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Our History

The National Troopers Coalition (Part I of III)

by Marilyn Olsen

Like many fraternal organizations, the National Troopers Coalition began with a social event. In the early 1970s, Thomas J. Iskrazycki, President of the State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey, thought that troopers from surrounding states might enjoy the chance to get together on an information basis-to compare cars, weapons, working conditions, salaries and pensions, as well as simply to get to know one another better.
So he invited them all to a picnic.
Similar events were held for six or seven years. In 1977, Richard Whelan, President of the State Police Association of Massachusetts suggested that a more formal organization be formed among troopers of the New England states. The first meeting was held in Framingham. Massachusetts in September. Representatives from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and Connecticut attended. They drew up by-laws, wrote a constitution and names the organization Northeast Regional Troopers Coalition, NERTC.
After several meetings, they began to publish the Trooper News Letter and expanded its circulation beyond the east coast to all the states that had associations.
Soon, many states became interested in forming organizations similar to NERTC and quarterly regional meetings were held across the country. The name was changed to the National Troopers Coalition, NTC, incorporated, for legal purposes in New York.
According to Article III of the bylaws, the purposes and powers of the NTC are:

  1. a continuing effort to better police services to the public
  2. to stimulate mutual cooperation between state police associations throughout the nation
  3. to elevate the standards of policing throughout the United States and promote the professionalism
    of the state police officers
  4. to assist member state police associations in achieving the best possible equipment, salaries,
    pensions, fringe benefits and working conditions
  5. to provide a vehicle through which state police associations may disseminate factual data for the
    purpose of collective bargaining and legislative lobbying.

Within ten years, the NTC grew from a four-state organization to a membership of 43 states representing nearly 44,000 state police and highway patrol officers nationwide. Today, NTC membership includes representatives from 48 associations (three states have two associations) and represents more than 45,000 troopers.

A History of State Troopers

by Marilyn Olsen editor. Indiana's Finest


Although every civilization since the dawn of time had imposed order by one method or another, the system of policing that would develop in the United States had its origins during the reign of Alfred the Great who ruled England in the late 10th century.
During this period, the peace was maintained by the mutual pledge. Groups of 10 families were organized as a "tithing." Generally, one man in the tithing was given the responsibility of compliance with the law. If any one member committed an offense, all could be fined. Timings were organized into groups of 100, led by a constable. These groups of 100 were concentrated into geographical areas known as "shires," with a "shire-reeve," appointed by the king to serve as chief law enforcement agent. Wrongdoers were generally brought before the local landowners who dispensed punishment as they saw fit.
In the 11th Century, law enforcement became an around-the-clock responsibility as night patrols were added. These constables and night watchmen were also expected to serve as firefighters. The office of justice of the peace was created to supervise this force. As in the US seven hundred years later, this system was generally sufficient to serve a predominately rural area where everybody knew everybody else.
Although there was no nationally recognized and uniform code of laws, over the centuries, the system known as "common law" had evolved. Common law, as distinguished from local laws which might be very specific, covered crimes such as murder that everyone could agree were wrong.
By the 18th century, as towns grew into cities full of strangers and immigrants from other cultures, crime became more random and more violent. The sheriffs, constables and local watchmen who had kept the peace for hundreds of years in rural areas and small towns were simply overwhelmed by the complexity of urban law enforcement.
Henry Fielding (the author of Tom Jones) was appointed as Magistrate of London to solve the problem. He organized a force known as the "Bow Street Runners." This force was given the power to break up criminal gangs and make arrests.
To further emphasize the presence of the police, in the mid-1700s, for the first time, police officers began to wear uniforms.
British Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel is credited with establishing the first "modern" police system in 1829. Under his leadership, The Metropolitan Police Act was passed. It set up two commissioners who established regulations for the hiring, training and supervision of the agency.
Twelve principles of policing were developed:

  1. The police must be stable, efficient and organized along military lines.
  2. The police must be under government control.
  3. The absence of crime will best prove the efficiency of police.
  4. The distribution of crime news is essential.
  5. The development of police strength, both by time and area, where and when a crime has occurred
    or may occur is essential.
  6. No quality is more indispensable to a police officer than a perfect command of temper. A quiet,
    determined manner has more effect than violent action.
  7. Good appearance commands respect.
  8. The selection and training of proper persons are at the root of efficient law enforcement.
  9. Public security demands that every police officer be given an identifying number.
  10. Police headquarters should be centrally located and easily accessible to the people.
  11. Police officers should be hired on a probationary basis before permanent assignment.
  12. The keeping of crime records by police is necessary to determine the best distribution of police

However, it would be many years before these principles made their way across the Atlantic and were adopted by police forces in the United States.

