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The City of Columbia is founded as the Capital of the State of South Carolina.


The City of Columbia’s first government, independent of the General Assembly was set up to oversee the streets and markets. Three main issues occupied most of their time: public drunkenness, gambling and poor sanitation.


The Legislature granted Columbia its first charter and is incorporated as a town. The municipal power was vested in one Intendant and six (6) wardens to be elected annually on the first Monday in April. The city government was given authority to keep the peace, levy taxes, impose fines for offenses, pass ordinances, maintain the streets and market, sentence offenders to jail and require male inhabitants to clear the city streets.


The first law enforcement officer employed by the City of Columbia is Town Marshall Michael C. Shaffer whose duties include going through the town each Sunday… “Once in the forenoon and once in the afternoon to suppress any riotous or disorderly conduct”… and to serve as clerk of the town market.


The town did not have a public clock, so the Town Marshall was required to ring a bell and announce the correct time, each hour, 10 o’clock in the summer months – May until September – and 9 o’clock the rest of the year.


(January 1st) – The Town Guard is authorized by Town Council. To finance the Guard an additional 5% tax on real property was levied. In June, of the same year, the Guard organization was completed. The Guard was composed of one Captain who is paid $33.33, a month, two Sergeants who received $20.00 per month, and seven Privates who were each paid $18.00 a month.


(April 3rd) Elections were held and W.F. Desaussure was elected Intendant. Michael J. Shaffer was elected Captain of the Guard and W.C. Harrison was elected Town Marshal. The Town of Columbia collected $2,075.35 from the citizens for patrol exemptions, (Citizens could buy an exemption from serving in the guard for $5.00) and paid out $2,321.74 for the Town Guard.


Principal town officials included: Intendant and six Wardens; Council Clerk; Superintendent of Water Works; Town Physician; Overseer of the Streets; Keeper of the Clock and the Town Guard.


Columbia becomes incorporated as a city. The Intendant becomes the Mayor, the Wardens become the Alderman.


(December 21) William Thomas Cross, age 29, was shot while attempting to serve a warrant. He died as a result of this gunshot wound. His assailant was arrested, convicted of this murder and hanged on the gallows at the Court House. This was Columbia’s first officer to forfeit his life in police service to the City of Columbia.


Columbia establishes a police force consisting of a full-time chief and nine patrolmen. The starting salary for the patrolmen is $16.00 per month. Uniforms were not worn; instead they wore black suits with black hats and carried “billy-clubs”. They patrolled in pairs and there was never a question as to “who the police were”.

Police Roster

John Burdell – Chief of Police
M. Armistead – Patrolman
William Baugh – Patrolman
Paul Bofil – Patrolman
J.M. Coker – Patrolman
Thomas Harrison – Patrolman
James Rose – Patrolman
Jackson Starling – Patrolman
James W. Still – Patrolman
W.C. Strickland – Patrolman


America enters into the Civil War and the Arsenal Academy cadets are ordered to serve as Columbia’s night guard patrol.


Police salaries are increased and the number of police officers is raised to seventeen with plans to add eight more. The War Between the States was raging and especially troublesome were the number of unlicensed bars selling alcohol.


At a City Council meeting on February 7th, just ten days before the City of Columbia was set ablaze, twenty-two local citizens are fined at least $19.50 after being arrested for illegal alcohol sales.


Columbia is under military marshal law by the Federal Army. Crimes of petty larceny, burglary, drunk/disorderly and vagrancy have increased and with the army’s permission the citizens of Columbia form a “City Guard”. The guard was a self-styled militia composed of males sixteen to sixty years of age and was used to patrol streets after the hours of darkness.


On October 20, City Council approves the purchase of a sufficient number of tin shields, with the word “Police” painted thereon. The new shields are to be worn on the left breast by the police force whilst on duty.


The general assembly of 1878 abolish the practice of public executions, (hangings). Under the act of 1878 the death penalty could only be inflicted on a criminal within the Jail enclosure.


The Columbia Police start using bicycles for patrol duty. The police are also reimbursed when they have to pay a horse drawn hack driver, (taxi driver) to transport prisoners to jail.


Police Officers worked 6 hours on, 6 hours off, 6 hours on, and 6 hours off.


During this period of time the police officers were on duty for two six hour shifts each day, seven days per week. Chief Daly changed this duty schedule to one twelve hour shift per day, seven days per week.


