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Lincoln Police Department

Lincoln, Nebraska
Lincoln Police History

Police Chiefs | 1870 | 1880 | 1890 | 1900 | 1910 | 1920 | 1930 | 1940 | 1950 | 1960 | 1970 | Fallen Officers


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The first police force for the City of Lincoln was formed in July of 1870. The desire to create a police force started with the City Board. They were concerned with the waning morality among citizens of the community and felt there was an influx of naturally immoral and lawless elements coming from other cities. The police force was started with just three men: William Barber as a patrolman and Matthew Donahue and Charles Norton as watchmen. In 1871, A.E. Hastings was appointed Marshal of Lincoln. He also served as Street Commissioner, Fire Warden and was a member of the Board of Health. His salary was $180 a month, a sum which many thought was too much. The City Board in 1871 set salaries at $100 a month for the marshal and $2 a day for policemen. By 1885 the City Council had reduced the Marshal’s salary to $60 a month and increased the officer’s salaries to $55 a month. By 1913, the Chief was paid $1800 a year and an average police officer received $960 a year. Today, the starting income for a police officer is $31,000 a year.

Lancaster County opened the current jail facility in June of 1991. It is located next to the City County building at 9th and “J” streets. The first jail for Lincoln was at “8th and “Q” streets and was originally Landons Milk House. Officers used the milk house from 1871 until 1872 when a room was rented for $15 a day from councilman D.A. Sherwood. In 1873 the Lincoln Police Department had their first jail break. Two prisoners escaped from the jail, and three Councilmen were appointed to investigate. They were authorized to spend not more than $25 for their entire investigation. They reported that the jailer and perhaps one policeman were asleep at the time of the escape.

On November 9, 1885, the Council drew up the first set of Official Police Rules, they were:

1. Peace and good order was the responsibility of the Marshal.
2. Day force on duty from 6am to 7pm. Night force on duty from 7pm to 6am.
3. The Patrolman was to be familiar with the beat and it was his duty to guard the same. Use of firearms were allowed only in extreme cases. Police could arrest, without a warrant, anyone found violating city ordinances. In all other cases, a warrant was necessary for an arrest.
4. A scrapbook was to be kept at the police station of handbills, telegrams, and photographs of criminals.
5. The Patrolmen were to go on duty at such time and place as the marshal might designate.
6. Ordinances concerning conduct of saloons were to be strictly enforced.
7. Only the Marshal, Captain of Police and Jailer were to have keys to the jail.
8. Special police were to make no arrests.
9. Police making arrest were entitled to fees if any were paid.
Supervisors shall consist of one Marshal, one Captain of the day force, a Deputy Marshal, and one Captain of the night force. Supervisors were to report for work in uniform and their duty was to see that the above rules were carried out.

If certain charges were sustained against a police officer, they were to be suspended. These charges were:

1. Drinking on duty.
2. Gossip about other police.
3. Visiting saloons while on duty; except for duty.
4. Accepting fees.
5. Leaving their beat.
6. Visiting a house of ill-fame.
7. Willful abuse of a prisoner.
8. Uncivil treatment of other officer.
9. Immoral conduct.
10. Giving information which would allow a criminal to escape.
11. Disorderly conduct.
12. Sleeping while on duty.

Today, officers have a wide range of policies and procedures they use every day as guidelines to perform their jobs. The interesting thing is that some of the things that were listed above are the same as regulations enforced today. The Police have always enforced the laws of the City of Lincoln. In 1889 some of the laws were:

SPEED LIMITS - No person shall ride or drive any horse or other animal in the City of Lincoln with greater speed than at the rate of 6 miles an hour, under the penalty of a fine not more than $20.
No person, upon turning the corner of any street or crossing the intersection of any street in the City of Lincoln, shall ride with a greater speed than 4 miles an hour. Fine $10.
Speed in an alley no greater than a walk. Fine $15
Riding on sidewalk Fine $5
Speed contest; run or race any horse on any public street or road. Fine $25

UGLY IN PUBLIC - Any person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated, or in any way deformed, so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object, or an improper person to be allowed in or on the streets, highways, thoroughfares or public places in this city, shall not therein or thereon expose himself or herself to public view, under the penalty of a fine of $1 for each offense. Upon conviction of any person for violation of this section, if it shall seem proper and just, the fine provided for may be suspended, and such person detained at the police station where he shall be well cared for until he can be sent to the county pool farm. SUNDAY LAWS - The following activities were deemed unlawful on Sunday:
*Dancing *Foot Races *Fast Driving of Horses *Playing Ball *Ten Pins *Wrestling *Discharging Firearms *Beating Drums *Fishing *Boxing *Playing Loud Instruments (except at funerals)
It shall be unlawful to engage in or exhibit any show, play, opera, theater, or public amusement, except in sacred concerts where no admission fee is charged or to use, or permit any licensed hall, opera house, saloon, billiard hall or other place of public amusement to be used on said day.

It shall be unlawful for any business house, bank, store, saloon, or any office to be open or for any person to be admitted there to for general business on said day. Exceptions - physicians, telegraph, express office, photograph galleries, railroad, telephone and hotels. Fine $5 to $100.