The Evolution of Policing in the US

Although within a hundred years, our ancestors would begin arriving from all corners of the world, the first to arrive in any number came from England in the 1600s. They had left the old world to start a new life in a more hospitable social environment. But, like all creatures of habit, the> brought along the elements of society with which they were familiar — English as a common language, black frock coats, skirts with lots of petticoats, a preference for meat and potatoes and a system of law enforcement.
The system of law enforcement practiced by most of the earliest colonists was based on the English common law. Under common law, serious crimes (felonies) were distinguished from less serious ones (misdemeanors). A judge presided over a court where serious crimes were tried before a jury. The jury heard the case and determined guilt or innocence. If the accused were found guilty, the court determined what the punishment would be. Less serious crimes were adjudicated by justices of the peace or magistrates.
But the laws and punishments often varied considerably from what they had been in England. Those colonies that were essentially theocracies, for example, based their local laws on the tenets of their religion. And sentences, as we all remember from reading The Scarlet Letter, often consisted of humiliating the guilty who failed to see the error of their ways to the satisfaction of those handing out the punishment.
In most of the colonies, the governor appointed a sheriff (the American version of the "shire reeve"). This individual usually had a variety of responsibilities including locating offenders, managing the jail and serving as coroner. The sheriff was then, as now, a county official.
In the larger towns and cities volunteer watchmen and constables had what we would now call patrol duty. They walked the streets at night to protect citizens from robbers, looked after the security of businesses and sounded an alarm when there was trouble.
In the earliest days, as in England, constables and watchmen were generally sufficient to maintain order. But by the mid-1800s, the crush of immigrants into what were becoming major American cities simply overwhelmed these untrained and unorganized volunteers, as well.
While some cities considered bringing in the military to keep the peace, most preferred to establish a full-time paid police organization.
In 1844, New York became one of the first states to give its cities and towns the right to organize police departments. Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Newark, New Orleans and Philadelphia soon followed. And, in what was to differentiate American policing from British policing forever, in 1854 the Philadelphia police began to carry guns. Although these forces adopted the principles developed in England by Sir Robert Peel, they were, compared to the British police, still unprofessional. Rather than following a clear chain of command up to a commissioner, these
early departments quickly became part of the local political machine with appointments and dismissals made at the whim of the party in power.
In some instances, this system had its advantages. Despite, or perhaps due in part to, the patronage nature of their job, often, these early officers were models of what we now know as "community policing." They were the center of social welfare for the neighborhood they patrolled, solving family disputes, making sure the hungry were fed and the poor taken care of. Police "paddy wagons" even doubled as ambulances. More importantly, by being a full-time, identifiable presence, they served as a force for order. At last, in most neighborhoods, there was someone specific to go to report a disturbance, file a complaint or seek help.
Unfortunately, as politicians continued to dominate the police, the good that was done was often overshadowed by the bad and before long many city police departments were riddled with graft and corruption.
To bring objectivity back to policing, the Pendleton Act was passed in 1883, establishing a civil service commission to oversee entrance examinations, promotions, and grievances within police agencies. But even after the Act went into effect, police were still often poorly trained and supervised. There were countless reports of police brutality and ineptness in solving crimes.
While the East was becoming more urbanized and police forces becoming more structured, the West was still, well, wild. Seldom, if ever in human history had so many people moved in such numbers to settle so vast an unknown (at least to them) territory. They quickly overwhelmed the indigenous people who lived in scattered tribes and did not have the single military force that might have helped them stage an effective resistance.
Legend and scores of cowboy movies would have us believe that the settlers who did not survive were killed by renegade bands of Indians. In fact, a great many died of disease, in childbirth, or simply as a result of living in a sod house with poor sanitation and few amenities or any kind. Furthermore, the social climate in which most settlers had grown up was absent from their new home. There was no local police chief who knew most of the people in the town. Law enforcement was left up to the sheriff, who often had a territory of several hundred miles to patrol. When trouble broke out, the sheriff had to assemble whatever posse he could from the citizens of the nearest town.
The only other presence was that of the US Marshals who enforced federal law in the absence of any other type of criminal justice system. When the citizens were unhappy with the law as it was enforced (or not enforced), they often formed "vigilance committees" which were often little more than mobs who were quick to mete out justice as they saw fit. In frustration with the lack of an established police force, some citizens chose another alternative. In Wyoming in 1892, for example, cattle ranchers feuding with farmers over livestock grazing rights hired 25 professional gunfighters from Texas to help them in their feud with the farmers.
Outlaws like Frank and Jesse James, the Dalton boys and Billy the Kid robbed stagecoaches transporting gold back east. To protect their assets, bankers and the railroads also hired private police organizations like the Pinkerton Detective Agency. But they, too, unencumbered by the law, were pretty much free to get their man by whatever means it took.
As towns in the West became bigger and more settled, full-time police agencies were hired and courts set up to handle disputes. But, in many ways, the die was already cast for the problems that would continue across the country from that time forward.
"Loyalty to the weapon that had helped the colonists win the Revolution and allowed pioneers to brave the frontier remained fervent. Guns were firmly rooted in the American tradition. They had come to symbolize freedom, independence and power, attributes that have often been used
to describe America, a nation born and sustained with the help of gunfire."
Meanwhile, in the South, life for many wasn't all that much different from life in the middle ages. Powerful white families owned huge tracts of land, maintained by slaves or poor white sharecroppers. Local towns, populated by middle class whites, existed in part at least to service the plantations. "Free" blacks had scarcely more rights than slaves. As in the East and West, county sheriffs were free to deputize posses when the need arose. But the sheriff was an elected officer, beholden to the only eligible voters, white men. And the white men with the most power and money generally decided how the law would be enforced.
After the Civil War, when the South was occupied by federal troops and governed by northern "carpetbagger" administrators, civil policing was basically suspended, with the army filling the void. The control exercised by the army and northern interlopers combined with the deep-seated feelings over the loss of the war gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan and other secret white supremacist organizations.
By the turn of the century, the United States faced a number of challenges. While the question of what to do to solve these problems would vary from state to state, the solution as to how to solve them would be the same: creation of the state police.

