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History of the SPD
1829-The Springfield community was first established in 1829 with the arrival of Tennessean John Polk Campbell who donated fifty acres of his land and laid out the new town.
1849-Town Constable appointed for the first time.
1858-With a population of 1,200 citizens, Springfield established the first Police Department consisting of a Marshal (Chief) and two officers.
1865-The World's first "High Noon" shoot-out occurred on the public square, when James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok shot Dave Tutt over a woman and a pocket watch he had lost in a poker game at a downtown saloon. In August, Hickok was acquitted of manslaughter in Tutt's death. A month later, he ran for City Marshal in Springfield's first post-Civil War election and placed second out of five candidates. City Marshals (Police Chiefs) would be elected for terms of either one or two years until 1916.
1866-The first officer-involved shooting occurred. Wild Bill Hickok was a witness to the incident.
1870-Police Headquarters was located at the base of the Bell Tower in the center of Park Central Square.
1871–In the early morning hours of July 20, 1871, Campbell Township Constable Jacob Baughman went to a home near Strafford to make an arrest concerning an ongoing feud between two men. A Springfieldian and his son, participants of this feud, went along. The Strafford man refused to go with Constable Baughman, and a major row developed between several members of each family. Baughman was shot as he struggled with the Strafford man. Versions of what happened vary, depending on the affiliation of the witness. Some say the Strafford man fired the shot that killed Baughman. Others say that the Springfieldians opened fire and one of their shots accidentally hit Baughman. The Strafford man was shot and killed by the Springfieldian. It is believed that Baughman was the first hit, and that he never fired a shot. Baughman died the next day, July 21, 1871.
1874–In response to requests from members of Springfield’s minority community, Lewis Tutt, son of a female slave and her white owner, was appointed Springfield’s first minority officer. Tutt, who served a single one-year term, was the half brother of Dave Tutt, who was killed by Wild Bill Hickok in 1865. This year also saw the construction of Springfield’s first city jail, a 15x30 foot wooden building with a dirt floor. Bids for the jail ranged from a low of $369 to a high of $510. The final construction bill included cost overruns of $6 for an extra 300 feet of lumber and $15 to "dig and wall a vault for the privy." This jail was located immediately west of the Calaboose, currently the home of the department’s Police Museum and Park Central Substation.
1876-Four officers and the Marshall worked the "Central Station" above the fire station at 414 West College Street.
1888–On the morning of August 9, 1888, Officers Fred J. Palmore and Clay Roberts went to make an arrest at a home on Good Children's Lane, an area with a reputation for criminal activities. The suspect was to be arrested for earlier brandishing a pistol at another man. Officers Palmore and Roberts found the suspect in bed. The officers located a pistol under a pillow and it was laid on a nightstand as Palmore began to take custody of the suspect. The suspect grabbed the pistol and fired it as he struggled with Officer Palmore. The shots struck Officer Palmore in the head and groin. Officer Roberts shot the suspect in the jaw as he escaped. A posse was formed and both City and County officers began a manhunt. A tip was received, and Police Chief Barrett and Officers Snow, Hayes, and Dameron conducted an overnight stakeout of a house eight miles east of the Public Square and attempted to arrest the suspect as he walked from the house during the early morning hours. The suspect was "commanded to throw up his hands." Instead, he once again pulled his pistol and pointed it at Officer Hayes. Officer Hollett Snow fired twice. One shot struck the suspect in the ribs. The suspect was taken to the City Jail, cell number 3. Officer Palmore agonized for days and received "brain surgery" from a team of local doctors to remove the bullet on August 11. Officer Palmore died on August 17, 1888. Despite having been shot twice in three days, the suspect survived and received a 99-year sentence for murder. Hollett's brother Isom later took Palmore's place.
1892-One of Springfield's first black officers, Jacob Andrews, patrolled the Boonville and Phelps (levee) beat. There were nine other officers, and the Chief made $50.00 per month. A new city jail (Calaboose) was built behind the Central Station at 414 West College Street. The Calaboose was located at 409 West McDaniel Street just west of Campbell Avenue. The stone and brick building is the oldest remaining public building built by the city. Officers continued to wear blue uniforms and gray helmets. Drunks were often hauled to jail in a wheelbarrow.
1898-The Department got its first phone. Officers no longer had to use the firemen's phone downstairs at 414 West College Street.
1900-The Department began using its first Paddy Wagon, dubbed the "Black Maria" and also the "Hoodlum Wagon," operated by a local doctor.
