History of Milwaukee Police Department

Other articles of Interest

Sgt. William B. Sizer Diaries-Diaries of a man who served on the force in the late 1800s early 1900s.

Milwaukee Police Officers Killed while in Service

Milwaukee Police Band

First Milwaukee Police Chiefs


As published in the 1857-58 Milwaukee City Directory
Erving, Burdick & Co.		205 and 207 East Water Street

Station Wisconsin Street, between Main and East Water

William Beck, Chief			J. Collins
P.W. Dodge, Station Keeper		M. Finnigan
J. B. Rodee, Station Keeper		A. Just
L. Capron				T. Poulter
D. Coughlin				A. Beck
William Garlick				J. McCarty
F. C. Benseler				P. Smith
F. Kersler				W. Perrigo
P. Duzold				C. Kriekee
W. G. Haack				F. Egglesgliess
T. Shaughnessy				G. Luther
A. Bingenheimer				T. Bohan
J. O’Connor				C. Hannan

Note – A building is now being erected and will be ready for use by Autumn, containing apartments for the Police Court, Chief’s Office, and Police Station.

Milwaukee Policemen 1880-1881

(Source: History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, The Western Historical Company, 
Chicago; A.T. Andreas Proprietor, 1881, pg. 341-345)

George Strong, Sergent of the South Side Station
Joseph Berges, Sergeant of the West Side Station
C. D. Kimball, Keeper of the West Side Station
Frederick Dannenfelser, Station-keeper of the West Side Station
Gustav Frellson, Station-keeper at the South Side Station
Stephen B. Wood, Station-keeper at the South Side Station
J.B. Rodee, Station-keeper, Police headquarters
Daniel W. Sheahan, Detective
Peter Pringle, Roundman
Charles Arnold, Patrolman at the West Side Station
Leonard Beyer, Night Patrolman at West Side Station
Frederick Bender, Patrolman at the South Side Station
Peter Dusold, Policeman
Abraham J. Guequierre, Jr. Night patrolman at the West Side Station
David Harris, Policeman
Wm. Koeller, Night Roundsman
John O. Overby, Patrolman, South Side
George Spur, Patrolman, Union Station
Charles F. Smith, Patrolman, South Side Station
Henry Schumell, Patrolman, South Side Station
Joseph E. Shafer, Patrolman, South Side Station
Fred Strelow, Patrolmen West Side Station
Charles Strum, Patrolman, West Side Station
Reinhold Spengler, Patrolman, Tenth Ward day force
Charles Stahl, Night Patrolman West Side Station
Nicholas Weber, Patrolman in the Eleventh Ward
John Winkelman, Patrol at West Side Station

History Making Personalities of the Milwaukee Police Department

Milwaukee Journal
March 27, 1921

Shake-ups Have Become a Tradition
by J.R.W.

"Cheese it! The cops are coming!" This was the thrilling cry that was immediately followed by a rapid flight by the youngsters of Milwaukee when on mischief bent many years ago. Today those same youngsters--dignified grown-up citizens now--say:

"There go the police!"

The present sensational shake-up in the police department, resignations of some of the oldest officers at the demand of Mayor Hoan, and the loss of the services of Chief Janssen, owing to illness after breaking all records for the length of service, bring up memories of other stirring days in the history of the department.

For thirty years, from 1855-1885, the force was the football of partisan politics. Appointments were based on "pull," rather than on merit. Examinations of applicants as to their fitness for positions were unthought of. If the party that had been out of power won a city election it meant that the chief, subordinate officers and many of the patrolmen would be "fired".


An officer might have a splendid record for efficiency, for great personal bravery--he might even wear the scars of bullet or knife wounds received during his duty of protecting the life and property of the citizens-but that wouldn't help him to hold his job; if he was a member of the losing party he must prepare to walk the plank.

Injustice of this character, the repeated exhibitions of ward politics, the elevation of ward heelers to thrones of power, finally disgusted the good people of Milwaukee. They went out to Madison, looked the legislators in the eye and said:

"When we hire a policeman or a fireman we don't give a whoop in Wauzeka whether he voted for Hays or Tilden, for Blaine or Cleveland. What we want is policemen to watch crooks and firemen to put out fires."

