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Chapter on Watertown Police Department

Chapter on Watertown Fire Department


Watertown Special Police

Watertown Fire Dept Civil Police



1869 Special Police

1. The common council, for the purpose of guarding against the calamities of fire, shall have power to prescribe the limits within which wooden building or buildings of other materials that shall not be considered fire proof, shall not be erected or repaired and to direct that all and any buildings within . . .


7. The common council shall have power to organize a sack [fire] company, which shall be known as sack company number one, to consist of not more than twenty members. Such company shall constitute a part of the fire department, and at fires shall be subject to the control of the chief engineer. The members of said company, either collectively or individually, are hereby authorized and empowered to act as a special police in and for the city of Watertown, and are hereby vested with all the power and authority which now is or may hereafter be vested in any police officer of said city and shall be entitled to all the rights and immunities of the fire department; at fires they shall take charge of all property which may be exposed or endangered, and shall, so far as it may be in their power, preserve the same from injury and destruction . . . Riedl, Ken, Watertown Fire Department: 1858-2007, 2007, pg 48


1876 Watertown Special Police [Fire Police]

A general desire seems to prevail among many of our citizens, and the matter will soon be submitted to the consideration of the Board of Street Commissioners as to the exigency of organizing a Sack Company, to act as a reinforcement to our present police force in cases of great necessity.


Although the city charter expressly provides for an organization of this description [see 1869], still no force of this kind has yet been formed, and without it the efficiency of our Fire Department seems necessarily incomplete. The organization, as provided by the charter, is to comprise not more than twenty men, to constitute a part of the Fire Department and to be subjected to the full control of the chief engineer.


It is understood that each member belonging to the company is virtually constituted a police officer, empowered with the same rights, privileges and authority that are vested in any emissary connected with our city police. Watertown Democrat, 06 22 1876 / Riedl, Ken, Watertown Fire Department: 1858-2007, 2007, pg 84


Sack Company No. 1 was incorporated in 1876 for the purpose of attending fires in the capacity of a special fire police force few now know that they even existed, much less what their role was at the time. Special Police or Fire Police were Volunteer Fire Company members with sworn police powers. They received special police training and were responsible for traffic control, crowd control, fire and incident scene security, apparatus security securing property and, in some instances, station security during calls for service. They hustled when the alarm of fire was heard, many times reaching the scene before the firemen themselves. During times of large-scale or particularly serious small emergencies, the response system could become overwhelmed. To that end, having a trained, equipped group of responders who could supplement fire personnel was an invaluable tool to incident commanders. Riedl, Ken, Watertown Fire Department: 1858-2007, 2007, pgs 84-86



A group of the Watertown Special Police, all Civil War veterans, posed for pictures that were printed as part of a composite gallery; the following individual portraits are derived from that single panel picture. The picture credits a photographer named Fagan as having posed the men shown in the panel.


C. Behnke, William Bittner, Joseph Bliefernicht

Ernest Buending, Ferdinand Buending, W. Dobbratz

Leonard Jaehrling, H. Justmann, L. Kabet

Alfred Kehr, H. Nowak, Charles Piper

Ernest Riemann, F. Rosenbaum, William Schulte

C. F. Wendtland, Charles Zautner Riedl, Ken, Watertown Fire Department: 1858-2007, 2007, pgs 84-86


Watertown Historical Society Collection



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History of Watertown, Wisconsin