1903-Susan McIntire served as police matron this year and 1904. An article in the August 23, 1924, Springfield Republican said she was known as "Mother McIntire" and was Springfield's first official social worker. She was also listed as the oldest Missouri member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.
1910-The Department's first automobile, a Studebaker,was purchased; however, all beats continued to be covered by officers on foot. Officers worked 12 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.Police Chief Thomas Hunter ordered new uniforms for the officers. The blue serge uniforms cost $22.50 each. Officers wore a British "Bobby" style police helmet.
1914-Margaret Hull was hired to handle female prisoners. The kidnapping of a 14-month-old infant for a ransom of $6,000 made national headlines. The baby was later found dead and three people were convicted.
1916–With the change to the city commission form of government, Barney Rathbone, who first served as an officer in the 1890s, became the city’s first appointed Police Chief. He would serve until 1920. The manner in which officers were appointed also changed. Previously, the mayor appointed officers to one-year terms. Officers now would be appointed to indefinite terms. The officers appointed this year also were the first to have taken a police department civil service test. Among the questions on that first test was "Under what circumstances may an officer leave his beat?" One candidate answered, "As I am not yet an officer, I wouldn’t know."
1918-First Traffic Officer designated, wearing a white shirt for safety. He directed traffic at Jefferson Avenue and St. Louis Street.
1924-Thirty-five officers moved into the new station at 214 South Market Avenue. A "Northside Precinct" at 224 East Commercial Street stayed open, staffed by two officers.
1925-Bureau of Identification, or "Rogue's Gallery" was established. Fingerprints and photographs were taken of all suspects.
1926-Detective Al Franklin was shot and killed while responding to a sniper call where several people had been shot. The suspect was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
1928-Detective Ted DeArmond, who had arrested Detective Franklin's killer, was murdered by a man who had earlier shot his wife's mother and sister, and stabbed her friend. The suspect was arrested by detective Tony Oliver who was killed in another shoot-out four years later.The suspect killed himself in the Greene County Jail days before he was to be hanged for DeArmond's murder.
1930-Officer Clyde Moore was killed when his motorcycle hit a tree as he responded to a fire.
1932-The "Northside Precinct" had moved to 299 East Commercial Street. The first one-way radios were installed in "scout cars" (squad cars). The "Young Massacre," one of the most infamous crimes in law enforcement history, occurred when four Springfield officers, the sheriff, and his deputy were killed during a gun battle with two brothers. Two other city officers were wounded. The men were wanted for the 1929 murder of the Republic City Marshall. Springfield police officers killed during the rampage were Chief of Detectives Tony Oliver (who had arrested the killer of Detective D'Armond in 1928) and Officers Albert "Sid" Meadows, Ollie Crosswhite, and Charles Houser. Greene County Sheriff Marcel Hendrix and Deputy Wiley Mashburn also died. SPD Officers Owen Brown and Frank Pike received gunshot wounds during the shoot-out.
1933-Motorcycle Officer Tom Persell was kidnapped by Bonnie and Clyde. He was released unharmed several hours later in Joplin, Missouri.
1940-Uniform color changed from blue to khaki brown. There were fifty-three officers, five patrol car beats, and eight foot beats. The Department had ten cars and four motorcycles. Increased emphasis was placed on training and Lieutenant Sam Robards was the first Springfield Police Officer to be sent to the FBI's National Academy. When he returned, a basic police academy was established, a range was built (officers had previously used the National Guard Armory Range), and in-service training become mandatory. Two-way radios were installed for the first time. 1,295 serious crimes were reported during the year. The annual salaries: Chief-$2,700; Detective-$1,680; Officer-$1,620 and Secretary- $1,300.
1941-World War II began and GIs from local forts and camps frequented Springfield for R&R. Military Police rode with City officers and also had their own jeep patrols to maintain order.
1946-Voters approved the first pension plan for police and firemen. Officers worked 8-hour days, seven days a week.
1948-The population stood at approximately 70,000 citizens. The Department had seventy officers and handled 6,391 calls.
1952-Over 25% of the personnel resigned to take better paying jobs with better benefits. There were ninety-six officers in the town of 90,000. Officers made $214 per month; the Chief made $362.
1953-Voters approved the Council-Manager form of government, adding stability to the Department. A disgruntled boy released ten King Cobras from a St. Louis Street pet shop. Officers killed or captured all of the snakes, making national headlines. Life Magazine did a cover story.
