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History of the Omaha Police Department (1857 - 1899)

ESTABLISHED 1857

Click for larger image of Omaha, Nebraska

1857 On the 12th of February, the City was incorporated three years after the first village had been laid out. On Monday, the 5th of March, J.A. Miller became the City Marshal.

 

1866 Omaha grew rapidly, and in March, the City Council enlarged the police force to four men.

 

1868 The position of Police Judge was created. John H. Sahler was appointed to the post.


The City Council decided that the men of the police force should wear uniforms while on duty. It directed the members of the force to provide themselves with "dark blue, single breasted coats, shirts and pants of the same material. They were required to have caps with a brass plate in the front marked "City Police".

 

Click for larger image of Officers in Uniform

1869 On the 6th of July, the City Council increased the police force to one captain, one lieutenant and eighteen patrolmen. Salaries for the captain and lieutenant were paid $90 per month, and the patrol men $70 per month.

 

1870 The newspaper reported that on the 30th of August, Marshal William G. Hollins (known as "Black Wolf" among the Indians) had discovered one of his patrolmen asleep and snoring under a stairway on 12th Street. The Marshal quietly removed the policemen's star, belt, baton and hat. The policemen, needless to say could not explain his missing equipment and was dismissed.

 

1871 In January, by the recommendation of the City Marshall, the force was reduced to twelve men and the rank of lieutenant was abolished.

 

1874 The office of captain was abolished and the Policemen were put under the direct control of the City Marshal.

 

1879 The City's first telephone switchboard was installed. The Police Department had a number listed along with 139 others in the first directory.

 

1882 The Police Department, by now, had a Police Judge, Marshal, and the following officers:

 

Marshal Daniel P. Angel
Officer M. Sullivan
Officer C. A. McClure
Officer Frank Kleffner
Officer H. Jacobsen
Officer O. Buckley

Officer Ed Gorman
Officer Jerry O'Grady
Officer John O'Donahue
Officer William Nightingale
Officer Alexander McCune
Officer Joseph Granacher


1883 While patrolling his beat, Officer Dillion, (who became an Omaha Police Chief), was startled by Omaha's first electric street light near lower Farnam Street. "It wasn't much of a light, but it looked good to me," he said.

 

1884 Marshal Roger T. Guthrie was convicted of collecting money from a disreputable source and was sent to the penitentiary.

 

1885 The police station was moved into the basement of the Redick Opera House, which was on the west side of 16th an Farnam Street. Many of the services were improved, the new jail was considered very respectable. It was reported a prisoner could feel perfectly at home if he could abide the presence of a few rats.

 

The Police Department purchased its first wagon. It was a light and delicate vehicle that had one team of wild broncos to power it.


Arrests were complicated affairs even then. One Officer had to drag his prisoner a mile or so to the nearest telephone to notify the station. The station then had to notify the stables and the driver would fetch the prisoner to the station.


To improve the situation, the Gamewell System of police patrol boxes was installed. The wandering patrolmen no longer had to lug his prisoner for blocks in hopes of finding a telephone. Instead, he merely stepped into his box and pulled a lever and then waited for the wagon. This system later evolved into a telephone box allowing an officer to converse.

 

Click for larger image of Webber S. Seavey

1887 In March, the Police Station was moved to the Exposition Building on the southwest corner of 14th and Davenport Street.

 

On August 19th, the Board met and changed the title of Marshal to that of Police Chief. The first man to hold this position was Webber S. Seavey. Chief Seavey served as Chief of Police from 1887 to 1895.

 

Through his leadership and dedication to law enforcement, Chief Seavey was the first president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

 

To this day, the International Association of Chiefs of Police awards the Webber Seavey award to those law enforcement agencies recognized for their dedication to excellence in law enforcement.

 

1890 The Police Department began the practice of taking photographs of accused criminals. These photographs were taken by a commercial photographer.

 

1892 The Office of Chief of Detectives was created and Sgt. Mostyn was promoted to that office.

 

1894 The force grew to 115 officers to protect the City.

 

1896 The Police Station was moved from the Exposition Building to the basement of the Jackson Hotel on 15th and Jackson Street.

 

1897 The Police Station once again moved to a former school house at 11th and Dodge, where it stayed for the next 72 years. During this time, three different buildings were built or remodeled.