By Decade



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 officers' salaries to $55 a month. By 1913, the Chief was paid $1800 a year and an average police officer received $960 a year.

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:

  • Peace and good order was the responsibility of the Marshal.
  • Day force on duty from 6am to 7pm. Night force on duty from 7pm to 6am.
  • 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.
  • A scrapbook was to be kept at the police station of handbills, telegrams, and photographs of criminals.
  • The Patrolmen were to go on duty at such time and place as the marshal might designate.
  • Ordinances concerning conduct of saloons were to be strictly enforced.
  • Only the Marshal, Captain of Police and Jailer were to have keys to the jail.
  • Special police were to make no arrests.
  • 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:

  • Drinking on duty.
  • Gossiping about other police.
  • Visiting saloons while on duty; except for duty.
  • Accepting fees.
  • Leaving their beat.
  • Visiting a house of ill-fame.
  • Willful abuse of a prisoner.
  • Uncivil treatment of another officer.
  • Immoral conduct.
  • Giving information which would allow a criminal to escape.
  • Disorderly conduct.
  • Sleeping while on duty. 


1885  |  First known photo of the Lincoln Police Department

Notation on photo "Day Police Force of City of Lincoln on May 1885"

The police department had two shifts, the Day Force and the Night Force. Each shift was 12 hours long and officers worked 7 days a week. Names are written on the bottom of the photograph identifying the men from left to right as: J. Hollaway, J.K. Post, Chief of Police G.B. Beach, M. Smith, and Marian Flowler. Police Chief Beach is seated at the desk.


1888  |  Lincoln Police Department standing in front of their office at the City Government Building.

Names listed on the photo are, left to right: Police Judge W.J. Houdton; Robert Bracken; John Keane; C.M. Green; "Swede" Peterson; A.L. Pound; J.S. Stewart; Captain A.M. Post; John Tubman; P.H. Cooper; Chief of Police; William George; W.T.B. Ireland; Captain; William Splain; Joe Mitchell; James McKinney; Matt Bracken; Eli Bates; and Louis Faulhaber. Matt Bracken in doorway who used to feed the prisoners at 10 cents a meal.

In 1889, some of the laws enforced by Lincoln Police were:


  • 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


  • 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.





Police Chief Melick is seated at the center front row, holding a cane.




Lincoln Police Department's first African American police officer was Tom Carnahan.
He is standing near the back, second man from the right.
Close to the building, you can see a Lincoln Police wagon and driver.




1900-5_s.jpg 1900-2_s.jpg 1900-6_s.jpg


1900  |  Joseph Haney

Joseph Haney was the driver of the police wagon known as the "Black Maria" because the wagon was painted black and the horses were black. The police wagon was sent out to pick up and transport prisoners from where the officers had them under arrest to the jail located at the Government Building. Haney's hat badge is marked "Driver".




The Lincoln Police Department started a mounted police unit in 1916. They were responsible for enforcing traffic rules and regulations.

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

1910-1_s.jpg 1911  |  Lincoln Police Handwritten Log

Lincoln Police are sent to the Sigma Nu fraternity at 11:00 AM, 1527 M Street because someone left a baby at their door. A note is left with the baby saying "Kind friends this is a legitimate child born of strong parents. His father died 2 months before this baby's birth and I the mother have been thrown on my own resources and I am forced to make my own living. Please either give or find a good home for this little fellow. LPD sends officers who then ask for an "auto" as they can't transport the child and his clothing by themselves. Matron Doyle is sent to help. Document is from the hand written logs kept by the Lincoln Police officer in charge.

Courtesy of Nebraska State Historical Society




1920s photo of Lincoln Police Officers outside their office in the Government Building at 10th and Q Street.


1920 LPD Motorcycle Officers


1921 Dodge Patrol Wagon, purchased new for $1,300.


1925 Lincoln Police Officers on O Street


Officers gathered together on 11th Street



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 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.


Officers standing in front of a corner store
Photo courtesy of Edholm Blomgrem collection


1930 Lincoln Police Command Staff. Left to Right: Harry Goeglein, Walter Rowden, Neil Olson, Frank Towle, Clinton Hurd
Photo courtesy of Lincoln Journal Star


1933 Traffic Unit Officers Charles Wilson and Leon Towle.
Courtesy of Darlene Towle Pettit


1938 LPD Composite




Beat officer at 13th and O Streets, post war


The much talked about police two-way radio finally went into official operation in March 1942.
Five police cars and two fire department cars were initially equipped with the new radios.


In 1944, police women were added to the force. They worked at night, in close cooperation with the morals squad - checking amusement places, depots and hotels. Pictured from left to right: Mrs. Merle Weller, Mrs. Lou Hillyer and Hulda Roper.


In 1948, four members of the University of Nebraska football team joined the Lincoln police force for the summer months.
Pictured from left to right: Gail Gade, Chick Story, Ken Hollins, Dale Adams and Chief Joe Carroll.



The Lincoln Police Department started a 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.

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.

In 1959, 100 patrolmen, 4 meter maids and the juvenile unit made up the entire department. The central radio system controlled only 1 of the 20 police cruisers and 14 motorcycles.


Students huddle around Detective Frank Robbins while he presents different department weapons.


Paul Beave and Inspector Henninger using the polygraph machine.


A group of night beat officers leaving the station to hit the streets in 1958.
From left to right: Warren Chrastil, Harry Peterson, B. Dean Leitner, Sgt. Bobbie Myers, Alfred Kelly and Robert Edmunds.




Officers undergoing gun inspection before their shifts.
From left to right: Larry Pierce, Art Banders, James Baird, Stanley Lehn, unknown, and Sgt. Ernie Berry.


Officer Marv Morgan pictured with students at Saratoga School in the late 1960s.


Sergeant Bud Hynek with three meter maids, Dee Danley (front), followed by Betty Rezek and Donna Giles.


Inspector Bob Sawdon and his daughter, Mary Pat, ringing bells for the Salvation Army at Christmas time in 1969.




Officer Mike Eger, one of the first school resource officers,talking with students.


Sergeant Hewitt carrying a baby after an accident.


Officer Richard Heaton making a call from a downtown call box.

Call box locations:
7th and P St
8th and M St
9th and O St
10th and O St
12th and O St
13th and O St
15th and O St
17th and O St
19th and O St
23rd and O St
27th and O St