ordinance, which enlarged the duties of the city marshal. This ordinance provided that the marshals exercise the duties of chief police officer as well function as head of public works. The marshal was the city sexton, and was required to dig graves for all strangers who died in the city. He was also collector of fines and taxes and was clerk of the recorder's court.

The city continued to appoint marshals until 1863, when marshal law was replaced with martial law by occupying Union forces.

Chattanooga Police Department
3410 Amnicola Hwy.
Chattanooga, TN 37406 (map)

Office hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 AM through 5:00 PM

Emergencies: 911

To report a crime or request assistance: (423) 698-2525

General Information:
(423) 643-5000

Crime Prevention and Community Outreach:
(423) 643-5090

Crime Stoppers Hotline:
(423) 698-3333

Drug Tip Hotline:
(423) 493-BUST (2878)

 

Photo by Mike Williams