Little Egypt Heritage Articles
Stories of Southern Illinois
© Bill Oliver
17 September 2006
Vol 5 Issue: #29
Osiyo, Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen of Little Egypt
“Some History of Policing”
It would be a shame to use some research I’ve done in just one way.
Since I’ve been writing a departmental history for a city police
department, I’ve collected many notes. Tonight’s article contains a few
of them. A Police Lieutenant said to me the other night, that in the
past police departments considered themselves to be the experts in
deciding what services were needed in a community; that today’s
departments look to communities to answer what services need to be
supplied to keep order. That in the past the patrol officer knew his
“beat”. Departments are attempting to get back to much of that; the
attitude of getting to know the client once again prevails.
Of course, the major role of police/law enforcement agencies is to
discourage and/or prevent crime. In the modern sense, we think of their
duties as to include apprehending suspected criminals, detaining
suspected criminals, providing escort service, cooperating and/or
engaging in rescues, directing traffic, giving tickets for exceeding
speed limits, and other violations of law. However, the law enforcement
legacy, the means by which a community keeps order, goes back far beyond
any local police department.
In the villages of New England, American colonists established
“shire-reeves”. These were “watch and ward duty officials called
“reeves”. There would be at least one covering the “watching” of a
“shire” or county. Thus, our shortened term “sheriff” or “shire-reeves”.
Boston, in April of 1631, established a system of law enforcement called
the “night watch”. Members served part-time and without pay. By 1712,
the first full-time, paid law enforcement officers were hired.
The United States Marshal officers were created by Congress and on 17
September 1789 the first US Marshal was appointed.
Strange as it might seem, the first law enforcement officer in United
States history killed in the line of duty was Deputy Sheriff Isaac Smith
of the New York City Sheriff’s Office on 17 May 1792. It took ninety
nine more years for Boston, the first city to do so, to issue their
policemen pistols. The operative word here must be “issue”, because I
just can’t quite believe that the Texas Rangers, the oldest statewide
law enforcement agency, formed in 1835, didn’t have/carry pistols. Five
years earlier than Boston issuing pistols, both Boston and Chicago
issued uniforms to their officers. Abilene, Kansas Police Department
Chief, Thomas J. Smith, was the first police chief to be killed in the
line of duty on 2 November 1870. A year and nine days later marks the
date, Portsmouth, Virginia Police Officer John Wilson, the first
Afro-American Police Officer, died in the line of duty.
Ironically, on the day that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated,
he approved the formation of the U.S. Secret Service, which is sworn to
protect the President.
In 1891 the first national police group was formed, The National Chiefs
of Police Union, which would later become the International Association
of Chiefs of Police. Thus, police leaders met regularly to share ideas.
Before his election to the Presidency, Theodore Roosevelt was elected to
a three year term as Police Commissioner of New York City.
In 1902, law enforcement began going high tech – fingerprinting was used
for the first time in the United States. The first female officer to
have arrest powers was Alice Stebbins Wells, of the Los Angeles Police
Department. This was in 1910. Berkeley, California, in 1914, became the
first law enforcement agency to have all of its patrol officers using
automobiles. The picture of the famous movies of the Keystone Cops is
hard to keep from popping up.
In 1916, 128 police officers were killed in the line of duty. A first
breaking one hundred. The next year, Anna Hart, a jail matron of
Hamilton County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Department, became the first female
officer to lose her life in the line of duty. And, sadly, the last year
that less than 100 officers were killed in the line of duty was 1949.
1974 takes the statistic of being the deadliest year for law enforcement
officers – 268 officers were killed. In this same year, Police officers
began wearing soft body armor for protection. However, the day with the
highest cost of law enforcement lives was 9 September 2001 – all
responders to the terrorist attacks on the United States of America.
J. Edgar Hoover began his FBI Directorship on 10 May 1924, serving
nearly 50 years in that position. And, the legendary law enforcement
career of Federal Agent Eliot Ness began five years later. He was the
leader of a group of agents known as “the Untouchables”.
Eighty year old Night Marshal Dotson Sutton, nicknamed “Pop”, of Pulaski
County, Missouri, Sheriff’s Department died on 25 June 1952. He was the
oldest officer to die in the line of duty.
In 1988, another leap into high tech forensic – the FBI began using DNA
test methods to solve crimes.
I’ve known many law enforcement officers. And, each of those that I have
known have been some of the finest people one could know. I’ve stopped
in many places and local gendarmes have always been most helpful. So
from cousins to friends, I salute them one and all; especially Jim H. of
Aurora, Nebraska, retired State Patrolman and friend.
e-la-Di-e-das-Di ha-wi nv-wa-do-hi-ya nv-wa-to-hi-ya-da.
(May you walk in peace and harmony) and
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