The Amherst Police Department was formed in 1890, just one year after the town of Amherst was incorporated and the population was 3,781. The first Chief of Police Dennis Madden was paid $391.51 for his first 11 months of service to the town, while his partner and Constable A.L. Jones was paid $366.63.
For a brief period in 1897, the Police Department was reduced to only one person: Chief Madden. The town counsel decided that in a law-abiding community such as Amherst, there was little need for more than one police officer. Most incidents that police dealt with were reportedly ‘intoxicated strangers’ and ‘tramps’ caught riding the trains for free. At this point in the history of Amherst, the population had risen to more than 5000 people.
Since this time, the Police Department has grown considerably and has occupied many different locations. The first recorded location in 1905 was in the upstairs of the Fire Department on Laplanche Street. From there, the police department moved back and forth every few years until a new Police Station was constructed in 1937 on Prince Arthur Street. For the next 26 years the department occupied this building. The department moved out in 1963 returning again to the same location in 1967. In 1977 the building was condemned and the department moved its headquarters to the old Bank of Montreal building at the corner of Laplanche and Victoria Streets. During the years at the Prince Arthur Street location, the department grew from 3 full time members in 1937 to 16 members in 1974. In 1996 the department moved once again and is now located at 45 Victoria Street.
Despite the need for a motorized patrol, the Amherst Police did not have a police car to patrol the town for many years. The first motorized patrols were not conducted until 1946 when officers would ‘borrow’ the public works truck during the night shift from 5:00pm to 8:00am in the morning. The first police car was not purchased until 1947.
Over the years, the department evolved and grew to keep up with the demands and needs of the community, adapting to new problems and expanding police training with new technology and investigative techniques.
Currently the Amherst Police Department has 24 full-time members including several specialized sections and ranks. Located at 21 Havelock Street, the department has remained an important part of the town of Amherst and its history.
(Leonard Harkness (1989) History of the Amherst Police Department. Amherst NS., B.H. Publications Ltd.)