1955-An American Airlines plane crashed near the Regional Airport, killing twelve and injuring twenty-three. City officers worked throughout the night to rescue trapped passengers.
1956-Lt. Johnie Melton was shot in the face while responding to a man with a gun call. He survived, but could never return to duty.
1959-The Police Dog Unit (P.D.U.) was formed with three officers and three dogs in August. It continued until 1979. Twenty officers were sent to help quell a five-day riot at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, after guards were taken hostage. There were nine car beats and eight foot beats.
1962-Yearly uniform allowance was $204. Shirts- $22.50 each; pants-$19.50 each.
1965-Voters rejected a bond issue that would have constructed a four-story police station at Grant and Chestnut Expressway. To save money, the City began to phase out the use of black and white patrol cars.
1967-Six records clerks and 124 officers were still in the 5,600 sq. ft. Market Street Station, which was designed for a staff of thirty-five.
1968-Federal law reduced officers' week from six days to five.
1969-On December 8, personnel moved to the 40,800 sq. ft. station at Chestnut Expressway and Jefferson Avenue. All foot beats had ended with the exception of the Square and Commercial Street.
1970-Officers made $6,000 per year. They told the public seventy-three more officers were needed. Civilian staff and officers totaled 165. Mace, batons, and riot helmets were issued for the first time. A sniper's bullet caused a truck hauling dynamite to explode nine miles west of Springfield. The explosion created a 40-foot-deep crater in I-44, and blew out windows in downtown Springfield. Although it occurred well outside Springfield, City officers were dispatched and a suspect was later arrested here.
1971-The Springfield Police Officers Association (S.P.O.A.) was formed to help improve working conditions for City officers.
1973-Federal money enabled a diving team and narcotics squad (Region II) to be established.
1974-Officer Frank Bennett was struck by a vehicle while working an accident. He was hospitalized for 3½ weeks and later had to take a medical retirement. A week later, Officer Rex Hughes was shot when he responded to a business burglary. The bullet struck ink pens in his left breast pocket, deflecting it downward into his diaphragm, saving his life. The Department's first uniformed policewomen were hired.
1976-The total number of sworn police officers for the Springfield Police Department was 205.
1978-Officer Charlene Strothcamp was permanently injured when her arm was slashed during a barroom disturbance. Cpl. Larry Craig was trampled by a bull he was attempting to capture which had escaped from the stockyards.
1983-Officer Jean Ann Eubanks was struck and permanently injured by a vehicle as she attempted to arrest three armed robbery suspects.
1985-The City Management announced most officer positions inside Police Headquarters (Telcom, Evidence Clerk, etc.) would be replaced with civilian employees to save money. Officers currently filling those positions were given street assignments.
1987-Officer Rick Jemes and a citizen were chasing a suspect on foot when all three were struck by a car. The suspect was killed and officer Jemes and the citizen were seriously injured. Doctors credited Jemes' bulletproof vest with saving his life. New uniform shoulder patches were adopted and white patrol cars with red and blue stripes were phased in.
1988-Officer Ted Hunt was stabbed by a mentally disturbed man when Hunt attempted to assist him. Officer Hunt was later able to return to duty.
1989-Cpl. Larry Robinson was shot while trying to arrest a man wanted for rape and murder in California. Robinson later recovered and was featured in the national television show "Top Cops." Officers began using 9mm semiautomatic handguns and PR-24 self-defense weapons. The Crisis Action Team (C.A.T) was formed. The authorized strength of sworn officers had dropped to 186.
1990-After fifty years, the uniform color returned to blue. A record 82,152 calls for service were handled.
1992-The case of "Three Missing Women" was recognized across the nation. The three women (Sherrill Levitt, 47; Suzanne Streeter, 19; and Stacy McCall, 18) disappeared from a house in Springfield on June 7, 1992. The case still remains unsolved. The Community Oriented Policing program began in Springfield.
1993-Patrol cars got a modern metallic gray and blue striped color scheme.
1994-After fifteen years, the first canine was brought back into service. The department moved toward accreditation through Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). A record 93,096 calls for service were handled.
1995-The Springfield Police Department Memorial was dedicated. The mobile Crime Scene Unit was put into service. Five dogs were added to the Canine Unit. Four substations were operating in the city-Battlefield Mall, Park Central Square, Grant Beach and S.M.S.U.