Labor Unrest

One of these problems was labor unrest. Throughout the latter part of the 19th century, the American economy had been growing at a record pace. Inventions such as the sewing machine, harvesting machine, high speed printing press and typewriter had changed American farms and factories forever. By 1890, for the first time, the value of industrial goods was greater than agricultural goods and workers flocked to the cities to find higher paying work. Although jobs were plentiful, workers, especially those who worked for large corporations, were becoming increasingly discontented. From 1880 to 1900, nine million immigrants landed on American shores and many workers feared that they would be replaced by this continuous influx of immigrants who would often work longer hours for less pay.
Others found their jobs being eliminated as machines began to replace manual labor. Many also became bitter at what they saw as an increasing disparity in wealth between themselves and the owners.
In many industries, companies fed these fears by opposing trade unions, firing workers who joined and refusing to bargain with unions. In this atmosphere, strikes were inevitable.
In 1877 a railroad strike shut down two thirds of the nation's railways. Violence erupted in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Workers were shot and railroad properties sabotaged. In 1892, seven people were killed in a steel strike in Pennsylvania. In 1894, federal troops were called in to break a strike against the Pullman Company near Chicago.
In the early 1900s, unions staged a series of violent strikes at the nation's coal mines, iron mills, textile factories and railroad yards. The magnitude of such strikes quickly overwhelmed the ability of local police officers to contain the violence. Faced with these strikes, the states tried a variety of tactics.
To provide protection to the coal and steel operators, the Pennsylvania state legislature granted police powers to the Coal and Iron Police, but they were little more than untrained thugs hired by the operators. In 1902, during the Great Anthracite Strike, 140,000 Pennsylvania coal
miners walked off the job causing such a coal shortage that President Theodore Roosevelt finally intervened. He sent in federal troops.
Michigan dealt with labor unrest and lawlessness by calling in the state militia.
In West Virginia, strikes in the coal mines resulted in the National Guard being called in, martial law declared and a military tribunal created.
While local police were often involved in providing police protection during strikes, in some cases, local police could not be called out to settle a strike because the police were the ones striking. Such was the case in Boston on September 9, 1919 when 75% of the city force walked off the job.
While the private security forces and state and federal militias often quelled the violence when local police could not, there were many problems associated with using them. Private security forces, paid for by management, stopped the violence but did so by brutalizing the strikers. The military, both state and federal, had the power to stop the violence, but, as soldiers, had no training as peace officers. They had been taught to destroy an enemy by force, not prevent violence. In addition, settling domestic disputes was not their primary objective. States such as Michigan suddenly found themselves without the option of the militia when it was called to active duty in World War I.
The problem was the need for a permanent professional police force, trained to keep the peace that could be mobilized in sufficient numbers to make an impact. The solution would be the
creation of the state police.

Illegal Liquor

A second problem was illegal liquor.
Alcohol for consumption and currency has been as American as apple pie since Colonial days. Even the Puritans, who preached against almost every other kind of pleasurable activity did not outlaw drinking. During the last half of the 18th century, the going price for a muscular slave was twenty gallons of whiskey. Distillers regularly paid a higher price for grain than millers did and babies were often given rum in their bottles to quiet them down. By the 1830s, the consumption of alcohol had reached an estimated 10 gallons per capita per year.
Although there had always been those who advocated temperance, they remained a small minority until the 1850s when a move toward limiting the sale of alcohol, if not prohibiting it altogether, began. In 1851, Maine prohibited the manufacture and sale of "spiritous or intoxicating liquors" that had no medicinal use and by 1855, twelve other states had followed suit.
Although there was not much temperance activity during the Civil War, as soon as the war ended, the rapid increase in saloons (one for every 400 people) by 1870, caused a renewed focus on the problem. In 1873, thousands of women joined the "women's war" against liquor, a battle that was still being waged at the turn of the century.
By 1916, 23 of the 48 states had anti-saloon laws. These laws presented a special challenge to law enforcement, particularly when, during WWI, additional states enacted wartime liquor prohibitions. Since some states were "wet" and others "dry," bootlegging liquor across state lines became a booming industry.
The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1919, went into effect in January 1920 prohibiting the manufacture, importation, transportation or sale of alcoholic beverages nationwide.
The Volstead Act, that defined how the new law was to be enforced, made violations of the law federal crimes. The Jones Act of 1929 further stiffened penalties.
Many states also passed laws related to alcohol and the enforcement of these laws added significantly to the workload of local law enforcement personnel. In Columbus, Ohio, in 1929, for example, arrests for violations of liquor laws were 10 times that of arrests for auto theft and 20 times the rate for arrests for robbery. In Virginia, liquor violations dominated all other forms of felony.
Making liquor illegal, of course, did not make it any the less desirable to many Americans. So in addition to coping with liquor laws, local agencies found themselves facing a new and much more menacing problem- organized crime.
Gangsters like Al Capone quickly stepped in to meet the needs of this lucrative market, happily adding bootlegging to its repertoire of other illegal pursuits. And lucrative it was. In 1927, Capone's Chicago-based organization alone realized a $60 million profit.
The illegal liquor business was also deadly. From 1923 to 1926,215 Chicago gangsters killed each other in competition for the business. From 1919 to 1933, 164 police officers died in the line of duty in Chicago, nearly one officer every month for 15 years.
Local law enforcement agencies, sometimes working with federal agents, were also often involved in shutting down "blind pigs" and speakeasies. But the result was often a Catch 22 situation for them. Many citizens, contemptuous of the law in the first place, simply ignored law enforcement's efforts and the establishments were up and running again almost as soon as they were shut down.
In some cases, local newspaper reporters served as go-betweens, warning speakeasy operators of impending raids based on tips from law enforcement officers who were careful to spread enforcement around so as not to harm any one proprietor too much. Even when offenders were arrested, they often used their connections in local government to receive little if any punishment. Enforcement efforts became a largely ineffective deterrent.
In many areas, drunkenness before and after Prohibition was not treated as a serious offense.
"The police tended to treat the ordinary drunkard with a kind of amused, vacant paternalism. It was important to arrest drunks, sober them up and keep the streets in shape for respectable people. Often, the police infantilized drunks, who were mostly laborers, and often immigrants; they treated their offenses with malicious humor. This was also the attitude of the newspapers, when they reported the goings on in police court. It was, in a sense, a big joke. Laughing at drunks and skid row bums was one way to avoid taking the problem seriously."
When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, organized crime and criminals did not go away. They merely shifted the focus of their enterprise to gambling, prostitution and drug trafficking. Court records from 1920 to 1930 show that Prohibition agents concentrated their efforts on those they could not shake down - the poor, the barely literate, the recent immigrants least able to defend themselves. The wealthy were virtually immune from prosecution, as were bankers and wealthy entrepreneurs responsible for establishing lucrative contracts with bootlegging investors, often with the complicity of congressmen.
And, as importantly, in this era of widespread police corruption, the problem of enforcing what liquor laws were enacted following Prohibition became state laws. The solution would be the creation of the state police.

