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100 Years of Texas City History


Emergency Services: Law Enforcement and Firefighters

Texas City's first law enforcement official was J. A. Seiber, who was appointed City Marshal after the city's incorporation in 1911 at a salary of $90 a month. Seiber's job duties also included the city's animal control operations. Within a year, Seiber resigned his post but not before recommending that the town build its own jail. Current practice at the time was to send prisoners to the county lockup in Galveston.

Individual cells were subsequently purchased from the Galveston Jail and moved by boat to a location on 6th Street and Texas Avenue. Later, due to complaints from residents, the cells were moved to Fourth Street at First Avenue. By 1913, Texas City had deputized its first horse-mounted officer and, in 1914, its first motorcycle officer (Reflections, 1996).
  • Texas City Police Department (2007)

  • Texas City Fire Department

  • Rankin L. DeWalt Criminal Justice Center

  • Texas City Central Fire Station No. 1

  • Texas City Central Fire Station No. 2

Between the years of 1914 and 1926, the community grew rapidly and the police force expanded from a marshal and two deputies to a force of more than a dozen licensed peace officers. In 1926, Texas City's new city hall was built on the corner of 6th Avenue and 6th Street., and the police headquarters and jail were relocated to the new facility. At that time, the office and title of City Marshal was officially changed to Chief of Police (Reflections 1996). When L.C. Dewalt was appointed Chief of Police in 1932, he was also named Fire Marshal.

Texas City's Fire Department was organized in 1912, although an unofficial voluntary service had existed prior to that. The department was a volunteer organization run out of a single station shared with the police department (Fire Department Organized, 1912). This arrangement continued for several decades.

The explosions linked to the 1947 Texas City Disaster caused the deaths of 27 firefighters, the city's entire force. Included in the casualties was Fire Chief Henry Baumgartner. At the time of the disaster, the city used mainly volunteer firefighters, but afterwards the department added paid staff. Each fire station had one paid firefighter assigned to it; that person lived at the station along with his family. The city continued using some volunteers on its firefighting team until 1955, when it converted to a fully paid staffing system for the department (TCFD, n.d.).

The central fire station and emergency services center on 25th Street was enlarged in 1948, establishing it as the primary fire station. A second fire station/emergency services center located at 4th Avenue South was built soon after (TCFD, n.d.).

In 1948, the city built a new police station on 5th Avenue. The police station was rebuilt in 1959 during the tenure of Rankin L. Dewalt, who served as Chief of Police for over two decades, from 1956-1979 (Thompson, 1997).

In 1993, plans for a new police station and jail were approved by the city's Economic Development Corporation (Stevick, 1993). Construction on the 36,000+ square feet facility was completed in 1997 for around $4.8 million (Rankin, 1998). The new building was dedicated and named in memory of Chief Rankin Dewalt. It accommodated the city's law enforcement needs including dispatch, incarceration, in-processing and identification departments, and even kennels for the department's K-9 corp (Andrews, 1999). The Rankin I. Dewalt Criminal Justice Center also includes an emergency command center and central computer center as well as a hall of records. A CCTV (closed-circuit television) system monitors action within and around the facility, including strategic points on the building's interior and exterior (Rankin, 1998).

During the 1990s, the Fire Department's facilities were also significantly upgraded. All three existing fire stations were rebuilt. The Central Fire Station on 25th Street remained the primary station and administrative complex. The new $2 million facility included a full-scale general support system and classrooms and education apparatus for training new firemen. In 1995, soon after the new central station was completed, the East Fire station was opened at 9th Avenue and Tenth Street. and aimed to service the eastern and southeast portions of the city. The West Side Fire Station, a completely new, state-of-the-art facility located on Amburn Road near College of the Mainland was built to service the west Texas City community (TCFD, n.d.). In 2007, the Fire Department began managing the city's EMS services as well. Currently the department operates three mobile intensive care ambulances (TCFD, n.d.). All Texas City firefighters are EMT-certified (Emergency, n.d.).

Currently, both the Texas City police and firefighting forces have grown to more than 80 members each. Both departments are involved in community outreach programs in addition to their traditional public safety duties. Police department services include crime prevention, S.W.A.T., narcotics, victim services, gun control, Citizen Reserve Police Force, etc (Campbell, 1999). Civic efforts such as Neighborhood Watch and Crime Stoppers have been maintained and involve both residents and law enforcement officials (Texas City Police). The Fire Department has established the Water Safety & Rescue program and the Hazardous Chemicals Response Team in addition to ensuring all Texas City firefighters have training in both municipal and residential firefighting techniques.


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