In early pioneer communities fires were a constant threat due to homes built from wood, heated by open fire places, and lit by candles.  Firefighting equipment was quite primitive during that time. In the 1860s, a fire department was created headed and by Captain John McEwan. By 1875, the volunteer fire department consisted of three horse pulled hose carts and two hand drawn hose carts. There were five companies strategically located within the city to provide quick responses. As Bay City grew, so did the fire department.

Earliest Record

The earliest record known of the existence of the Bay City Police Department is in the City Directory of 1877 - 1878. Initially, the department consisted of two Marshals.  One Marshal named James A. Wells and an unnamed Assistant Marshal.

Need for Growth

In the 1879 - 1880 City Directory, James Miller was Marshal with eight patrolmen. The many liquor and gambling establishments that existed during the thriving lumbering era due to the rampant lawlessness caused one reason for the growth of the department. Thus, the establishment of the Police Department became a necessity. Records show that in 1881, Nathaniel N Murphy became Chief of Police of the Bay City Police Department.

Separate Departments

Until 1905, there were two cities adjoining the Saginaw River, Bay City and West Bay City, each having their own separate police departments. Chief George V. Davis was in charge of the West Bay City Police Department located at Midland and Walnut Streets. Bay City's Police Department was located on Saginaw between Center and Fifth Street.

Department Moving

The Bay City Police Department moved from the Saginaw Street location to City Hall at Tenth Street and Washington Avenue when the building was completed in 1894. In 1905, the two cities consolidated into the present Bay City, merging the two police departments into one.

Changing Times

The year 1915 heralded in the beginning of motor driven equipment. Fire alarm boxes would send a telegraphic signal to the nearest fire department that were strategically located throughout the city. The worst fire in Bay City took place on July 25, 1892 in the south end. Nearly everything from Jennison Street to the river between Thirty-second and Thirty-eighth Streets was burned to the ground.


The City of Bay City maintained separate Police and Fire departments until 2012 when the City was faced with a projected $2 million deficit. The Bay City Commissioners approved the consolidation of the Police and Fire Departments under one department, the Bay City Department of Public Safety. Police Chief Michael Cecchini was promoted to Public Safety Director to lead the new department. Immediately police officers began cross-training as certified firefighters. The newly cross-trained police officers became Public Safety Officers capable of law enforcement and firefighting duties.

Photo Gallery

Access a collection of historical photos from the department.