History of the Duxbury Police Department

Early 1900's - 1959

Modern policing began in Duxbury in the early 1900’s as the town’s population and popularity began to grow. Prior to this time, constables were elected to address matters of public order. In the early 1900's, the town was run by a local board of selectmen that made it's chairman police chief. The elected constables were then appointed as special police officers by the selectmen to act as the auxiliary police during that era. The department’s first full time police chief was James O' Neil. Chief O’Neil was first appointed a constable in Duxbury in 1925 with Andrew Delano. O'Neil rode a motorcycle during the summer to patrol the community as a special police officer. At the 1931 Duxbury Town Meeting, Articles 28 and 42 were favorably voted, creating the organization of a permanent police force that was to work out of a police station located in a section of the old South Duxbury school building. The town meeting also appropriated $1,000 to buy a motorcycle and cruiser for the police department. The new Duxbury Police Department was staffed by one officer. James O’Neil was not only police chief - he was the entire department. Chief O’Neil was formally sworn-in as chief on March 16, 1931.

Along with a permanent chief, a number of temporary officers worked when needed. In the department’s first year (1931), Chief O’Neil and his staff of part-time officers logged 265 calls for service that resulted in the arrest of 19 offenders. After an arrest was made, the offender was transported to Plymouth Police lockup using the department’s lone patrol car. In 1932, the selectmen appointed Earl Chandler as the town's first permanent fulltime patrolman. Chandler had worked as a temporary officer since 1929. Also in 1932 the town purchased the police department its first two-way radios. These radios would recieve calls from the State Police in Norwell and the Plymouth Police Department. It modernized the police operation for quicker response, and enabled the night operator to relay all calls through the Plymouth Police, who were then able to reach the cruiser on patrol in Duxbury. At this point, the department was equipped with one Chevrolet sedan and two Harley Davidson motorcycles for patrol.

Chief Earl Chandler

By 1937 the Duxbury Police Department grew to four fulltime officers. In 1941, the department began to staff the midnight to 8am shifts for the first time and the department became a full 24/7 operation. Prior to that time the overnight shift was covered by call-outs of off-duty officers augmented by a patrol car response from the Plymouth Police Department.

During WWII the Duxbury coast became a national security concern. From 1941 through 1946 Duxbury Police officers manned the air raid alert phone while 27 army soldiers took up barracks on the second floor of the police station. These soldiers were detailed to Duxbury to patrol our beach and waterfront. Security on the beach was stringently enforced. Anyone trying to go on the beach at night was stopped and identified.  Another contingent of military police was also assigned to Duxbury to provide security at the Cable House at the corner of St. George Street and Washington Street. Within a few years after WWII, the department increased to six full time officers augmented by an expanded group of reserve officers. In 1959, Chief O’Neil retired after serving the Town for 34 years, 28 of those years as chief of police. Selectmen appointed Earl Chandler as the town’s second chief of police in 1959. Chief Chandler served as chief through 1961 when he retired at the age of 65. Lawrence Doyle was named the town’s third police chief to replace Chief Chandler on his retirement.

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