Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Law Enforcement in Lovecraft Country: Part 3

There is, however, another state police force operating in Massachusetts in the 1920s, although none of its units are based in Lovecraft Country. The Metropolitan Park Commission Police was established in 1893 to police the state-run Metropolitan Park System established the same year. In 1919, with the formation of the Metropolitan District Commission (by the merger of the Metropolitan Park Commission, Metropolitan Sewer Board and Metropolitan Water Board) it was renamed the Metropolitan District Police (MDP). It existed under this name until 1992, when it was merged into the Massachusetts State Police. There's a good unofficial website on the force.

The MDP is actually considerably larger than the MSP in the 1920s. While it is primarily concerned with policing the state parks, its officers are armed, have full state police powers, and are sometimes drafted in to assist with general policing in emergencies. It has used Indian motorcycles since 1905, and now has considerable numbers of them. It also has a few cars and in addition uses horses and launches. It has police boxes installed for communications throughout the areas it polices. The MDP has a detective element (detective officers being known as inspectors) and some female patrol officers were appointed in the 1920s.

The MDP is organised into divisions, each policing a specific state park area and with its own police station, which is also usually the headquarters of that park division. The divisional superintendent is also the captain of police and is assisted by a lieutenant, 2 or more sergeants and a force of patrolmen (usually 20-30).

Blue Hills Division Station: Situated at 685 Hillside Street, Milton, it is responsible for policing the Blue Hills Reservation and is also responsible for the Stony Brook Station, which polices the Stony Brook Reservation. It is now the Milton MSP station. Contemporary photos and a modern photo.

Charles River Lower Basin Division Station: Opened in 1910. The former station is now adjacent to the current Boston MSP station, situated at 250 Leverett Circle, Boston. Contemporary photos.

Charles River Upper Basin Division Station: Opened as the Charles River Speedway (Upper Basin) District Station in 1899. Renamed in 1910. Situated at 1400 Soldiers Field Road, Brighton. It is also responsible for the Beaver Brook Station in Waltham, which polices the Beaver Brook Reservation, and the Riverside Station, which opened in Norumbega Park, Auburndale in 1904. The Brighton MSP station is now adjacent to the former divisional station. Contemporary photos.

Middlesex Fells Division Station: Located in the Roosevelt Circle area of Medford and covers the Middlesex Fells, Alewife Brook and Mystic River Reservations. It was relocated in the 1950s and is now Medford MSP station. Contemporary photo.

Nantasket Beach Division Station: Opened in 1904 at Hull. Contemporary photos.

Revere Beach Division Station: The first MDP station, opened in 1899. Situated on Revere Beach Boulevard, just across from Revere Beach (designated a public beach in 1895 and the USA's oldest), it has a distinctive tower. The lieutenant actually answers to the superintendent of the Charles River Lower Basin Division, although Revere Beach has more policemen. It is also responsible for the Nahant Beach Station, situated in the beach bathhouse. It is now Revere MSP station. Contemporary photos and a modern photo.

MDP uniforms are a distinctive light grey, with thigh-length (or longer), closed-collared jackets and the strangely small peaked caps beloved of many American police forces in that era (and still beloved of American fire departments) - they only changed from helmets at the end of the 1910s.

Contemporary photos of police launches and a police ambulance.

Law Enforcement in Lovecraft Country: Part 2

The Massachusetts State Constabulary was formed in 1865, making it the oldest state law enforcement agency in the United States. Initially it was a small force charged only with investigations, and over the subsequent years it was renamed first the Massachusetts Detective Force and then the Massachusetts District Police. In 1921, it was reorganised, expanded and renamed the Massachusetts State Police Patrol, and its remit was expanded to patrolling rural areas of the state which were poorly served by the municipal police departments (Massachusetts, as previously stated, having no county police presence). Initially it had only fifty officers, but its strength probably increased considerably throughout the decade.

