A Brief History of the Lancaster Bureau of Police

Mayor George Sanderson formed the Lancaster City Police force in 1865. The first Chief of Police was Charles R. Frailey who oversaw 21 night policemen who were successful in restoring order.

The first lock up was located in the basement of the Fulton Hall, now known as the Fulton Opera House, and remained there from 1852 until 1868.

Today the Lancaster Bureau of Police is a full service police department providing service to the City of Lancaster and from 1970 to 2009, to Lancaster Township on a contractual basis. The Bureau is the largest and only urban law enforcement agency in Lancaster County, serving a population of 55,000 residents. Current manpower consists of approximately 147 sworn officers and 46 civilian employees. 

Recent Reorganization

For the past several years, the Bureau has stepped up its implementation of community oriented policing. 

Since January 2003, the department continues to address quality of life violations and provide the type of response necessary to quiet noisy cars and groups, interrupt drug trafficking, and provide the opportunity for platoon patrol officers to be proactive, more visible and conduct more investigations.

In 2016, the city was divided into eight Neighborhood Policing Districts. These districts are integral to the overall service delivery formula. A group of officers, one from each of the four platoons, are assigned around-the-clock responsibility for providing police services to these relatively small geographical areas. Each of the officers is held accountable for traditional, as well as proactive, police service within the sector. The officer will respond to calls for service, engage in problem-solving strategies, form partnerships, and engage in crime prevention programs for residents, crime watch groups, and business owners, within the sector.


The Bureau of Police has continued to adjust to a multitude of organizational and cultural changes over the past several years. Since successful community policing must be a bureau-wide philosophy, officers and supervisors must fully understand and appreciate the problem solving process. Continued training, experimentation, and evolution are expected. The Bureau of Police will work diligently to continue positive collaboration with the community.