Department History

Charles Francis White

The history of the Fulton Police Department goes back to the incorporation of the city in 1858.  During the pioneer days, the City Fulton was protected by a “city constable,” which is a title that traces its origins to England. 

The first Constable on record was William T. Snell, who served in 1859.  A year later, John E Kent served in the same capacity. 

In 1861, the Civil War had just begun between the United States of America and Confederate States of America.  Missouri was considered a “border state” and sent men and supplies to both the north and south.  This literally put brothers fighting against brothers on both sides. George Nichols, who was the son of George Nichols Sr, who owned the land upon which Fulton was founded, was serving as the Constable of the City of Fulton in 1861. At the same time, he was a member of the Missouri State Guard (MSG).  The Missouri State Guard was established in 1861 by the Missouri General Assembly and were southern sympathizers.  They were formed to repel the Union troops which were invading central Missouri. 

On July 17, 1861 a force of about 500 to 600 Union troops set up a skirmishing line five miles South of Fulton.  They tied up their horses and hid in the woods to set up an ambush north of Overton Run Creek near Jefferson City Road. 

Getting information about the Union troops assembling, and believing that Fulton was going to be attacked, the MSG assembled to confront the troops.  One of those men was Fulton Constable George Nichols.  Apparently, the battle that ensued did not go as planned.  The troops on both sides began to “fire randomly.”  The State troops fled. The Union army did not pursue but later occupied the city of Fulton setting up camp on the court house lawn.  There were several who were wounded and one died, George Nichols.  According to the Fulton Missouri Telegraph newspaper, “This was a most unfortunate and ill-advised fight.  We have lost one of our best citizens, Mr. Nichols, a man whose virtues are comparable with the best.”

Later, a man by the name of Charles Frances White worked as “night watch” in Fulton during the late 1800’s. During that era, it was common for police and fire personnel to wear a British-style uniform.

In the 1930’s, law enforcement in the City of Fulton consisted of a town marshal. The last town Marshal was Tom Edson. Back then, the city only issued a gun belt, hat, and badge. The rest of the uniform was the officer’s responsibility.

Chief Tom Edison in a Fulton police car.

By the 1940’s, the city had adopted an official police department. At the time, the department consisted of six officers including the first police chief, Tom Edson.

The department owned only one car, which was a 1940’s Chevrolet Business Coupe. The night shift consisted of two officers. Most of the time one of the officers was on foot in the downtown area. Before the use of two-way radios, the city used a light signaling system. The dispatcher would take a call from a citizen. If the dispatcher, usually a police officer, could not handle the call by phone, they would push a button which activated small red lights on poles in the downtown area.

The officer on foot would respond to the station, take the car, and handle the call. He would then return the car to the police department and continue his downtown patrols. The officer on patrol was responsible for checking doors on the shops downtown as well as turning on and off the window display lights.

Officer James Vaughn

The day shift also consisted of two officers. One of the duties of the day shift officers, including the chief, was school crossing duties. (Please see photo of Chief Edson crossing students from the old East School)

In 1950, the City of Fulton hired its first Black police officer.  James Vaughn, who was 52 years old at the time of his hiring, patrolled the northwest section of the town.

By 1956, the department had grown to eight officers, including the police chief.

At one time police, fire, and city hall were all located together in the same building, located at the southwest corner of 4th Street and Market Street. By 1963, the fire department had already moved out.

Members of the Fulton Police Department in 1956.

The police department had grown to 11 officers and three civilian staff. The police department moved out of the old station about 1968 to a former car dealership building located at 510 Market Street.

Today the Fulton Police Department has 27 sworn officers, and seven civilian personnel.

The Fulton Police Department is a progressive department. which is involved in community policing efforts with two officers assigned to the Fulton Housing Authority. The department has three full-time detectives, one assigned to the MUSTANG drug task force and two assigned to do follow up on cases.

Assistant Police Chief W.G. Reifsteck directs traffic at Market Street and 4th Street in 1979.

We also have a Special Tactical Assistance Team (STAT) unit. These specially trained officers are responsible for doing high risk search warrants and arrests.

The Fulton Police Department handled approximately over 18,768 calls for service, made over 2,544 traffic stops, and over 1,500 arrests in 2019.

In August 2012, the department moved into a new building, located at 935 Business 54 South. It was previously the home to the Callaway Electric Cooperative. A year was spent renovating the facility into a modern police station of which we are very proud

Early Police Uniforms in America During the 19th Century



Photo Gallery

Fulton City Marshal Tom Edson patrol downtown Fulton during the 1930's.</center>

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