Violent Criminals

While urban organized crime bosses like Al Capone specialized in bootlegging, prostitution, gambling and drugs, smaller, but no less dangerous gangs of violent criminals terrorized rural Areas robbing banks, gunning down citizens and police, and fleeing across county lines out of the jurisdiction of local law enforcement agencies.
During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Kansas became a haven for criminals such as Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Ma Barker and Alvin Karpis. Between 1932 and 1934, Bonnie and Clyde, alone, killed 10 law enforcement officers from four states.
Bank robbers like John Dillinger and the lesser known Brady and Easton gangs were also knocking over Midwestern banks at the rate of one a day. The 1920s and 1930s were also two of the deadliest decades in law enforcement history. An average of 169 law enforcement officers a year died during the 1920s and 165 a year during the 1930s.
While stiff federal laws had been passed relating to these violent criminals in May 1934, these crimes became federal crimes only when the criminals escaped across state lines to avoid prosecution or killed a federal officer. Bank robbers continued to have a heyday rushing across county lines and out of the jurisdiction of the sheriff yet staying within the state, thus eluding federal officers.
The public, many of whom who had been more tolerant of the escapades of criminals during Prohibition, had had enough. They were ready for a professional police agency with statewide jurisdiction.
The solution to this problem would be the creation of the state police.

Growth and Mobility

In addition to the mobility of criminals, the growth and mobility of the population as a whole became a problem for law enforcement. In 1860, the US population was just over 31 million. By 1900 it had more than doubled to 76.2 million and by 1910 it was more than 92 million. Railroads expanded from 30,000 miles of track before the Civil War to 270,000 miles in 1900.
When most people lived in small towns, the local police chief actually knew most of the population. When something happened — a burglary, a runaway teenager, a hit and run accident -the chief or town marshal probably had a pretty good idea who the offender was. But as towns grew into cities and people moved more frequently, communities became considerably less tight knit.
Local enforcement officers of the time were, by today's standards, amateurs. All were elected by the citizens of towns and counties and, not surprisingly, many officers were part of the local political machine. There were few, if any specific qualifications in most cases. In many areas, it wasn't even necessary for the sheriff to be able to read or write. Little, if any, training was available. Most officers learned their craft on the job or through an informal apprenticeship to an experienced officer. The sheriff or town marshal depended as much on gossip as anything else to solve crimes. The problem of mobility experienced in small towns was greatly magnified in cities. Cities quickly responded by creating not only large police departments, but by beginning to specialize. Detective squads were organized in Boston in 1846, New York in 1857, Philadelphia in 1859 and Chicago in 1861. By the early 1900s, urban police departments were beginning to experiment with fingerprint identification and other forensic tools. But, unfortunately, many city police departments became corrupt, and the tools of local politicians. In any event, the jurisdiction of city police only
extended to the city line. What expertise they did have — politics aside — was not available to the many people who still lived in America's small towns and rural areas.
On Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the American Stock Market crashed and with it the decade that had been known as the "Roaring Twenties." Although only 5% of Americans owned stock, nearly all would be affected by the crash within a few years. As the economy slowed, workers were laid off. From January 1930 to January 1931, unemployment grew from four to eight million. In 1931 another 3 million people lost their jobs. By 1933, 16 million Americans were out of work.
Of particular interest to law enforcement was the fact that an estimated 500,000 young men and women had left home and were roaming the countryside. Then, as now, rootless teenagers were the perpetrators of many crimes.
In both cities and small towns across America even the best local law enforcement forces could no longer cope with the numbers of people on the move. They needed an agency with state­wide jurisdiction. The solution would be the state police.