MSPP officers have the power to enforce state and federal laws throughout Massachusetts. Their primary mode of transport in the 1920s is still the horse (since many rural roads are still unsuitable for motor vehicles), but they increasingly also use motorcycles, particularly as patrolling major highways is added to their brief. Some cars are also acquired. Investigators could well encounter a motorcycle-borne MSPP officer while driving on the Aylesbury Pike.

The organisation of the MSPP in the 1920s is not easy to establish. A couple of histories of the agency have been written, but they are out of print and don't seem to be available in libraries outside Massachusetts. Some information can be gleaned from the MSP website, but it's not particularly good on history.

Troop A

Covers the northeastern part of the state, including Essex County. Established in 1921.

Andover Barracks: The current colonial-style barracks was built in the late 1920s and opened by 1928, but there was probably a barracks in the Andover area before this, as it was designated A-1. Situated on Route 125, near the junction with Route 28, and responsible for policing both highways, as well as the local rural area. Still occupied by the MSP today.

Concord Barracks: Situated on Route 2 in West Concord and responsible for patrolling that, as well as the local area. Another barracks in identical colonial style to Andover, apparently built in the 1930s by the Works Progress Administration. Still occupied by the MSP. Just across the road from the Massachusetts State Reformatory and provided support to the warders there during prison riots.

Framingham Barracks: Troop A Headquarters. Situated at 450 Worcester Road (Route 9) and a typical early 1930s colonial-style building.

Topsfield Barracks: Situated on Route 1. Identical in appearance to other colonial-style barracks, so probably also opened in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Now used as the headquarters of Topsfield Police Department, having been replaced by the new MSP Barracks in Newbury in 1987. This barracks almost certainly covers the Lovecraft Country part of Essex County in the 1920s. Despite it being mentioned by Chaosium that the nearest State Police Barracks to Arkham is Danvers, the Danvers Barracks didn't actually open until 1994 to house a unit not established (at Lynnfield, later moving to Peabody) until 1956. The Topsfield Barracks are about 9 miles from Arkham, 12 miles from Kingsport, 6½ miles from Bolton, and 11½ miles from Innsmouth.

Troop B

Covers the western part of the state. Established in 1921.

Cheshire Barracks: Established in the mid-1920s, but replaced by Pittsfield Barracks in 1937 (although it moved back to a brand-new building on Route 8 in Cheshire in 1987).

Lee Barracks: Troop B's first barracks, established in 1921. The present colonial-style barracks, situated on Route 20 (215 Laurel Street), were built in 1931 and are still used by the MSP. The original barracks was a barn in East Lee (also probably on Route 20), with the horses housed on the ground floor and the troopers in the loft.

Leeds Barracks: Troop B Headquarters. Situated in a converted barn and residence. It was replaced by a new colonial-style barracks in Northampton (555 King Street on Routes 5 and 10), still used by the MSP, in 1931.

Monson Barracks: Established in the early 1920s and issued with at least one patrol car. Replaced by Springfield Barracks in 1987. Probably situated on Route 32. See also the Hampden Police Department website.

Russell Barracks: Housed in a wooden building known as Fort Apache, about a mile to the west of the present barracks on Route 20 built in 1959.

Shelburne Falls Barracks: Another colonial-style building which looks to have been constructed in the 1930s. No hard evidence it existed in the 1920s. Situated at 289 Mohawk Trail (Route 2).

Troop C

Covers the central area of the state. Presumably established in 1921 or 1922.

Brookfield Barracks: Another colonial-style building erected in 1930 on High Street and still used by the MSP. Situated on Route 9, the main road between Boston and New York.

Charlton Barracks: There is a current Charlton Barracks built in 1957 on the Massachusetts Turnpike, but it appears there may have been another which has now been replaced by the Sturbridge Barracks.

Grafton Barracks: A colonial-style building dating from 1931 at 44 Worcester Street (Route 140). Replaced by a new barracks in Millbury in 2006, it now houses the MSP Museum.

Holden Barracks: Troop C Headquarters. A colonial-style building at 612 Main Street (Route 122A) dating from 1930

Petersham Barracks: Moved to Westminster at some time in the 1920s or early 1930s, then to the present colonial-style building on Route 2 in Athol in 1934. This is the barracks that covers Winchendon, the site of the fictional Aylesbury, so could probably be replaced by Aylesbury Barracks in a Lovecraft Country setting.

