Making Democracy Work


The Police Department, The Fire Rescue Department, the Harbor Master, and the United States Coast Guard protect Falmouth.

Police Department

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was established by town vote in 1921 with an operating budget of $5,200; the Chief was the only full-time police officer. In 2010, 89 years later, the operating budget is over $5 million and there are 73 department employees.

The police station is a brick building built in 1969 near the east end of Main Street, with access also to Dillingham Avenue. There is an up-to-date Communications Section with three full-time dispatchers. The Supervisor of Licenses and Records maintains and supervises the computer system.

The Chief of Police is hired by contract while all other officers are appointed by the Town Manager from eligibility lists drawn up after state civil service examinations. Directly responsible to the Chief are three captains. The Administrative Captain's duties include a variety of training programs to create a professional force able to protect the public safety without infringing on the rights of private citizens. The Patrol Captain is in charge of the uniform branch and all associated resources. The Captain of Specialized Services oversees investigations and court services. There are ten sergeants, including a Detective Sergeant, and 51 patrolmen, six of whom are assigned to the detective division. The detective division handles all major crimes and drug investigations. A female detective investigates rape, child abuse and other offenses related to children.

The Juvenile Officer divides his time between the schools and the police headquarters. He teaches a drug awareness program (DARE) at the intermediate school, part of the town-wide effort to reduce illegal drug use. The Police Athletic League (PAL) began in Falmouth in 2000. Its goal is to establish bonds between the police department and the community's youth through activities, sports programs, mentor programs, and field trips. It is raising funds for a facility on Gifford Street near the Service Center.

In 2002, the Falmouth Police Department was recognized as Police Department of the Year by the State Crime Watch Commission for its Crime Prevention efforts, the first time that an entire department has been singled out for such an honor. In 2006 the Department was given the Excellence in Police Safety Award by the Massachusetts House of Representatives for their study entitled "Racial Profiling: Perception or Reality." Police officers work with the community in programs such as TRIAD, School Resource officer, GREENSKILLS and DARE. A police captain serves as liaison to the Falmouth District Court and Barnstable Superior court handling arraignments, conferences, hearings and trial schedules. The Parking Meter Division produces revenue for the town. A motorist charged with illegal parking may request a hearing before the Parking Magistrate. In 2009, the police department received 29,161calls for services.

Town of Falmouth Parking Stickers are available to Falmouth residents at the Police Station. They cost $15 per year.

Falmouth Fire Rescue Department

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Department headquarters is located on King Street, Falmouth, with sub¬stations in West Falmouth, North Falmouth, East Falmouth and Woods Hole. Stations are linked by a fire alarm system, telephone and radio. A long-standing mutual aid agreement exists with all fire departments on the Cape, in Plymouth County and at Massachusetts Military Reservation. The Woods Hole, West Falmouth and North Falmouth Stations are staffed by one firefighter on duty. The East Falmouth Station has both rescue and fire fighting equipment and has two firefighters on duty. Four firefighters and a dispatcher are at headquarters for fire and rescue response. The staff personnel for Fire Prevention and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) work days only. There is a Deputy Chief on duty seven days a week. The chief is always on call.

The department has 26 vehicles including six pumpers, an aerial ladder, five rescue ambulances, four brush breakers, a heavy rescue truck, hazardous materials trailer, and a variety of support vehicles. An ice rescue boat, a 12 ft. zodiac inflatable, and a 28 ft aluminum dual-engine outboard motorboat are used for water rescues. There are 60 full time firefighters and three part-time call firefighters. The Town Manager makes all appointments and promotions. The Vehicle Maintenance and Fire Alarm Divisions are staffed by civilians. The maintenance division maintains all fire, police and natural resources department vehicles. All members of the fire fighting force must receive annual training in medical treatment and hazardous material handling as well as fire fighting.

The Fire Chief is the town's Forest Fire Warden. The state maintains a fire tower in West Falmouth which is manned during the dry season, usually April through October. Grass and brush fires are less of a problem since the state adopted a strict law prohibiting open burning. Even campfires are prohibited except small, contained fires for cooking. Burning of brush is allowed for a short period in early spring, but only with fire department authorization. (See Open Air Burning permits in the DPW section).

The Fire Prevention Bureau consists of two Deputy Fire Chiefs, one of whom oversees fire prevention, one Fire Prevention Officer, and two Fire Inspectors. The Bureau enforces the state and local fire prevention regulations and is responsible for fire education, fire inspections and fire investigations. Officers in the Bureau inspect oil burner, propane gas tank, and smoke detector installations, underground storage tank system installation and removals including piping systems and recovery systems, and sites of hazardous materials incidents. The bureau coordinates remediation with other governmental agencies (local, county, state, federal). Quarterly inspections are made of all commercial properties, health care facilities, places of public assembly and schools.