Luckily the days when a man could not be a reformer without running the risk of being lynched had gone by, and Milwaukee was given a fire and police commission, just like its big, stuck-up sisters of the cast.

The most dramatic page of the chronicles of the ante-commission days was written by two distinguished Milwaukeeans who were given the highest honor the citizens can bestow, the mayoralty. These men were John Black and Thomas H. Brown. John was a Democrat and Tom was a Republican. They were the leaders of the rival political armies of the Merry Milwaukee of the late seventies and early eighties.


Daniel Kennedy, the chief, was an appointee of Mayor Black. One day the mayor was called east by the death of his sister. His absence made Mr. Brown, who was the president of the common council, the acting mayor. And Tom lost no time in living up to his newly acquired title. He suspended the chief, and summoned the council in special session to announce the appointment of Lieut. William Kenndrick as successor to Kennedy.

There was much running to and fro on the part of the politicians. Hurried conferences were the order of the day in both political camps. Friends of Kennedy telegraphed the news of Tom's audacious coup to Mayor Black, who was then in Detroit. The mayor knew there was only one way to defeat the plotters against the administration. He must get back to Milwaukee before that special meeting could be held. The time tables showed that no regular train could return him in time. He chartered a special train. H was there when the council convened and dropped a bomb into the Brown crowd in the form of a communication in which he told the aldermen that he was in his office and was attending to the duties of his office.

This automatically dropped Tom from his exalted position of acting mayor to that of a mere alderman-without the authority to appoint, a chief of police. It was such a close call, and furnished such a peach of a story for the first page of the newspapers that the old timers enjoy talking it all over right up to this very day, although all the actors in this municipal melodrama have gone where police chiefs cease from troubling.


When the next election came around, Brown was elected mayor and he finished the job he had started when he was acting mayor by promptly removing Kennedy and appointing William Beck, who had been Milwaukee's first chief of police and who was destined to hold that position early and often. But in two years there was a new mayor, John M. Stowell, and Robert Wasson was the new chief. He lasted only two years, for there was another election, and the new mayor, Emil Wallber, conformed to precedent by presenting the city with a brand new chief, Lemuel Ellsworth, one of the pioneer shipbuilders.

The first historic upheaval in the department came in 1861, when William Beck, who had been made chief Oct. 5, 1855, resigned, having been severely criticized for not being able to cope with the rioting that occurred that year. Beck was a Granville farmer, but he had been a policeman in New York and he had shown exceptional ability when a member of the Sheriff Page's staff. Beck certainly was the "comeback" man-the off-again-on-again-Finnegan" of police history.


In addition to this activity Beck served a term in the legislature. He loved adventure going to Mexico he caught the gold fever in 1848 and with a party bought a tiny vessel and sailed for California. They were shipwrecked, but escaped. While engaged in placer mining he and a companion were captured by a band of Snake Indians. Beck put up a splendid fight before he was overpowered and received a wound from an arrow. Five of the gold diggers were killed. Two of the party who escaped went 40 miles to a mining camp, where they got assistance. Returning, they cleaned up the redskins, killing more than a dozen, and released Beck and his fellow prisoner.

After enlisting a corps of volunteers to punish the hostile Indians of the coast, Beck cruised all over the Pacific and the Caribbean and then returned to his home in Granville, where in a few months his neighbors honored him with an election to the legislature, after which he began his tempestuous career in the police department. He retained his popularity even in adversity. When he resigned in 1861 his men presented him with a gold-headed cane and when Mayor Black bounced him in 1878 the merchants made a strong protest.

One of Beck's greatest exploits was running down a gang of forgers after he left the force in 1861. Bankers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri had lost $100,000 through false drafts. Working with the chief of the Chicago detective force, Beck trailed the leader of the forgers through Iowa, Missouri and Ohio, arresting him at Cleveland.

Col. W.J. Johnson(should be Johnston) succeeded Beck as chief, but six months after he started to boss the little force-they had only 21 policemen then-Herman L. Page, who had been sheriff, was made head of the department. BEck was back, as first lieutenant, and in two years he was again chief.

You didn't have to know anything about compound interest or be able to tell the shortest route between Moscow and Madagascar when Bill Beck was chief--but you had to be a fighter, and a good one, two.