The Police Department orders a custom built patrol wagon to transport prisoners to jail. The first driver is Marion P. Kramer and the wagon is drawn by two horses that were called “Madge” and “Sheriff”. The horses were named after the first two prisoners to ride within the wagon.


On the night of March 30th Columbia’s second city hall and police department are destroyed by fire.


A two story police barracks is built on the north side of the 1100 block of Gervais Street. The barracks was constructed of brick and cost $6,000.00. The horse barn was located on the south side of 1000 Senate Street.


The Police Department was comprised of a Chief, a Lieutenant, two Sergeants, two Desk Men, two Patrol Drivers, one Jailer, and one Guard House Keeper, two men assigned to dispensary duty, two plain clothes men and twenty patrolmen. These men worked in two shifts, so that there are ten patrolmen on duty at all times. That is to say that each patrolman has a beat of 8.6 miles and he works 12 hour per day, seven days a week for $45.00 per month. That equated to 12 cents per hour and 56 years later they would earn $1.40 an hour.


Chief W.C. Cathcart purchased a motorized patrol wagon (known as the Black Maria and retained for 40 years) and the first two police motorcycles were put into police service. The police department operating expenses for the year was $44,851.00 and it was composed of forty-four officers. The Department consists of a chef and forty-three officers


Three women are sworn in as policewomen and they will do duties at railway stations. They are Miss Emma Miriam Smith/Officer 35, Mrs L.E. Harris/Officer 19 and Mrs Thelma Bowman/Officer 43


A motorcycle was purchased for “detective use”.

August 09 – The police department adopts a four month old bear, found in Manning, SC as its mascot. The bear is known as Jimmy and he does not tolerate tobacco products.


The police department purchases two automobiles and eight motorcycles. A “vice squad” is formed to patrol the “red light” district”.


September 27 – The Police Department receive a pair of German police dogs to aid in chasing fugitives. They are named, Ludendorf and Bertha.


November 06 – Columbia’s first traffic signal was tested at Gervais and Sumter Streets.


January – The department engages in target practice. A steel target measuring 10 feet by 11 feet has been set against a board braced by a brick wall in the storage shed of the city jail.


October 01 – South Carolina requires all vehicle operators to obtain a driver’s license.


In January a short wave radio station, W4XAH, (one-way police radio system) is established and put into service at police headquarters. The Department consists of a chief and seventy-three officers.


The police department is comprised of one chief, one assistant chief, (W.B. Hughey), six detectives, seven sergeants and fifty-nine patrolmen.


May 03 – The police department activates its two-way radio system. Two-way communication is now possible between headquarters and patrol cars.
August 13 – Motorcycles are equipped with the two-way radio system.


The police department with a staff of 128 personnel sees a 50% increase in their workload as the city’s population soars with the influx of soldiers and civilians from all over the nation arrive to meet the war-time effort.

Chief of Police – L.J. Campbell
Traffic Division – E.C. Wesson
Uniform Division – S.A. Griffith
Detective Division – S.S. Shorter
16 Motorcycles and 18 Cars

September – Nine women are hired to perform traffic duties at city schools.


June 30 – A new radio system is installed which allows car to car, car to station and station to car calls.


The police department is staffed by 146 personnel.

Detective Division – 14
One-man patrol cars are introduced
Council authorizes the purchase of radar speed control equipment


With the help of the new radar equipment 5,963 moving violations were made. Nine motorists were killed and 361 injured in Columbia traffic accidents.


New police building located at 1409 Lincoln Street is completed at a cost of $153,277.00.

Uniform Division – 75 officers


Seven new officers expands the police department to 147 members. The department purchases a new paddy wagon (see 1910) to transport persons arrested. Social Security is extended to all policemen during this year. Columbia Police become the first in the state to install a TWX teletype system. New police recruits undergo a 140 hour basic training program. The Chaplains Corps is established.


Police Department increases in manpower.

Sworn Officers – 147
Parking Patrol Women – 8
School Crossing Guards – 24
Clerical Workers – 13
Total Personnel – 192


The police department has a total of 203 employees.

Criminal Homicides – 11
Traffic Accidents – 3,612
Fatalities – 7


Police Department increases in manpower.

Sworn Officers – 151
Parking Patrol Women – 8
School Crossing Guards – 26
Clerical Workers – 14
Total Personnel – 199

The department also added three Cushman trucksters and a Breath-O-Lizer.


Twenty-seven new police officers are added to the force for the new 48 hour work week plan to reduce the work week to 44 hours.