1997-On August 6, 1997, Officer Greg Wheelen was shot by Marty Swindle during a standoff at the American Inn (3550 E. Evergreen St.). Officer Wheelen survived, but Swindle was killed in an exchange of gunfire. Swindle was wanted on drug charges by the US Marshal's Office. On November 4, 1997, the voters of Greene County passed a 3/8 cent county sales tax. The Greene County Law Enforcement Tax Initiative will expand a new jointly operated county/city jail, develop a countywide communications system, and put more officers on the street for the entire county. On November 22, 1997, the Springfield Police Department became an Accredited Law Enforcement Agency through CALEA.
1998–A restoration project focusing on "The Old Calaboose" paved the way to place the 107-year-old public building into active service as a combination Police Museum and Police Substation.
1999–Eighty laptop computers, part of the Mobile Data Communications Project, were installed in patrol vehicles and first used in August.
2000–In May, City Manager Tom Finnie instructed the department to proceed with the development and construction of a southside police facility. After undergoing an extensive selection and training process, the Police Civilian Appeals Board held its first meeting on August 2. The department was reaccredited by CALEA on December 2.
2001–In January and February, forty-six officers and one civilian were promoted in one of the largest advancement events in department history. The DWI Enforcement Unit received awards from the NHTSA and MADD in July. In August, City Council approved the use of take-home police vehicles. In September, groundbreaking was held for the new combined police and fire station. An ordinance passed by City Council in September provides an allowance to officers who rent or purchase a residence in the CDBG.
2002–In April, the Springfield Detention Facility, located at Police Department Headquarters, was closed. All prisoners are now taken to the Greene County Justice Center. On November 1, the South District Station/Fire Station #6 was dedicated. The combined facility measures 44,000 square feet and will greatly relieve overcrowding at Headquarters.
2003–On November 10, the International Association of Chiefs of Police Community Policing Committee announced the Springfield Police Department was a finalist in a worldwide competition among law enforcement agencies that recognizes outstanding community policing initiatives. This is the first time any city in the State of Missouri has achieved this honor. On November 22, the Springfield Police Department was granted full accreditation status by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). This is the third successful accreditation review for the department.
2004–During the spring of 2004, a major renovation of the 35-year-old Headquarters building began. Upon completion of the $3.8 million project, the modernized facility will utilize floor space more efficiently and have wireless technology throughout much of the building.
2005–Police Headquarters was reopened following a total renovation taking more than a year. Wireless access to computer data was made available to officers from 13 access points located throughout the city.
2006-First annual Public Safety Expo was held at the Springfield Expo Center. People could meet public safety officers and see the equipment they use. The department received its third CALEA reaccreditation.
2007-January ice storm and power loss throughout the city saw police directing traffic at intersections and watching generators. First red light cameras were activated at National and Battlefield.
2008-The nation's declining economy and the City’s struggles to fund the police/fire pension fund were major issues during the year. Efforts at the end of the year to boost the fund with a 1% sales tax in 2009 were encouraged.
2009-Citizens passed a 3/4 cent sales tax to shore up the ailing police/fire pension. Lower tax revenues affected the City budget which led to a hiring freeze on vacant positions in all City departments and required several employees to take furloughs.
2010-Paul F. Williams was sworn in as Chief of Police for Springfield, Missouri, on July 1, 2010. Chief Williams retired from the Tulsa Oklahoma Police Department in 2010 at the rank of Major after 29 years of service. An academy class of 22 started in June to begin rebuilding the force.
2011-A black and white paint scheme was adopted for patrol cars. Beat and zone redistricting of the city took place in 2011, resulting in three zones and 8 beats. The redistricting allowed for resource allocation based on "hot spots" of crime. A Leadership Council was established comprised of a group of employees from all levels of the department. The council was given the responsibility to examine issues and problems and develop solutions. In April construction began on the Police and Fire Regional Training Facility. The new facility will have over 25,000 square feet of space and will house in-service training as well as future police academies. Authorized sworn strength rose to 331 with 80.5 nonsworn positions.
2015-On January 26, 2015, Officer Aaron Pearson was shot in the line of duty by Joshua Lee Hagood. Officer Pearson survived the encounter. The Greene County Jail closed to city inmates due to overcrowding at the facility.
2020-On March 15, 2020, Officer Chris Walsh was shot and killed at a Kum & Go on E. Chestnut Expressway. The shooter was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. On June 9, 2020, Jon Tyler Franklin Routh hit Officer Mark Priebe with a vehicle. Officer Priebe survived the encounter.