Laurel Police Department History
The Town of Laurel resides centrally on the Broad Creek that closely borders the Delaware and Maryland lines. The term Laurel originated from the Laurel bushes that grew and bordered the Board Creek, which ultimately led to the town’s official name. The Town of Laurel was incorporated in 1883, which was considered the “Commissioners of the Town of Laurel.” The Town of Laurel was very vibrant by being surrounded by fertile land and forests, which led to the farming and lumbering industries. During the early years of the town’s existence, the town commissioners appointed numerous town officials, including a Tax Collector, a Treasurer, an Alderman, and Constables.
Even though the exact date of when the Laurel Police Department isn’t published, we do know there was some type of law enforcement that was upheld during the town’s earlier existence. The constables were considered to be the peacekeepers and were appointed by the town commissioners, as necessary. The town commissioners ultimately had the power to remove constables at any time and appoint other constables to replace those who were removed from duty. In 1899, the Great Fire occurred, which devastated portions of the business corridor within town. It was noted that the police were guarding the streets during the Great Fire.
In 1907, the Town of Laurel was re-incorporated as the “Mayor and Council of Laurel.” In approximately 1910, Officer Hanson H. Gibson began his career as an Officer with the Laurel Police Department, who is to be considered the first African American with the Laurel Police Department. Officer Gibson served 28 years as a night policeman for the department.
The Mayor oversaw the duty of electing different town officials, including the Chief of Police. Throughout the department’s existence, there have been several individuals who have had the greatest honor of leading and serving the Laurel Police Department as Chief of Police. One of the earliest Chief of Police recorded in the town minutes was Chief Harley Hickman who served approximately between 1935 through 1943. The town has had an estimate of 10 police chiefs who had the opportunity to serve as the Laurel Police Chief. Chief James A. Harris was the first African American appointed as Chief of Police in 1992 until he passed in December of 1999.
The Laurel Police Department has grown and evolved since its early existence. The first permanent home to house the Laurel Police Department was the Municipal Building. In 1937, the Municipal Building was constructed on Poplar Street, where it housed the town clerks, the fire department, and the Chief of the Police, and the jail cells. The Laurel Police Department is currently still located at the Municipal Building but has future plans of re-locating the department to Paul Laurence Dunbar. The Laurel Police Department was a small department in the past with ranks ranging from Chief of Police, Assistant Lieutenant, Deputy Chiefs, and officers. Today our department is made up of nineteen distinct officers ranging from Chief of Police, Sergeants, Corporals, Patrolman First Class, and Patrolman who embody the Laurel Police Department core value: “Our Community, Our Commitment.”