|1825 Illinois County Map|
Before Chicago ever became a city, the town of Chicago was authorized by the General Assembly of Illinois to establish its own police force, which was set up a constabulary. Men wore civilian clothes adorned with a leather badge. They carried heavy canes by day and batons by night and were provided with “creakers,” a noisemaker device, with which to call for assistance in case of distress. The first “officers” were unpaid citizen volunteers that would patrol the urban city streets looking for drunkards and watching for fires.
|Chicago Constable Star (Replica). In-Service; 1828 to about 1900.|
|Chicago Leather Police Star (Replica). In-Service; March 10, 1857, to March 1, 1858. Then police used a Chicago Plain Brass Star from March 2, 1858 – March 5, 1860. Back to the Chicago Leather Police Star used from March 6, 1860, to March 25, 1861.|
In 1839, Chicago established a night watch system, and a marshal was appointed to oversee them. Though the general duties of the watchman were straightforward: They preserved order, which was broadly defined, and raised the “hue and cry”  if they discovered criminal offenses or discovered a fire; and, on occasion, they detained suspicious and disorderly persons, the implementation of those duties often proved unsatisfactory. The whole constabulary watch system was viewed as fragmented, inefficient, incompetent and corrupted. Moreover, the public police lacked the training and ability to prevent disorder, particularly civil unrest and riots, or control crime.
|Patrolman Star. In-Service; March 26, 1861, to 1904|
In 1860, the detective forces were established to investigate and solve crimes. In 1861, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law creating a police board to become an executive department of Chicago autonomous of the mayor. The mayor was effectively stripped of his power to control the Chicago Police Department. Authority was given to three police commissioners. The commissioners created the office of the superintendent to be the chief of police. The title is again in use today.
The first African American officer was appointed in 1872, but black police were assigned to duty in plain clothes only, mainly in largely black neighborhoods. In 1875, the Illinois General Assembly found that the police commissioners were unable to control rampant corruption within the Chicago Police Department. The legislature passed a new law returning power over the police to the mayor. The mayor was allowed to appoint a single police commissioner with the advice and consent of the city council.
In 1896, the Lumière Bros. filmed one of the first Chicago films ever shot in Chicago. (Watch this 45 second Film.)
Women entered the force in 1885, as matrons, caring for female prisoners. Marie Connolly Owens is believed to have been the first female police officer in the U.S., joining the Chicago Police Department in 1891, retiring in 1923. Holding the rank of Sergeant, Owens enforced child labor and welfare laws.
Despite centralized policies and practices, the captains who ran the precincts or districts were relatively independent of headquarters, owing their jobs to neighborhood politicians. Decentralization meant that police could respond to local concerns, but graft often determined which concerns got the most attention. In 1895, Chicago adopted civil service procedures, and written tests became the basis for hiring and promotion. Standards for recruits rose, though policing remained political.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.
 "Hue and cry" (adopted from England common law) is a process by which bystanders are summoned to assist in the apprehension of a criminal.