Law Enforcement in Lakeland dates back to the time of the city's incorporation in 1885, at this time the city elected its first City Marshal, George F. Newell won this position, and as evidence it is shown that this was more of a part time position as the City Marshal was also the town tax collector. It would be another 8 years before the Marshal got a deputy.
In 1914 the city government reorganized and an official police department was created with R.L.Marshall as Lakeland's first police chief. The informal nature of the department was still evident at this time as the city failed to provide patrol cars. As a result, when a call came in officers either had to take a taxi or hitch hike to answer calls beyond walking distance.
In 1920 the police department got its first patrol cars and even then communication remained a problem, the patrol cars did not come equiped with radio's. This problem was solved by Chief "Uncle" Dan Wilson by having the crews at the Lake Mirror power plant, blast the whistle during the day and blink the street lights at night when patrol cars were wanted at the station.
In 1934 the patrol cars were equiped with one way radio's.
In 1938 the patrol cars were equiped with two way radio's making communication between the dispatcher and the officers possiable.
In 1954 the first bicycle patrol patrol began in downtown Lakeland area, the bicycles came equiped with a basket on the handlebars to hold their battery operated "handi-talkies".
Also in 1954 the first African-American officers were hired by the police department. Samuel King and Samuel Williams, in January of that year, and in March of the same year they were joined by Edgar Pickett,Jr. and Thomas E. Hodge.
In 1963, nine years later, the police department hired Leila Plaire as its first female officer, who joined as a meter maid in 1956.
In 1963, after many years of sharing space with the fire station, the police department opened its new headquarters on Lake Wire, this new police department headquarters provided the much needed space and was considered one of the most advanced facilities in the state of Florida at the time.
In 1980 the police department established its award winning K-9 unit, with a German Shepherd named "Sarge"as its first officer and his handler officer Ron Bowling. The K-9 unit became one of the more visable symbols and an integral part of the department.
The police department continued to grow for 20 years along with the city of Lakeland and soon found it had outgrown its state of the art facility on Lake Wire. The headquarters became so crowded that the Criminal Investigations Division had to move out into seperate quarters in 1989.
In 1991 ground was broken for a new police station on Massachusetts Ave. in Lakeland and in 1993 moved into its new and current headquarters.
The current police chief, Roger Boatner joined the department in 1976 and has rose up through the ranks to his current position.