Home » Justice » The First, the Proud and the Many… The Connecticut State Police

The First, the Proud and the Many… The Connecticut State Police

Donna R. Gore, LadyJustice, Connecticut State Police

This writer was reading a book recently in preparation for an upcoming radio show and accidently came upon the unique and proud heritage of the Connecticut State Police. As it turns out, Ladyjustice’s home state was a pioneer in many ways, concerning the evolution of this type of police force.

Back in the late 1880s, and early 1900’s, police were occupied with the matters of prohibition, the vice squad, and labor disputes. Such areas of concern were frequently ignored due to political influence or local officers  “being on the take.” Public protest spawned a new breed of law enforcement known as” State Police Forces.”

The initial need to enforce vice and liquor laws authorized the Governor to appoint four agents within the structure of the “Law and Order League” to extend coverage to gambling and prostitution. However, this “quasi-official group, the League was ineffective and perceived as meddling with law enforcement.

  • In 1903, the Connecticut State Police celebrated 100 years of service – the oldest law enforcement agency of its kind;  The force was officially created  in of May 1903;
  • Five police commissioners were appointed to create the framework with Thomas F. Egan as the first Superintendent.
  • A State Fire Marshall was appointed in 1905. Police matters focused on included assault, breach of peace, burglary, and theft;
  • In 1911, the State Police was given the additional responsibility of enforcing motor vehicle laws. The Police Superintendent was also given the title of “’Superintendent of Weights and Measures’ – to control overweight vehicles… [LJ – Are we sure this was not actually Home Ec Class??]
  • In 1913, “the “Department “consisted of 15 officers;
  • In 1919, the investigative net widened to include the oversight of amusement parks, and the issuance of permits for concealed weapons.
  • During 1920, Fire Marshalls and State Police were given joint jurisdiction over the licensing, manufacturing, storing and sale of explosives;
  • Between 1921 and 1924, seven “barracks” were established outside of the Capital City of Hartford, with 1 to 2 men assigned per station.  The substations were located in rural areas  were the majority of criminal investigations took place (Unlike 2012 where urban and suburban crime is more prolific);
  • Under Commissioner Robert Harley, in 1927, the force was outfitted with “fashionable emblems, uniforms gray Stetsons.  Weapons, other equipment and police vehicles were upgraded too!
  • In the early 1930’s, the highway patrol was beefed up with 30 troopers assigned from a total of 175 officers

A Revolutionized State Police Force under Commissioner Edward J. Hickey:

  • Governor Raymond E. Baldwin appointed Commissioner Edward J. Hickey in 1939.  Commissioner Hickey was a true pioneer…. Among his many accomplishments,
  • Established the nation’s first State Police FM thee-way mobile communications network;
  • Increased the use of state vehicles on state roads to maintain a greater presence;
  • Initiated a State Police Training Academy and gun –owner registrations;
  • Began a public relations campaign and an in-house newsletter;
  • Created a re-districting plan with  several divisions, eleven stations and six specialized units;
  • Hickey conceptualized the “Bureau of Identification, the forerunner of the now state of the art, State Police Forensics Laboratory;
  • At the start of World War II. Hickey set up an auxiliary program enlisting the help of 1,200 volunteers to guard bridges and installations ( This still exists today…but on a much smaller scale);
  • Commissioner Hickey was the first commander to accept women into the police force;

 

During the July 1944 Hartford Circus Fire, according the “Those Who Helped” account [http://www.circusfire1944.com/thosewhohelped.htm],

Commissioner Edward J. Hickey was reported to: “call one of the key men in the mobilization of the state’s disaster relief forces and their direction by Governor Baldwin.

Seated in the grandstand area, Row 18 (Top row in Section G), his party held seats 6 thru 14.  He heard a cry of “fire” from the West end.  Hickey looked over and saw flames shooting up behind the Southwest bleachers on the inside of the canvas wall.  The Commissioner watched for about a minute, and saw the bottom of the roof ignite.  He collected the children he was with and got them to safety, then returned to the origin of the fire to begin his investigation.”

On a personal level, Hickey was known to be a perfectionist who expected unwavering loyalty, dedication and courtesy when serving the public. Hickey was re-appointed by a succession of six Connecticut Governors.  Sadly, he died of leukemia while Commissioner on September 22, 1953.

One case in particular that haunted Hickey, according to Michael Dooling, author of “Clueless in New England, The Unsolved Disappearance of Paula Welden, Connie Smith and Katherine Hull”, was the mysterious disappearance of Connie Smith of Wyoming, while visiting Connecticut as a summer camper, trying to catch a ride to the Center in 1952. Connie was ten years old, but had the features of older young woman, as her father was an imposing 6 feet, 7 inches tall. There were many reported sitings of Connie, but she was never found.

Prior to his death, Commissioner Hickey pleaded with troopers saying,  “I am not satisfied that this young girl or any girl can disappear from the face of the earth for any long period, remain alive and forsake all friendships. Dig a bit deeper in this case… Search the waterways again and don’t take anything for granted.  We want the answer of Connie Smith’s disappearence.”  All for naught…

More Innovations of the Connecticut State Police Force…. after Commissioner Hickey’s Reign:  July 1, 1939-Sept. 22, 1953

  • Ø Establishment of  a fire safety code – 1947;
  • Ø Organizing an emergency services division – 1951;
  • Ø Increasing the ranks – 500 men and 12 women in 1963;
  • Creation of a Criminal Intelligence Division – 1967;
  • Initiation of a Statewide Narcotics Taskforce – 1977;
  • Due to re-organization of State Government, the CT State Police became part of the “umbrella” Department of Public Safety in 1979;

Additional programs in the 1980’s included a legalized Gambling Investigation Unit, a Canine Unit, a Firearms Range and the D.A. R. E. Program [Drug Abuse Resistive Education] trainings for children K through 12, initially started in Los Angeles in 1983, whose focus is on emphasizing life skills in order to avoid drugs and gang life.

According to the Connecticut State Police Museum data, there are 1,035 State police officers currently, they stand tall and proud. Since 1922, 20 state troopers have been killed in the line of duty.  ‘Tis a far cry from the “days of old” when their sworn duties included raiding a still, searching for a bootlegger or arresting a neighbor for stealing a cow.

References:

Connecticut State Police Museum: http://www.cspmuseum.org/CMSLite/default.asp?CMSLite_Page=7&Info=History

Connecticut State Library: http://www.cslib.org/agencies/statepolice.htm

“Clueless in New England…” Author Michael C. Dooling; http://www.amazon.com/Clueless-New-England-Disappearances-Katherine/dp/0962742430

“Those who Helped” http://www.circusfire1944.com/thosewhohelped.htm

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “The First, the Proud and the Many… The Connecticut State Police

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