The First Chief

In his August 1849 inaugural address, John Geary, the first elected alcalde, or magistrate, in Gold Rush San Francisco, reminded his newly elected town council that it was lacking "a single policeman” or even “the means of confining a prisoner for an hour."  Subsequently, the council selected Malachi Fallon as San Francisco's first chief of police. Fallon in turn appointed a deputy captain, three sergeants, and 30 officers.  

Fallon was born in County Athlone, Ireland, in 1814, and moved with his family as a young boy to New York City. As a young man, he ran a saloon frequented by politicians and served for a time as keeper at the Tombs Prison. When the gold mania seized the East Coast in late 1848, Fallon headed for California where he opened a store in Jamestown. In July 1849 he made a business trip to San Francisco, where, as he later wrote, "There were on Trial some persons for Rioting. The merchants of the town, having heard of my former connections with Police matters, called to see me and offered inducements to remain and organize a police. The council met and appointed me Chief of Police at a salary of six thousand dollars a year.”

Fallon’s cadre had no training, uniforms or equipment of any kind.  It initially operated out of a schoolhouse on Portsmouth Square.