Automobile Traffic

The increase in automobile traffic was another factor in the creation of the state police.
Although the first gasoline powered automobile had been invented by Karl Benz in Germany in 1885, for more than 20 years, the automobile was a novelty affordable to only the very rich. But in the early years of the twentieth century The Ford Motor Company changed all that. Between 1903 and 1908, Ford developed a series of cars, designating each model with a letter of the alphabet, beginning with A. By the time the company got to the Model N, a small, light four-cylinder machine, the unit price had dropped from more than $2,500 to $500 and this mechanical marvel was within the reach of most families. In 1908, General Motors had also begun producing automobiles offering buyers a choice among Buicks, Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles and Chevrolets. By 1925, buyers could also choose a Chrysler.
Americans took to the roads in huge numbers. In 1900 there were only 8,000 automobiles in the US. By 1905, that number had grown to 77,000, by 1910 to 450,000 and 1920 to more than 8 million. Local police agencies were quickly faced with hundreds of auto crashes, drunk driving violations and a new crime - auto theft.
Most states enacted laws relating to ownership, driving age, and speed limits in various locations and circumstances. Sixteen generally became the minimum age for operating a motor vehicle but a driver's license, as such, was not always required. In New York in 1910 the law required all drivers to "drive in a careful and prudent manner and at a rate or speed so as not to endanger property, life or limb. Any speed over 30 mph if persisted in for a quarter mile or more was presumptive evidence of careless, imprudent driving. The statute also made hit and run a felony."
The local police now had dozens of new laws to enforce. And, for the first time in history, average otherwise law-abiding Americans were faced with the likelihood of committing a crime.
In some states, like Alabama, the first highway patrol officers were also given responsibility for providing driver's license testing. Early tests included a driving examination, knowledge of highway rules and "attitude toward law and highway safety." Driver's licenses then, as now, were issued for a specific period of time and files were kept of each driver's record of offenses.
Throughout the 1920s the cities continued to grow and access to cities also became easier thanks to the automobile. Millions of Americans settled in suburbs created either when cities
expanded to include small towns or new "subdivisions” were built.
The advent of the automobile also brought with it a new and more dangerous way for the intoxicated to violate the law. Most states made it at least a misdemeanor to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated and many imposed more severe penalties for subsequent offenses or causing bodily injury or death to someone else while driving under the influence.
Most of these laws were state laws. States that did not already have a state police found that they now needed one.

Vigilantes and Hate Groups

By the time state police agencies were founded, the tradition of taking the law into one's own hands was also well established. Indeed, the laws that have always protected the right of Americans to gather peacefully in a "good" cause, have also protected those whose motives may be much different.
There is little doubt that America has always been (and still is) a violent society. Although there was actually very little violent crime in Colonial settlements, the punishment for even the most petty offense was violent - often a public whipping. In Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, a vigilante group publicly executed 19 townspeople who were thought to be witches.
While slaveholders were not allowed to murder their slaves, they were certainly allowed to beat them and many did, publicly and frequently. During the 1780s Colonel Charles Lynch, from whom we have derived the term "lynching," regularly rounded up wrongdoers and dispensed his brand of justice under a large tree in his front yard.
In the West in the 1800s citizens had taken the law in their own hands basically because there was no one else to do it. The posse, although a legal law enforcement entity, was often little more than an angry mob. The justice posses dispensed was often swift and violent. It was not unusual for a posse to catch a criminal, try him and hang him all on the same day.
The West wasn't the only place where violence was a fact of every day life. Between 1884 and 1900, more than 2,500 Americans (more than were legally executed) were lynched by their fellow citizens. The majority of those killed were African Americans in the South.
The term "vigilante," had actually first appeared in San Francisco during the 1850s when groups of citizens formed "vigilance committees" to try to contain the huge increase in crime brought on by the gold rush. But perhaps the most infamous of all vigilante groups was the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist group founded in Tennessee in 1865 by some bored ex-confederate soldiers, (see sidebar).
The "whitecappers" were a variant of the Klan. Originating in southern Indiana in 1887, the movement spread quickly. Unlike the Klan, the whitecappers were not racists, but rather moral crusaders and women were often members. In one celebrated incident, twelve members of the Women's Christian Temperance Union in Osceola, Nebraska in 1893, donned their white hoods, and flogged "certain young ladies" whose activities they considered immoral.
By the early 1900s, it became obvious that states would continue to have problems with vigilante and hate groups. Unfortunately, in many communities, in every part of the country, local hate groups like the Klan often had the support, if not encouragement of local law enforcement. And because the crimes these groups committed — murder, arson, battery — were state crimes, the federal government had no jurisdiction over them.
If hate crimes were to be stopped, it would take a state police agency to do it.


Because law enforcement officers at all levels were appointed by local government officials, it is not surprising that from the beginning law enforcement in the United States was tied to politics and prone to corruption.
One early state police publication said: "In the very early stages of police work, officers were selected on the basis that 'it takes a crook to catch a crook' and the major difference between the underworld and the police was the difference between public and private enterprise. Politicians secured valuable aid from their allies in the world of vice and gangsterism and wanted police forces that would cooperate rather than obliterate anti-social forces. As long as the taxpayer was purchasing protection which he never obtained, police work could not reach the dignity of an established profession."
While the most famous example of police corruption was probably that of the New York City police during the administration of "Boss Tweed," the problem was by no means limited to New York, or even to large cities. As long as jobs depended on patronage, those with the power to hire would be able to command both who was hired and what they did once employed.
In the late 1800s, The Lexow Committee in New York found that in "most precincts of the city, houses of ill-repute, gambling houses, policy shops, pool rooms and unlawful resorts of a similar character were openly conducted under the noses of the police." In general, brothels were subject to "blackmail," and the police permitted "professional abortionists to ply their awful trade."
To clean up these corrupt forces, many cities made their police agencies part of the civil service system and by 1915, 122 of the nation's 204 largest police departments were regulated as such.
The influence of politics was by no means eliminated from the police, but it was clear that the public at least wanted its future police agencies to maintain as much distance as possible. What the states really needed was a professional and objective state police.

