History of the Phoenix Police Department

old center

Phoenix was incorporated as a city on February 25, 1881. Law enforcement was handled by Phoenix city marshals and later by Phoenix police officers.  Henry Garfias, the first city marshal, was elected by residents in 1881 in the first elections of the newly incorporated city. For six years, he served as the primary law enforcement officer.  In the early 1900's, the Phoenix Police Department used Old Nelly, the horse, to pull the patrol wagon for officers. Most patrolling, however, was done on foot. The city at this time was only 3.1 square miles with a population of 11,134 people.  Call boxes were used to notify an officer that headquarters wanted him. These were supplemented by a system of horns and flashing lights.


The first Phoenix police officer killed in the line of duty in Phoenix occurred on February 5, 1925. Officer Haze Burch was shot and killed by two brothers on the run from authorities. The men were later arrested when they were found hiding at the Tempe Buttes.

In 1929, patrolmen worked six days a week and were paid $100 a month. The police department moved into the west section of the new city-county building at 17 South 2nd Avenue. The building included jail cells on the top two floors.  In 1933, Ruth Meicher joined the police department as the first female jail matron. The city at this time was only 6.4 square miles, with a population of 48,200. In the year prior, the first police radio system in Arizona was installed for the department with the call letters KGZJ.


The department reorganized in 1950 with four divisions, Traffic, Detectives, Patrol and the Service Divisions. Officers worked 44 hours per week for $288 per month.  In 1974, the Air patrol unit was established initially consisting of one helicopter. A few months later, a fixed wing aircraft and two additional helicopters were added.


Today, the Phoenix Police Department provides law enforcement to 1.5 million Phoenix residents encompassing an area of more than 550 square miles. To accomplish this, the department employs approximately 2,500 police officers and detectives and more than 600 civilian support staff personnel.


History of the Phoenix Police Museum


In October 1993, the Phoenix Police Museum started as a small exhibit at the Historic City Hall, 17 S. Second Ave. With the assistance of Cindy Myers from the Phoenix Museum of History, a temporary six-month display was created. The event was enthusiastically received. The Arizona Humanities Council funded a study of the artifacts which demonstrated that the museum had ample material existed to open a small museum.


Barrister Place was selected as the permanent site of the museum. Through generous donations from Motorola, the area was painted and re-carpeted. Home Depot, Store #455, donated construction material for the creation of exhibit areas. The Police Department provided phones and an alarm system. Volunteers prepared the exhibits including a mock up of a 1910 city street and an old jail cell. The opening of the first exhibit in the Barrister Place location was on Friday, Oct. 6, 1995.  In 2012 the museum moved to its current location at Historic City Hall which was the home of our police department from 1928 until 1975.

Through the Years


First Phoenix Town Marshal

Henry Garfias

1881 to 1888

aj mooreFirst Phoenix Chief of Police

A.J Moore


Current and Recent Phoenix Police Chiefs 

Police Chief Jeri Williams

Police Chief Jeri Williams


Police Chief Joe Yahner

Police Chief Joseph Yahner



Police Chief Daniel Garcia



Police Chief Jack Harris



Police Chief Harold Hurtt



Police Chief Dennis Garrett



Police Chief Ruben Ortega



Police Chief Lawrence Wetzel



Police Chief Paul Blubaum



Police Chief Charles Thomas