Walter Beck 1855-1861, 1863-1878, 1880-1882
The Milwaukee Police Department was established by ordinance in 1855. William Beck became its first Chief, having been hired by then Sheriff Herman Page. A former New York City Detective at age 19, he assumed the office after travels to Mexico, the California Gold Rush and Cuba. On his return, he served as State Legislator for one term.
He served three terms, being relieved of duty and/or re-appointed depending on the presiding Mayor. He commanded a force of six "privates" out of a basement station on Water and East Wisconsin. Chief Beck's yearly salary was $1,000, while his men earned $480.00.
The Department grew to 21 men by 1861, the start of the Civil War. A patrolman's uniform then consisted of plain clothes and a hat with a gold band, which stated "Milwaukee Police Department". A star was worn on the outermost garment.
Chief Beck resigned his first term after a disagreement with Mayor J.S. Brown involving the handling of two mob incidents. Colonel Walter S. Johnston was then appointed as the second Chief.
The ordinance creating the Milwaukee Police Department was confirmed by State Law in 1859.