The Metropolitan Police Commission of Detroit (Detroit Police Department) was established in 1865 by an act of state legislature.
Since its inception, several small stations and substations were added to the Department’s original central station building and lockup; and in 1884, a new police “headquarters” was erected at Bates and Randolph Street, now the site of the Water Board Building.
As the city continued to grow, substations and precincts were added to provide necessary services, and in 1921, famed industrial architect Albert Kahn was contracted to design a new headquarters building. At that time, this building was hailed as the finest, most complete municipal police building in world. It continues to house the Department’s headquarters today.
Since its inception in the Detroit Police Department has been a pioneer in the adoption of many revolutionary advances in law enforcement that have become essential to policing. DPD was among the first police departments to put officers on bicycles. The department developed one of the earliest motorized forces using motorcycles, and it ultimately became the first police department to utilize Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Of its firsts, arguably the most important, and the one that is synonymous with the city of Detroit being recognized as the “Automotive Capital of the World,” is the Department’s deployment of its first patrol car in 1909. The Department led the way in police radio communications as well. In 1921, Detroit Police Commissioner William P. Rutledge became one of the first police executives in the country to foresee the use of the radio as a crime fighting tool; and Detroit became the first police department in the country to successfully put a radio equipped police car into service.
The vision of the DPD is “building a safer Detroit through community partnerships,” and throughout its history the department has and continues to be innovative in it’s’ approach to addressing crime and making the citizens of the city of Detroit safe.
The Detroit Police Department, like agencies across the country, is challenged by increased demands with fewer resources. The dedication of the women and men who fill its ranks is unparalleled in this country. Yogi Berra once noted, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” He wasn’t talking about the police department, of course, but he was referring to the concept of change. As we look back at these highlights of our history, we form a basis for looking ahead; and as the City of Detroit continues to evolve, one thing is certain. Based upon the Detroit Police Department’s history of professionalism and innovation, its commitment to serving the citizens of this great city will remain unchanged.