Lack of Coordination Among Agencies

Ironically, as the nation grew, the problem in many states became not too little law enforcement, but too much. "As cities grew with their attendant criminal problems, city police systems were inaugurated and expanded until there were hundreds of county and municipal police authorities seeking to stem the growing tide of criminal depredations, all of them acting independently and with very little correlation of effort."
Postal inspectors, the Secret Service and the Treasury Department had both interstate and intrastate authority, but they could act only when violations of federal laws were committed. "As far as murderers, bank robbers, kidnappers, forgers, arsonists, rapists and other major crimes were concerned, the crossing of the state line was a virtual sanctuary, subject only to the uncertainties of extradition from a distant state if the pursuit actually enlisted enough cooperation to secure a capture."
As is detailed later in the section on communications, even when these agencies wanted to coordinate efforts, because they had only the most rudimentary radio systems they had no really effective way to communicate in anything like a timely manner.
Even where there were sufficient numbers of police officers of one kind or another, in many instances they simply did not have the right resources or organization to meet the growing and
changing challenges of twentieth century policing. The answer for the states would be a state police force.

Police Brutality

As long as there have been police, it was assumed that at least some force is necessary to control criminals. Although by the 1800s in most cities police personnel stopped short of public whipping or lynching wrongdoers, the "third degree" was common up to the end of the 19th Century. Police routinely beat and tortured criminals with metal pipes and fists to elicit confessions. Later, after the public began to complain, many police switched to bright lights and rubber hoses that didn't leave visible marks — but the intent was the same.
One of the problems was the military mindset. Police agencies in cities organized along semi military lines behaved, in many ways, like soldiers. But there was supposed to be a difference.
"Police were intended to be different from the military, which uses deadly force against an enemy that threatens national interests. Police are generally expected to use limited force, when force is needed, although not against an enemy."
As John Alderson said in his 1985 book, The Listener, "The difference between the quasi-military and the civil policeman is that the civil policeman should have no enemies. People maybe criminals, they may be violent, but they are not enemies to be destroyed."
Yet, because of these tactics, by the early 1900s many citizens were more afraid of the police than they were of criminals. It became apparent that a new type of police officer with a better knowledge of how to handle violent behavior was needed. That new type of police would be the state police.

The Need for Professionalism

To address the many of the problems that all communities were facing regarding their police forces, by the mid 1800s, rule books and codes of conduct for police were beginning to appear.
With the switch to civil service status came the need for qualifications by police, but by today's standards, they were fairly forgiving. Some rules were made primarily for the sake of appearances. In Chicago in 1861, for example, mustaches were prohibited, a proper style for beards was outlined and all patrolmen were required to eat with forks.
Although all officers had to pass the civil service requirement, other than that, most departments demanded only a height and weight requirement and an elementary education.
August Vollmer, the Berkeley California Town Marshal is credited with at last bringing professionalism to US police in the early 1900s. Among other things, he put his patrolmen in cars, installed a radio communications system, developed a crime lab and a system of classifying criminals via their modus operandi, established a police school and recruited college educated men to be police officers. Later as Los Angeles Police Chief he required all officers to undergo intelligence tests as a basis for promotion. He advocated cooperation between social agencies in the police in dealing with juvenile delinquency and campaigned for more humane conditions for prisoners. It was his belief that drug addiction was a medical, not a police problem.  In the ensuing years some, but certainly not all, of his ideals became reality in American police departments.
All of these factors combined to vividly illustrate the need for a much more sophisticated and professional police force with state-wide jurisdiction. Gone forever were the days when the locally
elected sheriff with virtually no training, scanty if any communication system and no forensic lab could hope to combat the growing numbers and sophistication of the states' criminals.
In 1923, in a speech to the General Assembly, Missouri Governor Arthur M. Hyde said: "The best machinery for law enforcement by state authority yet devised is a state police force. Such a police force can be trained. It is not hampered by county line. It can police and protect the state highways. Its sole reason for existence would then be to enforce the law equally and equitably in every county of the state, and without fear or favor to protect every citizen in the exercise of his right to life, liberty and property."

The Creation of the State Police

Later in this book, the history of each of the state police agencies is presented in detail. Because they were formed over a period of nearly 50 years and each responded to the specific needs of that state at that time, it is not possible to present a universally accurate picture. Yet, there were, and continue to be, common threads that join them all.


