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History of the Omaha Police Department (1900 - 1990)

Click to view larger horse and buggy1900 The Omaha Police did not possess automotive vehicles at this time. Officers answered calls by horseback, buggies or street cars. It was during this time that the Bicycle Squad was formed.  


1907 The Department grew again and consisted of 135 officers.


1908 The modern era began with the purchase of a big white Steamer Auto Patrol Wagon.


1909 Horse propulsion was completely discontinued in the Department. It was replaced by one light touring car that served as an emergency vehicle, plus two big patrol cars and two single-cylinder motorcycles. Click to view larger touring car


1923 The Department's motor force was organized into a separate unit. Superintendent Dunn began the Pill Box system. These Pill Boxes were large enough for a motorcycle with sidecar, rest-room, a desk, and two men.


A direct telephone line linked the Pill Box to Headquarters. It was claimed that Officers could reach any Omaha neighborhood in less then five minutes from the time a call reached police headquarters.


Police Commissioner Dunn called a special meeting to discuss the serious problems of protecting Omaha's children walking to and from school. The outgrowth of the meeting was the establishment of the nation's first safety patrol. Click to view larger safety patrol


1925 Many payroll holdups occurred near Omaha, so the Police Department started a Money Car service. This service was discontinued in 1932.


1925 On June 1st, the department had grown to 271 members.


1931 On March 4, the department put into operation the low frequency broadcasting station, K.G.P.I. The station had three radio operators positioned at the "mike" who transmitted to 30 police cruisers on a twenty-four hour basis.


1932 On July 24th, due to budget problems, 49 members of the Department were laid off indefinitely without pay. The remaining officers agreed to increase their eight hour shift to a twelve hour shift and accept a salary reduction of $30 per month.


1937 On July 19th, the City saw the first of its many parking meters installed on the curbs of the downtown business district. The local paper photographed one of the meters with a police hat on it and termed it "Jepsen's Automatic Cop."


1941 Because of the wide distribution of police badges among many persons who were not officers, the Department chose a new design for its badge which is still used.Click to view larger image of badge


Badge History:

The City of Omaha located on the eastern boundary of Nebraska was named after an Indian tribe.  The City was formed when the Nebraska territory was opened in 1854 and chartered as a City in 1867. 


The Omaha Police Department is proud of the fact that its first police chief, Webb S. Seavey, in the early 1890’s, not only founded, but became the first president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.


The buffalo on both the patch and the police badge is a reminder of the great herds of buffalo that once roamed the vast plains of the great State of Nebraska. 


The center of the badge depicts the seal of Omaha and represents the heritage of the great Nebraska plains focusing on the agricultural aspect.  The Native American that is pictured is a historical reminder of the many tribes that inhabited the area.  In the center of the seal is the head of the buffalo, symbol of the early west. 


1948 The Department continued to grow and change. Membership was now 251. Some of the recorded changes are listed below.

  1. Daily reports were made by each officer.
  2. Cruiser cars tops were painted white.
  3. Neon signs with the words "Police Headquarters and "Police Station" were installed at the Central and South Side Stations.
  4. The polygraph (lie detector) had its first use.
  5. The single fingerprint file was inaugurated.
  6. Handy Talkie radios were put into service.
  7. A police safety education was established.


1954 Membership strength now reached 295.


1959 Department strength was now at 374 members, with 92 vehicles.


1960 The K-9 Corps (police dogs) Program was inaugurated. By the following year, it consisted of 11 dogs and their handlers.


1965 The Police Cadet Program was started in cooperation with the University of Omaha.


1968 The contract for construction of a new police headquarters at 505 S. 15th Street was awarded, and actual construction was started on December 1st.Click to view larger image of Police Headquarters


1970 On June 6th, the six floor Police Headquarters was dedicated. Some changes took place with the move to the new building.

  1. Installation of a multi-channel (eight channel) three way radio system in the ultra high frequency range.(Implemented in April, 1971).
  2. Installation of multi-channel cruiser car radios in all vehicles.
  3. Installation of a three digit dialing emergency telephone system using "911".
  4. Installation of dual flashing lights and new sirens on the police uniform bureau cruisers.
  5. Creation of the Data Review Unit, which classifies all reports into the Records Section.

1972 Authorized strength had now reached 573 Officers.


1973 The Vehicle Impound Unit was created in October.


1976 On March 7th, the Criminal Investigation Bureau instituted the concept of Regional Investigators.


1980 The Omaha Police Division received an Outstanding Achievement Award for its exemplary uniform program.


The light blue accent features of the dark blue uniform and the uniform program were considered especially noteworthy.


1982 Utah Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety, Robert C. Wadman, was appointed Chief of Police of Omaha, becoming the first Chief appointed from outside the ranks of the Omaha Police Division.


1986 Chief Robert C. Wadman was replaced by then Mayor Mike Boyle. Assistant Chief Jack Swanson was appointed as interim Chief of Police. Chief Wadman was re-instated in 1987 and remained Chief of Police until he resigned in 1989. Click to view larger image of Chief James N. Skinner


1989 After Deputy Chief Gary Crinklaw served a brief tenure as interim Chief of Police, Deputy Chief James N. Skinner was appointed as permanent Chief of Police by then Mayor P.J. Morgan.


1990 The Omaha Police Department began the transition from using standard revolvers to semi-automatic handguns.