Troop D

Covers the southeastern area of the state. Established in 1922.

Middleboro Barracks: Troop D Headquarters. Replaced by a new building elsewhere in Middleboro in 1956.

Nantucket Barracks: Situated at 83 North Liberty Street and covers Nantucket Island.

North Dartmouth Barracks: Situated at 262 State Road (US Route 6). Replaced by a brand-new building in 2006, although the old building still exists

Norwell Barracks: A colonial-style building presumably dating from the early 1930s at 6 West Street.

Oak Bluffs Barracks: Situated on Temahigan Road and covers Martha's Vineyard and the Elizabeth Islands.

South Yarmouth Barracks: Another colonial-style building presumably dating from the early 1930s at 1171 State Road (Route 28).

West Bridgewater Barracks: Closed in 1956.

Photographs on the website of the Massachusetts State Police Museum show that the uniform in the 1920s and 1930s was surprisingly modern, with a peaked cap, riding breeches, knee boots, and a thigh-length leather coat for cold-weather wear. Since the photos are black-and-white, the uniform colours are difficult to determine (I believe the current "French and Electric Blue" of the MSP wasn't adopted until the 1930s). A 1931 Ford Model A Cruiser is shown on another page. It does appear to be in colours very close to the modern colours: mainly dark blue, with light blue (not quite the modern electric blue, but close) doors, roof and bonnet (hood) top, with "STATE POLICE" written down the sides of the bonnet and the MSP badge on the doors.

It seems reasonable to assume, given the force's small size in the 1920s, that each MSP barracks was staffed by only a handful of men (probably a sergeant and 3-4 troopers).

Law Enforcement in Lovecraft Country: Part 1

There are several references in Chaosium publications to Essex County sheriff's deputies performing policing duties in rural areas of Essex County. However, like other New England states, Massachusetts subscribes to the town system. What this means is that, unlike most American states, the entire state is divided into municipalities, with no unincorporated areas. While in the 1920s the counties in Massachusetts did have more administrative responsibilities than they do today, it appears that they never did have responsibility for policing. They did have sheriffs, but they were responsible only for the legal aspects of sheriffs' work (serving summonses etc) and for operating the county jails.

Policing in the rural areas of Lovecraft Country therefore would be carried out either by the police department of the local town or city within whose boundaries the area fell or by the Massachusetts State Police Patrol. Founded in 1865 as the Massachusetts State Constabulary, the MSPP only had a handful of officers until 1921, when it was renamed and expanded to a grand total of fifty officers. In an era before major highways, its main responsibility was to police the rural areas of the state, which its officers mainly still did on horseback in the 1920s (although they did have a few motor vehicles). Given the small size of both most urban police departments and of the MSPP, it is likely that rural communities would be hard-pressed to get hold of any policeman for anything less than a major crime. A motorised policeman harassing motorists in a rural area as described in the copy of The Arkham Advertiser included with Arkham Unveiled seems a very unlikely occurrence.

This, of course, is one of the problems with writing scenarios for roleplaying games set in the historical real world - there is a tendency to assume that everyday things then were much like they are now and, in the case of law enforcement, that a phone call will summon a police officer in a fast car within a few minutes to deal with your problem. That, of course, was simply not the case in any country in the 1920s, outside the major cities. It was particularly not the case in the United States, with its highly decentralised local government. The image, garnered from decades of Hollywood films, of every county being patrolled by deputy sheriffs in police cruisers is simply fantasy in the pre-war period, when many American counties had no real law enforcement at all. The sheriff served process and possibly operated the county jail, but rarely did he do much real policing, even in states where he was theoretically supposed to. Ironically, the best rural policing was probably in the Old West frontier states, formerly known for their lawless reputations, where the sheriffs' departments had far more experience of real police work. Most eastern sheriffs were predominantly legal officers and not policemen. In the majority of rural areas in America, if you had a real problem you might call the state police (if there was a state police - most states didn't have one), but in minor cases the only recourse was likely to be a local constable, probably part-time and likely unpaid, with few powers, no training and little experience. In European countries you'd have a little more luck, as policing was more centralised, but even there the first responder would likely be a single local officer on a bicycle with no real experience of serious crime.