In 1887, a Citizen’s Law and Order League was organized to fight corruption. This was formed when three citizens filed a complaint against Police Judge A.L. Parsons, alleging corruption. The council dismissed the judge. He appealed his dismissal to the U.S. Circuit Court in St. Louis, claiming the council had no jurisdiction. A Federal judge ordered the Lincoln Mayor and the council to appear in Omaha. They refused and were ordered to pay large fines. The mayor and council refused to pay the fines and were arrested and jailed for contempt. After spending a few hours in jail, they were taken to two luxurious hotel rooms for the remainder of their 6 day sentence. They were wined and dined by their Omaha friends. The mayor and council were given honor paroles and later their case was dismissed. Andrew J. Sawyer, author of "Lincoln, the Capitol City and Lancaster County Nebraska" wrote this about the incident:
"Until the trouble arose between the Lincoln Police Judge and the City Council, which resulted in the jailing of the latter and the subsequent hearing of the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, many instances of dishonesty had occurred in the force. In many respects the better class of citizens of Lincoln had a great deal to contend with on account of the lawless class of men who infected this state, as they do every border of the frontier."

The following year in 1898 the City Board and Chief Parker ordered a crusade against the suspicious characters that were infesting the city. During this same time the Board of Education was presenting evidence that pool hall keepers were allowing boys under 18 years of age into the establishments. E.M. Abbott was arrested and fined on three counts to kick off a campaign against that practice. Other arrests were made in connection with the crusade. The Lincoln Police Department started a mounted police unit in 1916. They were responsible for enforcing traffic rules and regulations. In 1927, the jail introduced the concept of hard labor. On June 22, 1927, the first detachment of prisoners was put to work at the city jail. They started "pounding rock" for $1.50 a day.

When Prohibition went into effect in May of 1917, there was a dramatic drop in the number of arrests. They dropped form 313 the month preceding Prohibition to 144 in May. Arrest for prostitution, banditry and bootlegging never really gained a foothold of importance in Lincoln.

On September 17, 1930, at approximately 10 am, six men in a blue Buick pulled up in front of the Lincoln National bank and trust Company, located in the Barkley Building at 12th and 'O' street. Five of the men exited the car; four entered the bank with guns drawn. The patrons and employees were ordered to lie down on the floor. The fifth man took up a position on the corner armed with a machine gun and the driver remained in the car with the engine running. A lady in the bank managed to slip out a side door and went to a nearby store where the police were called. A motorcycle officer responded and upon driving up to the bank he was confronted by the machine gun welding robber who ordered him to keep right on going. He did, straight to the police station where other officers jumped into two patrol cars and returned to the bank. Unfortunately they were too late. The robbers had already fled. Within months, the Lincoln Police Department had acquired an armored car and was planning a radio system. After the gang obtained cash and securities amounting to $2,702,796, got into their car and turned on a siren to clear traffic and sped out of town. At that time the $2.7 million was the largest amount ever taken in a bank robbery. Three of the six were arrested and charged with the robbery; Tommy O’Connor and 'Pop' Lee were tried and sentenced to long jail terms. Jack Britt was free after being tried twice. Gus Winkler, a member of Al Capone’s gang offered to return $600,000 in bonds if he escaped prosecution. The officials agreed and $575,000 in bonds were returned , however the bank never re-opened. Shortly thereafter, Gus Winkler was found in Lake Michigan with 109 pieces of buckshot in him. Theory is that he held out on Al Capone and was taken care of by the gang. The remaining two robbers were never captured or identified.

One of the best known and widely publicized cases for the Lincoln Police Department occurred on January 27, 1958. Charles Starkweather started one of the biggest manhunts in the nation by killing 10 people. Before the investigation was over many officers from LPD spent countless hours investigation and searching the community for Starkweather and his accomplice Carol Fugate.

By 1975, LPD entered a new era when Team Policing was instituted. Team Policing divided the city up into four geographical areas each with their own team captain and complement of police officers that work in the same area each day. A fifth team was added in 1999 and the team boundaries changed.

The Team Policing concept is beneficial to the community and the officers. The officers who patrol and answer calls in the same area are better suited to know the businesses and the neighborhood people in their area. They are able to recognize suspicious activity and known offenders due to their familiarity of the area. It also allows the community to work with the officers to form a problem solving partnership to deal with crime, disorder and special problems that occur in the neighborhood.
Team Policing has evolved even further and is now referred to as Community Based Policing. Police Departments are looking to the citizens of the community to help them be more efficient. New programs continue to develop which involve the community. The return of the School Resource Officer and implementation of the Bike Patrol are also examples of Community Based Policing.

The Lincoln Police Department started the first juvenile division in 1955 at the recommendation of Mayor Clark Jeary. Today we continue to have this division which is known as the Family Crimes Unit. This unit investigates serious crimes against children and missing juveniles. Family Crimes also operated a diversion program for juvenile offenders, coordinates many youth programs, and maintains gang and truancy intervention programs.

In 1994, the Lincoln Police Department started a Traffic Safety Unit, which consisted of 1 Sergeant and 5 Officers. Today the Traffic Enforcement Units main objective is selective enforcement of traffic laws. The combined efforts of the unit and other officers of the Lincoln Police Department results in several thousand moving traffic citations.

The size of the Lincoln Police Department changes yearly. In 1959, 100 patrolmen, 4 meter maids and a juvenile unit made up the entire department. The central radio system controlled only 1 of the 20 police cruisers and 14 motorcycles. This is a marked contrast to the single marshal of 1863. The numbers grew to 148 commissioned officers, 6 cadets, 4 meter maids and 30 civilian employees in 1967. Only three of the 148 commissioned officers were female. Currently there are over 300 commissioned officers with 50 being female. The civilian employees are over 100 strong and the department continues to grow in many ways every year.

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