Upon incorporation as a city in July 1952, the City of Carlsbad hired its first police officer in October of the same year, Chief of Police Max Palkowski. The chief was the only member of the department and had a desk at the State of California Parks and Recreation Department on Highway 101.
Only 32 years old when he assumed the responsibility of his new job, Chief Palkowski immediately expanded his one-man police force by recruiting volunteer reserve police officers. The city could not afford a vehicle so Chief Palkowski pressed his own vehicle into service as the first city police car by placing a siren on its roof. The City of Carlsbad Police Department was on its way now with one goal in mind: to protect and serve the city residents.
In September 1952, the city hired one officer and in January 1953 hired two more and purchased its first police car. For the next few years, the city hired one officer each fiscal year.
In 1953, the city purchased the original St. Patrick's Church and converted it into City Hall. All city offices, including the library, were housed in the building. Years later, the building was moved to McGee Park and it was renamed Heritage Hall.
The first building constructed with city funds specifically for office space was in 1954 at the intersection of Pio Pico Drive and Elm Avenue (Carlsbad Village Drive) and housed City Hall and the Police and Fire Departments. Although the city funded most of the project, city merchants and residents donated time, labor and equipment.
The new facility became a great community project. Bauer Lumber donated lumber, Walters Electric donated electrical wiring and installation, and residents with various skills helped during their spare time. Police officers, fire fighters and reserve officers from each department spent most of their free time painting and building. The completed project was a testimonial to the supportive, caring community.
However, in 1968 the widening of Interstate 5 required this building to be demolished. On September 8, 1968, City Hall and the Police Department moved into a newly constructed city complex where the present day City Hall now resides.
As the City of Carlsbad continued to annex more land over the years, the Police Department grew from one sworn police officer in 1952 to 10 officers by 1971 and to 54 officers by 1981. In October 1986, the new 53,600 square-foot Carlsbad Public Safety Center was completed. The department had 80 members, 62 sworn and 18 civilian. Today the City of Carlsbad Police Department has more than doubled to more than 160 members.
The City of Carlsbad Safety Training Center, located across from the Public Safety and Services Center, was approved by voters in 2002 and broke ground in March 2010. It opened in May 2013. The Safety Training Center provides a wide variety of realistic training scenarios, and consists of a five-story commercial style tower, a two story “house,” two indoor shooting ranges, a streetscape and classroom space.