Initially, I thought the Arkham Police Department, as described in Arkham Unveiled, with a chief, a captain, a detective lieutenant, three sergeants, two detectives and 15-20 patrolmen, seemed to be surprisingly large for a smallish town in 1920s America. However, a bit of research suggests that it is not beyond the realms of possibility. A photograph of the Andover Police Department in the early 1920s on their website suggests the department had fourteen officers at that time and Andover is probably somewhat smaller than Arkham.

A comparison of the real-world towns in Essex County could be interesting. The following table shows the 1920s and modern population of each of these towns and the full-time strength of its police department today.

Town 1920 Population 2000 Population Chief Deputy Chief Detective Captain Captain Detective Lieutenant Lieutenant Detective Sergeant Sergeant Detective Officer Total Inhabitants per police officer
Amesbury 9,894 16,429 1 -- -- -- 1 ? -- ? 3 ? ? ?
Andover ? 31,247 1 1 -- -- -- 5 1 7 6 33 52 600.9
Beverly 27,478 39,862 1 -- -- 2 1 4 1 8 2 45 64 622.8
Boxford ? 7,921 1 -- -- -- -- 2 -- -- -- 10 13 609.3
Danvers 11,893 25,212 1 -- -- 2 -- 3 1 7 3 30 51 494.3
Essex 1,654 3,267 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 2 8 12 272.2
Georgetown ? 7,377 1 -- -- -- -- 2 1 2 1 4 11 670.6
Gloucester 25,101 30,273 1 ? ? ? 1 ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Groveland ? 6,038 1 1 -- -- -- -- -- 1 1 4 8 754.7
Hamilton ? 8,315 1 -- -- -- -- 1 -- 1 1 9 13 639.6
Haverhill 55,884 58,969 1 1 ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Ipswich 6,098 12,987 1 -- -- -- -- 1 -- 5 2 16 25 519.5
Lawrence 96,723 72,043 1 1 1 2 2 4+ 3 9+ 23 ? ? ?
Lynn 106,081 89,050 1 2 1 3 ? 15 ? 18 ? 128 168 530.0
Lynnfield ? 11,542 1 -- -- -- -- -- 1 3 1 11 18 641.2
Manchester 2,599 5,228 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- 3 1 10 15 348.5
Marblehead 8,414 20,377 1 ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Merrimac ? 6,504 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- 1 -- 5 7 929.1
Methuen 21,377 43,789 1 1 -- 2 1 ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
Middleton ? 7,744 1 -- -- -- -- -- 1 2 -- 8 12 645.3
Nahant ? 3,632 1 -- -- -- -- 1 -- 3 -- 7 12 302.7
Newbury ? 6,717 1 -- -- -- -- 1 -- 3 1 10 16 419.8
Newburyport 16,618 17,189 1 -- -- -- -- 2 -- 5 2 21 31 554.5
North Andover ? 27,202 1 -- -- -- 1 1 -- 7 4 20 34 800.0
Peabody 21,677 48,129 1 2 -- 5 1 1 4 12 9 59 94 512.0
Rockport 2,345 7,767 1 -- -- -- -- -- 2 2 -- 10 15 517.8
Rowley 2,152 5,500 1 -- -- -- 1 -- -- 2 -- 8 12 458.3
Salem 44,688 40,922 1 -- 1 3 1 7 2 11 6 47 79 518.0
Salisbury ? 7,827 1 -- -- -- -- -- 1 4 1 5 12 652.2
Saugus ? 26,078 1 1 -- -- 1 3 1 ? 6 ? ? ?
Swampscott ? 14,412 1 -- -- 1 -- 4 1 5 3 17 32 450.4
Topsfield 2,121 6,141 1 ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? 10 614.1
Wenham ? 4,440 1 -- -- 1 -- -- 1 2 1 14 20 222
West Newbury ? 4,149 1 -- -- -- -- -- -- 2 -- 4 7 592.7

