Below is a summary of the history of the Paducah Police Department that was included in the 2018 Annual Report.
Photos: Top - 1890-1895 period; Bottom - 1933
The Paducah Police Department has an illustrious history created by brave men and women from nearly two hundred years of service. The City of Paducah and its police department have seen growth and changes throughout the years. Chief Brandon Barnhill retired at the end of 2018, and he marks the 27th leader of this great law enforcement institution. The department’s history is filled with stories of humor, compassion, heroism, and advancement. Twice a year, retired officers from this agency reconnect for a breakfast and retiree qualification shoot. In 2018, the Police Department sat down with Captain Robert Carr (Ret.) to find out how the road was paved for the current officers that serve and protect visitors and citizens of this city.
Car was hired in 1964 at a time when the department was changing the building it called home. In 1964, City Hall was located on the corner of South 4th Street and Kentucky Avenue, and the police department was in the basement. The department had one main room for supervisors and a city jail with holding cells or “drunk tanks.” Carr stated officers made $305.00 a month and received their paychecks every two weeks. This caused officers to seek work outside of law enforcement to be able to provide for their families. There was no academy training or prerequisite to be hired as a police officer until 1974 or 1975. When an officer was hired, they would receive one month of training from riding with a senior officer before being placed on their own. Many agencies during this time frame would allow officers to police without any training at all. Today, our officers receive twenty weeks of police academy training before completing 16 weeks of additional training at our agency.
The police department divided the city into 5 zones or beats in the sixties. Carr speaks of downtown Paducah being the busiest part of Paducah and requiring officers to conduct foot patrol in the area. Assigned officers would walk from the riverfront to 7th Street and from Jefferson Street to Kentucky Avenue year-round. The downtown area also had motorcycle patrol for parking enforcement and traffic. Later, motorcycle patrol would be replaced by “meter maids.” The department had approximately six patrol vehicles, two detective cars, one supervisor car, and a department paddy wagon for transporting prisoners. The police department vehicle fleet would increase over the years and began allowing officers to drive patrol cars home in the mid-1990s.
Equipment was not provided according to Captain Carr. Officers would go to a local sporting goods store to purchase uniforms and guns. Their duty belts were equipped with a .38 revolver, gun holster, hickory night stick, and only a few officers carried handcuffs. Eventually, the department was able to acquire $150.00 per officer a year to purchase needed equipment. Today, officers are issued equipment such as duty weapons and uniforms. He stated many officers only carried the six shot revolvers and no extra ammunition. Officers today are issued semi-automatic pistols and rifles. There was no E-911 call center at that time. If someone needed the police, they would call the department directly to have an officer respond. The department purchased their first communication radios from a local cab company. There was a four foot by four foot alarm switch board in the police department for local businesses such as Michelson’s. Today, E-911 receives emergency and non-emergency calls. On average, the department responds to over 50,000 calls a year.
In 1965, the police department moved with City Hall to 300 S. 5th Street. It continued to be located in the basement and kept holding cells for everything from alcohol intoxication to felony assaults. The police department stayed at the S. 5th Street location until 1995, when they relocated for a short period at the current probation and parole building before moving to the current location at 1400 Broadway.
The Paducah Police Department has evolved over the years to become one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the Commonwealth. Although we continue to honor our past, we look to improve the future of policing in Paducah.