In 1850, miners flocked into California in search of gold and the fortune it promised them. They came into Stockton, a small tent town with a minimum of laws. The first jail here was a French brig, the "Susanne," located at Mormon Slough near Center Street. It was rented to local officials for $300 a month. Gold was then worth about $16 an ounce. Gambling was rampant, so gambling houses were many and anywhere in this makeshift camp. The population was overwhelmingly male and from all walks of life.
The Stockton Police Department was founded August 14, 1850. The first Chief of Police was City Marshal W.W. Willoughby. The City Marshal was authorized to hire no more than 20 staff at that time.
On Saturday, August 17, 1850, at one o'clock in the afternoon, the following were sworn as members of the first Police Department of Stockton:
- Captain John D. Callahan
- Assistant Captain S.G. Philips
- Sergeant Samuel Catts
- Sergeant Philip McClusky
- Officers: Elihu White, Peter Earl, James Lynch, Charles Thurston, Charles W. Bradford, Thomas Sayer, Samuel Gensler, Lucian Fletcher, Michael Hart, Peter Wood, Henry W. Derby and Alexander Jackson.
The first station house was located at the corner of Center and Market Streets. In February 1861, the City Council created the position of Chief of Police. The annual salary was $900, and the chief would be elected by the public. On May 6, 1862, George E. Taber was elected the first Chief of Police for the City of Stockton. In 1886, Stockton Police Officers were required to wear blue uniforms and a six-point star badge. In October 1889, a new uniform was decided upon by the Chief.
Each badge cost $5. In 1907, the Department had grown to 18 members which included the Chief, Officers, and clerks. The population was around 25,000, and the Police Department handled about 600 cases per year.
- 1849 - City of Stockton is Incorporated; one of the first in the Republic of California.
- 1850 - Stockton begins with City Marshals and then the first Police Chief is appointed in 1861.
- 1912 - Traffic Unit with a motorcycle officers begins; one of the first in California.
- 1959 - The fist Canine Unit on the West Coast begins at SPD.
- 1969 - The first Northern California SWAT Team forms; One of the first in the Nation.
- 1980 - Early Community Policing Principles and Technology Focus at SPD.
- 1981 - Stockton Crime Stoppers: First Tip-Reward Program in California
- 1997 - First West Coast Department to implement a Ceasefire Program.
- 2012 - First Real-Time-Policing on West Coast and one of the first with "Smarter Policing."
- 2013 - One of the first Neighborhood Betterment Teams.
- 2015 - Stockton: The only city in the Western United States for National Initiative on Truth and Justice.
- 2015 - "Principled Policing," is introduced and spreads Statewide.