Other than revealing a huge disparity between the numbers of officers compared to the population throughout the county and an even larger disparity in the usage of police ranks in different towns, it also shows that on average an Essex County police department had one officer for every 551.6 inhabitants. Assuming that 1920s police departments had about half the officers per head that they do now (a purely random assumption based on informed guesswork), then Arkham, with a population of 22,562 (according to the list at the back of Tales of the Miskatonic Valley) should have about twenty police officers, which makes the Arkham Unveiled figures about right. Kingsport, with a population of 7,834, should have about seven. Chaosium's Kingsport says that it has four, and then goes on later in the same paragraph to suggest it has more, so maybe we should add a couple. Bolton, with a population of 15,539 (and appearing to correspond almost exactly to Hamilton on the TotMV map), should have about fourteen.

Frankly, I'd be surprised if a 1920s police department outside a major city like Boston would have any detectives. That's just my gut feeling, however, based on a knowledge of police history in other countries, and I may be wrong about the situation in the United States. By and large, detectives were few and far between in the 1920s. Major cities may have had reasonably large and efficient detective forces, but many police forces, even quite large ones in developed countries, had few detectives or none at all, especially in rural areas. Most police work in all countries was carried out by uniformed officers with no knowledge of criminal investigation whatsoever. Even in countries with national or large regional police forces, the specialist detectives rarely operated outside the major cities. For gaming purposes I can see why keepers would want there to be a couple, though, and my version of Arkham will probably retain them.

I was also initially surprised to read in Chaosium's books that Arkham has three police cars and two motorcycles and Kingsport has two police cars. Most world police forces had few or no motor vehicles in the 1920s. With a few exceptions, the British police didn't really start adopting them until the 1930s at the earliest. However, my research does show that quite a number of small town police departments in Essex County were operating cars and motorcycles by the 1920s, so the descriptions in the sourcebooks are probably reasonable. The United States embraced the motor car with far more enthusiasm than anywhere else in the world, and this appears to have also applied to the police.

Innsmouth has three, probably part-time, constables who function more or less as a police force elsewhere, as constables often did at the time. Innsmouth, being a very weird place, has no real reason to conform to historical reality in any case.

Arkham appears to be situated more or less at the location of the real-life Centerville, a neighbourhood (i.e. village) in Beverly, and its territory therefore probably occupies part of what in the real world is the northeastern part of the City of Beverly ("city" or "town" in Massachusetts, of course, referring to the whole area and not just the built-up area of the municipality) and possibly the eastern part of the Town of Wenham as well (note that Wenham does not appear on the Chaosium map, although there's probably no particular reason it shouldn't exist in Lovecraft Country). Kingsport seems to be more or less Beverly Farms, another neighbourhood, and thus occupies the southeastern part of the City of Beverly. Bolton seems to be Hamilton, and can thus entirely replace the Town of Hamilton (poor Hamilton!). Innsmouth appears to more or less correspond to Little Neck in Ipswich, and its territory is therefore the northeastern part of the real-world Town of Ipswich.

Outside Essex County, we have Aylesbury, Dunwich and Foxfield. Aylesbury appears to more or less correspond with Winchendon, a town in Worcester County. Since Aylesbury is referred to as being the seat of the fictitious Aylesbury County, we can probably assume that Aylesbury County occupies the northern half of the real Worcester County. Dunwich is described as a township and unincorporated community in Return to Dunwich, but neither of these terms are used in Massachusetts. It is tempting, given its small size and isolated location, to look on Dunwich as a village within the Town of Aylesbury, but the fact it appears to have its own town government, with selectmen, a justice of the peace and a constable, mitigates against this (since villages in Massachusetts have no official existence as local government entities). Dunwich is probably therefore best seen as a town in its own right, small, rural and almost-forgotten, in the woods between Aylesbury and Ashburnham. Foxfield, created by Miskatonic River Press, is in Middlesex County, north of Tewksbury.