It was always necessary to whip a man in a fair fight before you could arrest him." was the way Beck described the early days, which proves that some of the citizens rather resented the creation of the police department. Blackened eyes, broken noses and cauliflower ears were out standing points of interest on the physiognomy of the force.

When John Black was elected mayor in 1878 he "fired" Beck, giving the job to Daniel Kennedy. But back went Beck two years later when Mayor Brown dropped Kennedy.

Two chiefs fell in succession to charges of following the old practice of accepting and dividing with detectives rewards given for the return of stolen property or other services in the line of duty. This money should have gone into the police fund. They were Lemuel Ellsworth and Florian J. Ries. Ellsworth's term was less than a year. Ries served about three and a half years.


It was in the days when a cart or a wheelbarrow had to be called into use to do service now performed by the swift-moving motor-driven patrol wagon that John T. Janssen succeeded Chief Ries and achieved the distinction of being the oldest chief in the United States from the standpoint of tenure.

"Seven out of ten arrests in those days were made only after the police-man and his prisoner had a hand-to-hand fight," he said, recalling old times on the occasion of his thirtieth anniversary in office three years ago. The chief became a policeman in 1877, when he was 22, and in eleven years he was head of the department, having been promoted twice, from a patrolman to a detective and then to a lieutenant. He left the force in 1884 to server for four years as first assistant to John A. Hinsey, head of the secret service of the Milwaukee road.

Hinsey, a man who really made Janssen chief, was Milwaukee's most pictures-que politician. He always was known as "Boss" Hinsey, but he was unable to become mayor, his cherished ambition. He made an excellent residing officer of the common council. It was an interesting sight to see him standing on the rostrum of the chamber in the courthouse, gavel in one hand in the other a black rubber fan which he gripped between his teeth to aid him in hearing, for he was partially deaf.


Seven mayors came into office and went out without bothering Chief Janssen--with a single exception. That was Sherburn M. Becker, who was known far and wide as Milwaukee's "Boy Mayor." Becker threatened to suspend the chief, but the row never got as far as even a nine-days' wonder.

However, when the Socialists carried the city in 1912 by placing Emil Seidel in the mayor's chair the talk went around that they were going to "get Janssen." But the chief's friends were a majority of the commission and "the man on the hill," as he was called owing to the situation of the central station, smiled at the Socialists, whom he had always fought just as hard as they had fought him. He could afford to smile, with such influential supports as Emanuel L. Philipp and Gen. Otto H. Falk, on the commission. He laughed when Mayor Seidel asked him to resign.

When Robert M. La Follette was governor he vetoed a bill that would have placed the licensing of private detective agencies in the hands of the chief. The legislature of 1911 passed a law giving discharged men the right to appeal to the commission and a number were reinstated. When an association of policemen was formed to air their grievances over the price of uniforms the chief became angry. He said the appeal legislation had sown the seen that caused the discord, and that the bill had been passed "through the ignorance of conceited young whippersnappers (sic) elected from Milwaukee."

Someone suggest to Chief Janssen that the men aught to be allowed to wear shirt-waists in summer. When a reporter asked the chief if he would issue the necessary order he nearly exploded. This is his unfished utterance of nearly seven years ago:

"When the Milwaukee policemen wear shirtwaists, I will----"


The chief completed his thirty second year as head of the department last October. From the time he joined the force forty four years ago, he has seen it grow from 87 to more than 600 men. Detective Dennis Sullivan, who retired a few weeks ago, served thirty-nine years. John Hannifin, the oldest detective, who has often been proposed for chief, has been a member of the department forty-two years. Patrick H. Casey, assistant chief special agent of the Milwaukee road, was one of the early-day policemen. He and Janssen were district agents in the employ of the road at the time Janssen was made chief. August Wussow, station keeper at the Hadley st. station, says a beat comprised a whole ward when he joined the force in 1877.

The Milwaukee department enjoys a splendid reputation throughout the country for efficiency. Chief Janssen has been honored by his brother chiefs by election as president of the national association. Few unsolved mysteries have baffled the Milwaukee policemen and their record for capturing criminals is way above the average. Strangely enough the most prominent instance in which they failed was where their own men were murdered. The men responsible for the death of nine officers by the explosion of a bomb which had been picked up in the Italian quarter and taken to the central station for examination have never been found.