Fire education is an ongoing process and the bureau works closely with the news media to promote fire safety. Fire safety officers address the elderly, civic and social clubs. Fire safety tips are available at the fire stations and mall displays.

Ambulance Service is provided by the Falmouth Fire Department, which has five Class 1 ambulances located to provide the optimum geographical coverage. Town ambulances are for emergency services only; private ambulance services are available for non-emergency transportation. The ambulance service is registered as an Advanced Life Support Service which is the highest level of pre-hospital care available. Ambulance crew members are either trained Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) or Paramedics.


Falmouth's 68-mile shoreline borders Buzzards Bay and Vineyard Sound. They are connected by the Woods Hole passage. The shore front and waterways come under local, state and federal jurisdiction, but the construction and maintenance of breakwaters and piers, dredging of channels and supervision of the anchorages come under the jurisdiction of the Harbor Master and Waterways Committee. They are also responsible for more than 200 navigational buoys in the 14 harbors to supplement those maintained by the Coast Guard.

Established in 1955, the Waterways Committee supervises existing facilities and plans for future needs in cooperation with the Conservation Commission, the Harbor Master and other town groups. The committee has seven members plus the Harbor Master: six appointed by the Selectmen and one by the Board of Health. The committee makes recommendations to the town for construction, improvement and repairs of its facilities; it petitions state, federal and county agencies for funds in addition to those available through the boat excise tax. The committee also issues regulations and sets fees for the use of the town marina facilities, subject to the Selectmen's approval. The Harbor Master acts as wharfinger, or dockmaster, for the Waterways Committee in the daily operation of the marina and slip facilities.

The Harbor Master is a full time employee appointed by the Town Manager. He is also a member of the Waterways Committee and, as a special police officer, enforces town boating regulations in the harbors and rivers. He has the authority to control speeding or reckless operation, to inspect vessels, and to enforce anti-pollution regulations. Major emphasis is put on educating the public to decrease violations. He supervises a full time deputy, a part-time secretary, three seasonal assistant harbor masters and six seasonal waterways assistants.

The Harbor Master is also responsible for assigning mooring locations, registering moorings and updating the extensive waiting lists. The permitted mooring locations have been entered into the town's GIS mapping program. He installs and maintains the seasonal floats at the town landings and oversees the maintenance of town landings in every harbor.

The most complete facilities are in Falmouth Inner Harbor where there is a town marina with both seasonal and transient slips. There is an extensive waiting list for seasonal slips but transient slips are more easily available, except at peak times such as Fourth of July and Road Race weekend. The Inner Harbor also has bulkhead space, and a pump-out station for marine holding tanks. A new public launching/landing ramp will be built in 2003. The Harbor Master is responsible for the daily operation of these facilities. His office is located directly on the Inner Harbor in the new marina building. The town owns oil spill cleanup equipment and various town officials have been trained in its use.

United States Coast Guard at Woods Hole

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Overlooking Vineyard Sound from Nobska Point at the southwestern tip of Falmouth, Nobska Light House symbolizes the U.S. Coast Guard's long and active presence in the town. Nobska Light is emblazoned on the town seal and on the shoulder patches worn by Falmouth police officers. Established in 1828 and rebuilt in 1876, the lighthouse has been placed in the Register of National Historic Places. After the light was automated in 1985, the keeper's residence became the home of the Commander of Coast Guard Group Woods Hole . In 1857 the Federal Light House Service established a supply and repair depot in Little Harbor, which has been in use ever since. Today the harbor is dominated by Coast Guard facilities and vessels. It is home to several Coast Guard commands, including cutters and buoy tenders, and is the hub of Coast Guard activity for Cape Cod and Rhode Island waters.

Little Harbor and Woods Hole serve as the base of operations for Search and Rescue and maritime safety for Coast Guard Group Woods Hole which is responsible for the entire coastline from the Connecticut + Rhode Island border to Plymouth. The base is commanded by a Captain and has 15 subordinate units including three patrol boats. Air support is provided by a separate command, Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod at the Massachusetts Military Reservation, which operates helicopters and fixed wing aircraft along the entire East coast. On March 1, 2003, the Coast Guard began operations in the Department of Homeland Security.

The Coast Guard Auxiliary, a volunteer civilian organization reached through Coast Guard Station Woods Hole, gives boating education courses, courtesy checks of boat safety equipment and keeps alert for problems at sea. The Coast Guard and the Auxiliary provide towing only in emergencies. Non-emergency towing is done by local commercial firms.