Although many agencies would be embroiled in politics for years to come, as state police were created, in general, the patronage system disappeared. True, many departments continued to insist that officers declare their political affiliation, but most at least tried to maintain a political balance. All recruits, regardless of their political views, were required to meet certain standards.
In some states only single men were allowed to apply and serve. Most states had an educational requirement. Most also had age, height and weight requirements. Men generally had to be at least 5'9" tall, weigh at least 150 pounds and be between the ages of 21 and 35. All also had to be in good physical health, free from venereal diseases, "organic and functional defects" and "of good moral character." Most were interviewed, investigated, their references checked and fingerprints verified with the FBI. Some, but not all states also required a period of state residency. One early state police recruitment brochure advertised for "men with the patience of Job and the judgment of Solomon, possessing the knowledge of an attorney, the movements of an athlete, the concern and skill of a physician, the training of a social worker, an engineer, a psychologist, a chemist, a sportsman and a gentleman — all in one dynamic personality."
In addition to physical, mental and moral requirements, most departments also regulated what an officer could do off-duty. Most, for example, could not enter taverns (except in performance of duty) or associate with persons of questionable character. Charges could be brought against officers who were known to frequent "disorderly houses," gambled or sought public office.
In most states, troopers also had to agree to live anywhere in the state and many faced frequent transfers, sometimes as often as every six months.
All state police agencies were (and remain) semi military organizations and as such, officers were subject to a much stricter supervision than other state employees. Men assigned to a barracks often could not leave unless they had the commander's permission.
Men would have to agree to live in the barracks for at least a few days a month and be on-call 24-hours a day. The average workday was generally 12 to 16 hours and most officers worked sixdays a week or in revolving shifts. As crimes and periods of heavy traffic tended to occur on holidays, few troopers were given time off to spend them with their families. Some troopers on duty
at a roadblock slept in their cars, with local farmers and others often camped out in fields and forests.
But the stringent requirements paid off.
Wrote one early state police publication, "As careful selection by competent police officers has begun to weed out the treacherous and ignorant and training and science has put scientific instruments for arriving at the truth in the hands of men capable of using them, integrity has replaced deceit, public service has supplanted scandalous public graft and social ethics have triumphed over special privilege. With these steps, police work has arisen as an eagerly sought and honorable profession."

A Paramilitary Organization

Although early-on most states had recognized the limitations of having their state-wide law enforcement needs met by the military, most saw the advantage of a force that was organized like the military. Although the agencies would provide a wide variety of services, the states wanted their state police to follow the same basic procedures. Reports and forms would be standardized and officers would follow a printed set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) that would be consistent across the state.
The state police would wear uniforms and be subject to inspections by superiors. They would also use rank to designate authority, following, in general the system used by the military.
And, perhaps most importantly, they would follow a chain of command. Each officer would be directly accountable only to the person holding the next highest rank. The buck would stop with the man at the top, who, himself, generally reported directly to the governor of the state. Although some agencies quickly became known as "the governor's police," at least they were free from the influences and temptations of local political machines.


Stringent training was another thing that set the state police apart from all other police agencies of the time. While many other police officers had merely to pass a few physical tests and learn how to shoot a gun, the state police in every state underwent at least several weeks of rigorous instruction.
Since they were a para-military organization, most were trained like soldiers. They slept in tents, were awakened early, marched to and from meals and classes, wore uniforms, saluted senior officers and learned to say, "Yes, sir!' Like soldiers they also did calisthenics, learned to shoot a variety of firearms and had to pass inspections of their living facilities and gear. They would also follow the military model, designed to impress recruits with the need to conform to the norms of the organization and follow orders. Individuality was discouraged. Competency according to the rules was praised.
But there the similarity ended. Unlike soldiers they were not being trained to destroy a foreign enemy. The people they would encounter in their profession would be fellow citizens and they needed to be compassionate to the innocent and understand the guilty. They would also need to learn how to avoid the temptations the job would present.
As an early state police publication said, "In their training for police work, the rookie officers study social evils leading to the creation of outlaws, as well as abnormal psychology of the
crime or passion, the feeble minded, the psychopathic or the insane type, and the person who simply cannot adjust himself to difficult circumstances. In the study of the job ahead, state policemen consider the widely developed lures of commercialized vice, with its attractions of distorted movies, reams of spurious sex literature on the news stands, vicious marijuana cigarette peddlers in the high schools, slot machines, pool ticket rackets and other gambling devices."
Although most state police recruits received considerably more initial training than local law enforcement officers, rookies were also put on a year's probation during which time they would essentially apprentice with an experienced officer. After that year, they and their fellow officers, unlike almost all other police agencies at the time, would undergo refresher courses on a regular basis for the rest of their career.

The State Police Uniform

Many state police agencies were hastily organized and often underfunded, so often the earl> troopers were required to buy their own uniforms and sometimes their own guns. Since many of them rode horses or motorcycles, the uniform often consisted of a wool jacket, breeches and high boots. In some instances, this uniform was designed not so much for practicality as for appearance as many departments modeled their uniform after that worn by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Because the state police were a new force, it was important that the public easily recognize who they were. Thus, except in the coldest weather, many early troopers did not even wear overcoats. Those riding horses or motorcycles without windshields had to insulate their uniforms with folded newspapers to keep from freezing to death as they sped down the highway. In the summer they sweltered under a thick wool jacket.
Eventually all agencies provided uniforms for their troopers. Most uniforms were gray, blue or green to distinguish police officers from members of the military. George Chandler, the first superintendent of the NYSP is said to have chosen gray because it was a mixture of black and white, symbolic of good and evil Chandler felt that each trooper would meet in his travels.
Whatever its color, the uniform consisted of a distinctive hat, jacket, breeches or trousers and boots. Motorcycle officers often also received heavy leather gloves and leather jackets. Some, like the Delaware State Police uniform, included putters and high shoes and a Stetson hat.
As one early state police publication said, "Troopers wear the distinctive uniform for three reasons: to identify the man to the public, to represent authority and to publicize the presence of a police officer as a deterrent to wrong doing. While the uniform may be feared by the guilty, it also exists for the safety of the upright."
Officers were also generally issued a .38 caliber revolver, a pair of handcuffs and often a shotgun. In what was considered a radical move at the time, New York State Police Superintendent George Fletcher Chandler ordered his men to wear their pistol on a belt outside their uniforms. Afterwards many had crossdraw holsters, others had swivel holsters worn on the side of the shooting hand.
In some states the uniform reflected the status of the officer. In New Mexico, for example, patrolmen with less than five years on the job (known as junior patrolmen) wore uniforms with silver buttons and trim. After five years they became senior patrolmen and wore gold buttons and trim.
As the use of motorcycles diminished, tall boots and breeches were replaced by trousers and dark shoes, although many officers still wore wool uniforms in both winter and summer. It wasn't until after World War II that most agencies provided troopers with lighter weight uniforms for
summer and warmer overcoats for winter.
Although the "Smokey the Bear" or campaign hat is the hat most commonly identified as being a state trooper hat, early troopers wore a variety of headgear. Some agencies wore "garrison'' hats, some Stetsons and others even straw hats.
Nothing, however, was more distinctive to each agency than its shoulder patch. Although some states have changed patches over the years, all wore them proudly from the beginning.