Forty new policemen are hired for the new 40 hour week bringing the police force up to 182 still 10 short of the 192 authorized. A 15% increase in pay is granted.


Reorganization brought about two new divisions in the department, a Narcotics Division, (10 men) and a Security Division.

January 1971 – A five-man narcotics squad, headed by Lt John E. Dennis is formed to handle anti-narcotic issues.

November 1971 – The Columbia Police Department squad cars are sporting a white body with special blue fenders.


The police cadet program is initiated (17 new cadets) and the Parking Patrol Force is disbanded. ETV law enforcement training program started on closed circuit TV. Seven civilian radio dispatchers were hired to replace sworn police officers. The Detective Division handled 32 criminal homicides and cleared all cases with arrests.


The Patrol Division added a “scooter force” of six vehicles. The Detective Division investigated 17 homicides. Patrol vehicles are equipped with triple lights on the roof and protective screens between the front and rear seats. In 1973 the department hires its first female officer, Ethel Dike; she also carries the distinguished honor of being the first black female hired by the department.

April 1972

Full time employees – 245
Part time employees – 28
Total Personnel – 273


Columbia Policemen receive their new redesigned badges.


The Department consists of more than 200 sworn police officers in addition to police cadets, security officers and civilian personnel, (Total 308). The newly created Investigation Division is a merger of the old Detective and Narcotics Divisions. This Division is moved into the basement of the police headquarters building. In 1974 the Court House is erected behind Police Headquarters.


Detectives are now known as Investigators.


The “Patrol Action Team” is founded with the aim of fighting daylight house breakings and night-time armed robbery incidents.


The “Patrol Action Team” is founded with the aim of fighting daylight house breakings and night-time armed robbery incidents.


February – Sergeant Shumpert is selected to head the newly established Crime Analysis Unit.

Total personnel is 304.


July 1, Deputy Chief W.E. Rabon retires after 42 years of service and Trevor A. Hampton is hired as Deputy Chief of Special Services.


Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) is added to the Communications Center.


The Department initiated an innovative program aimed at achieving accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Introduction of the 911 emergency telephone systems.


At 12:01 a.m. on July 1st, the keys to the City Jail are turned over to Richland County officials.


Police officers are assigned to substations in public housing communities. Police vehicles have changed their design. The vehicles are white with four inch navy blue stripes down the sides along with gold reflective pin striping. The doors feature the police shoulder patch decal. Total Department strength is two hundred and sixteen sworn officers and one hundred and eight non-sworn personnel.


The Chief of Police implements community policing that directly involves citizenry into participatory policing efforts.


The City is divided into three Patrol Regions consisting of two Patrol Divisions.


Mobile Data Computers are placed into police vehicles allowing access to the state-wide computer network. Sworn strength is three hundred and eleven while non-sworn strength is seventy. The 100 year old Eau Claire Town Hall is rehabilitated as the North Region Police Headquarters. The Old Jail Building adjacent to the Lincoln Street Police Headquarters is rehabilitated as the new Police Headquarters complex.


The Columbia Police Department establishes its first website, which was originally located at:, but was changed in April 2010 to

November – Crime Scene Investigations goes from 35mm cameras to all digital cameras.


January – Pro-Active Community Enforcement (P.A.C.E) is established
January – East Region becomes fully operational.
February 13 – Launched the Columbia Police Department Facebook page.


June – Launched a Columbia Police Department Twitter Account.
August – On the 13th the Columbia Police Department launched an online web-based police reporting system, allowing citizens to file their own police reports.
August – Columbia changes from the .45 calibre Sig Sauer P220 to the 9mm FNS-9.
November 16 – Launched RAIDS an online Crime Mapping System.


Summer-Closed Drug Lab
December-Implemented Recruiting and Retention Program offering bonuses, specific duty pay increases, and an overall 7% salary increase for all employees.


January-Police Legal Advisor added to Staff
February-Published first Internal Affairs report since 2008
February-Began construction and renovation of the Police Department Annex
February-Redesigned the markings on police vehicles
April-Joined the Whitehouse Public Data Initiative
April-Issued Body Worn Cameras to Police Officers
July-Police Fitness Coordinator added to Staff
August-Relocated Supply/Logistics as the first Unit to occupy the Annex
October-Published first ever Annual Report
November-Launched 21st Century Policing
November-Launched Operation Ceasefire focused deterrence initiative in North Columbia


January-Opened remaining warehouses and office in the Police Department Annex
August-Transitioned from the FNH-9s 9mm to the Sig Sauer P320 .045 ACP

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