Portsmouth N.H. Police History 
An American Law Enforcement Story
  • April 7, 1911 - "Market Street Saloons Hit - Police Commission Place Some Unwelcome Restrictions Upon Them" read the headline of the Portsmouth Herald. After two more drinking related murders in the North End, the Police Commission react and restrict any and all saloons in the area below Deer Street. The State Liquor Board favored this decision as well BUT merely three days later the Police Commission changed their minds and rescinded this policy. Seemed the community favored its drinking saloons in that area and did not want the change. 

  • The first reported theft of an automobile was in July 1913 in the area of Ladd Street. The car was a Packard and belonged to the Fuller Family of Rye who were in town to have dinner at Hams'.Restaurant. The car was recovered two days later in Nahant, Mass with two men arrested.

  • July 5, 1913- The first female Portsmouth Police Officer, Miss Vera Virginia Bash, was sworn in with arrest powers to help "the citizens of Portsmouth feel assured that she will make the young people of Portsmouth better, morally, physically, and mentally…" She was dismissed just 6 months later on January 3rd, 1914 for reasons unclear although the Portsmouth Herald Newspaper reports "The only fault to be found with Miss Vera Virginia Bash, the young woman who was employed to make Portsmouth a spotless town, was that she was too good looking. Her beauty interfered with her work. Just how it interfered is not made plain….The presumption is that no one had the hardness of heart to tell the young woman that beauty is not an asset to the Police Department." 

  • 1923 - During the prohibition years,the Portsmouth Police were very busy making weekly arrests for whiskey running. It was not unusual for Canadian whiskey to be loaded in 1,000 quart barrels, and transported to Portsmouth by truck. Portsmouth Police also seized illegal loads of whiskey, gin and cognac that were transported by ships into the Harbor. On April 3, 1923 three men from Haverhill, Mass (James A. Freeman, Harold Sawyer and George Gilbert) were fined $50, given 60 days suspended sentence and ordered to pay court costs after Dover PD tipped Officers Dennis Kelley and Frank Demerse the day before, that these men were driving to Portsmouth with illegal liquor in the car. The officers found the car and the men on Maplewood locating 9 gallons of alcohol hidden inside the car. 

  • Nov. 1, 1935 Portsmouth Herald -"E. Edward Scarponi, who was appointed a patrolman by the Police Commission to fill the vacancy caused by the death of the late officer Samuel P. Sullivan, assumes his duties tonight. He is the first descendant of the Italian race to be made a member of the regular force. He is a native of Portsmouth High School, class of 1930."- He would later retire as Deputy Marshall and served the court as a bail commissioner in his retirement.

  • 1942 - James McCaffrey age 72 shaking hands with Paul Connors age 24. Both members of Portsmouth PD and represented both the youngest and oldest police officers in NH at the time.

  • October 13, 1948 - The Portsmouth Police Relief Association was established.

  • 1949-Nearly 600 people, including the Governor Charles Dale attend the first ever Portsmouth Policeman’s Ball at the Community Center on Daniel Street. A concert is played from 8 to 9pm and the dancing lasts until 1am. All proceeds go to the newly established Police Relief Association to be given to charity. The streets of Portsmouth are patrolled by “guest policemen” including 2 Concord Officers, 4 State Troopers and 2 Special Portsmouth Police Officers. The Portsmouth Herald newspaper states “Portsmouth’s Policemen probably achieved more public good-will than they have in years when they staged their first ever benefit ball Monday…They were hospitable hosts…expressing the attitude that these cops are a good bunch of fellows after all”.

  • Jan 16th, 1950- The Portsmouth Police asked the FBI to help establish a 3 week training school for Portsmouth Police Officers (a full 21 years before the NH Police Training Academy is formed). Exeter and Dover Police express interest in attending this school as well. The class is held at the Junior High School from 2pm until 4pm and then from 7pm to 9pm five days a week. They graduate the first class on January 25th. Classes include Criminal Law, Laboratory Aids to Policemen, Crime Scene Searches, Techniques and Mechanics of arrest, and interviewing techniques.

  • Mid 1950's - City Marshal Martin O. Bentz, is a big supporter of the curfew law recently passed. It read that at 9:00pm a whistle would sound each night to indicate that all children under the age of 16 would need to return home. This curfew was necessary to "curb the nocturnal wanderings of teenagers" who pose "a constant problem to police," according to the Portsmouth Herald on August 22, 1956. The article further stated that young girls must be protected from predators and that property was being destroyed by these juveniles "when they're in a destructive mood". 

  • In 1953 there were four walking beats and two cruiser beats. The walking beats still used call boxes to communicate with police headquarters. They were made of plywood, had a light on the top that lit up and a horn that sounded when headquarters triggered it. One was placed at the Kearsarge Hotel and one on the pole on Vaughn Street. The bank beat had one on the side of Patterson’s Paint Store and the north end beat had one at the foot of Russell and Market Streets. The Creek beat did not have a call box and the officer was required to periodically call in from the Public Works garage located on Albany Street. Police headquarters also moved in 1953 from City Hall that was on Daniel Street to the recently vacated Rockingham County Jail on Penhallow Street.

  • On January 26th, 2004 the Roll Call Room inside the Police Station was officially dedicated in the memory of Master Patrol Officer Lloyd Tibbetts. Officer Tibbetts served the City of Portsmouth for 32 years from December 3rd, 1966 until his retirement on September 30th, 1998. On December 5, 2002, Lloyd suffered a massive heart attack at his home and died. He was a very popular officer both with his peers and with the community he loved. This dedication ceremony filled the Roll Call Room with his family and many of those people he worked with and those that he served. Police Chief Michael Magnant echoed the feelings of many in the room by calling this "a bittersweet gathering". The walls of this hallowed room are now decorated with a painting of Lloyd and several old photographs of Lloyd in uniform. He will live on as a model police officer and a witty, compassionate, kind person.

All views contained within this publication are those of the author, Dr. David J. Ferland, and is not intended to be the views and opinions of the Portsmouth NH Police Department. The purpose of this web site is for the entertainment of its visitors and all rights have been reserved. No use is permitted which will infringe on the copyright without the express written consent of the copyright owner. 
Copyright 2009-2014 by Dr. David J. Ferland, DavidFerlandK9@gmail.com
Copyright 2009-2013 by Dr.David "Lou" Ferland

Market Square circa 1923
Portsmouth NH Police Station
The photo is taken from one of the training books.