Regardless of what form a state police agency would eventually assume, all agencies had. and continue to have, one responsibility in common — traffic. As one early state police publication put it, "No war need be more feared that the daily battle in our streets and highways. Death strikes indiscriminately at men, women and children, the weak, the helpless or the aged. The conflict knows no battle line, for tragedy can strike anywhere."
While Americans were prepared to accept casualties in war and most were largely unaffected by deaths among violent criminals, the deaths of ordinary citizens like themselves and, worse yet. innocent family members, was something else again.
By the 1930s, traffic deaths had exceeded the numbers of soldiers killed in World War I. By 1937, there were 40,000 deaths a year on the nation's highways and the country's state police were largely given the responsibility of doing something about this alarming trend.
It quickly became apparent that the role of the state police officer would involve far more than a fast car and a ready ticket book.
Each state police officer was taught to manage traffic, administer first aid, investigate an accident, comfort the wounded, administer drunkometer tests and, above all, act quickly, calmly and courteously.
Once out on the road, he was expected to enforce speeding laws, but to do so with professionalism. He had been taught that "a courteous reminder of traffic regulations corrects more bad driving practices and wins more friends for law enforcement than were ever favorably influenced by bludgeoning tactics."
Most early state police had the option of issuing either a traffic citation or a warning ticket to any person stopped for speeding. And, as now, records were kept and penalties could be imposed on repeat offender. Likewise, suspensions for drivers could result from the accumulation of too many tickets.
Some state police officers were also responsible for testing drivers for licenses and although the requirements varied from state to state, they included mental examinations, physical tests, knowledge of the rules of the road and a driving test.
Whereas in the earliest days of traffic enforcement, bribes to local law enforcement officers were common, most states soon set up a procedure for fines to be handled by justices of the peace or other courts. State police officers were specifically barred from receiving a "cut" of any fines assessed.
In 1932, Northwestern University in cooperation with the International Association of Chiefs of Police created a Traffic Institute, whose main focus was (and is) to study the causes of traffic accidents and train police officers in traffic safety and accident investigation. State police from across the country attended these schools and returned to their communities to share the information with local agencies.
In the late 1930s most states also enacted specific traffic requirements. Pedestrian responsibility was outlined, hitch hiking curbed, reckless homicide and reckless driving defined. Many state police agencies even produced booklets explaining these new laws in "plain language.''

Violent Criminals

Although crime had always been a problem in the early 1920s and 1930s, it was, in the minds of many, becoming an epidemic. It was estimated that "during every minute of the day and night the forces of the underworld extort $28,500 from American citizens — a total of $1.7 million every hour and $15 billion every year. But money was only part of the problem. In addition one in 84 people suffered injury or death as a result of criminal activity every year. There were 152 robberies. 850 burglaries, 2,307 thefts and 488 car thefts every day."
Then, as now, the greatest number of offenders were males between the ages of 18 and 25. Nineteen year olds were consistently the most violent. Overall, the ratio of male-female criminals was nine to one, although women committed almost as many larcenies and auto thefts as men.
Then, too, most criminals were from the "lower social ranks," and the earliest state police officers recognized the correlation between crime and poverty. The repeat offender was a problem, as well.
Although apprehending criminals was the primary mission of early troopers, crime prevention was certainly a secondary goal.
Many early highway patrol officers had been strictly that. They could chase down speeders, but could not arrest a criminal unless he had also committed a traffic offense. In the early 1930s, as lawlessness following the repeal of Prohibition rose, most states granted their state police officers full arrest powers.
These powers, combined with the newly implement state wide radio system, allowed them to provide for the first time what became an invaluable service — the coordination of local and county agencies in the pursuit of criminals.
As a robber fled from county to county, the state police radio system mobilized troopers, city police and sheriffs and roadblocks were set up. If the criminal fled across the state line, the trooper could continue in hot pursuit, secure in the cooperation of the state police in the next state. H necessary, state police could also alert federal officers and a nation-wide manhunt could begin.

Criminal Identification

The creation of an "Identification Section" by the state police represented another move toward interagency cooperation in most states. Just as the establishment of a state wide police radio system greatly enhanced the ability of all agencies to apprehend fugitives, the identification system at last provided a central clearing house for identification of the state's increasingly mobile criminals.
In most states at least one officer in each geographical district was trained as a fingerprint expert. Any officer, local, county or state, could call upon this expert to collect fingerprints at a crime scene, send them off to the state police fingerprint file for comparison or even on to the FBI.

Reprinted with permission of Marilyn Olsen


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