Our History

Serving with Integrity since 1851

In August 1901, under the supervision of Chief of Police Thomas A. Hilton, the Salt Lake City Police Department published a resume of the department’s history. The department had just attained its 50-year jubilee on January 12 of that same year. The occasion was allowed to pass virtually unnoticed by both press and public.

As preface to this brief history in 1901, an unknown writer did publish a rather descriptive tribute to the police officer of the day:

“Contrary to the generally accepted idea, it is not everyone who is fitted for the position of a policeman. Provided a man is in perfect physical condition, can keep his temper under the most trying conditions, is endowed with that rare quality — tact, and is willing to take his chances on being maimed for life, or perchance killed, he may be accepted as a guardian of the lives and property of citizens. Having attained to the dignity of patrolman, he is subject to call at any moment when he may be required to be on duty for twenty-four hours at a stretch. When he kisses his wife and little ones good-bye before going on shift, he never knows how soon he may become target for the ready gun of a thug, or the recipient of a hearty kick from the heavy brogan of the miner who has come to town for a touch of high life.”

Over a century later, many things have changed in the Salt Lake City Police Department, but so many of the words still apply to the law enforcement profession today. It is the intent of this brief history to remind the reader of the past in hopes it can help guide the department into the future. If law enforcement has no concern for its history, it is destined to make the same mistakes.

As one reviews the history of Salt Lake’s police force, one can divide the flavor and tempo into three definitive eras:

  • The Mormon Department, 1851–1890
  • The Liberal Regime, 1890–1894
  • The Non-Partisan Force, 1894–present

For the first 39 years of the department’s existence, the LDS Church had tremendous influence. In 1890, as the Salt Lake Valley’s population began to grow and become more diverse, a Liberal Regime was put into place. This was a time of turmoil in the department. If a mayor was elected who was of a religious faith outside of the LDS Church, then all Mormon officers would be fired and new officers hired. If a mayor who was of the LDS faith came into office, then vice versa. By 1894 citizens would no longer tolerate political influences in the selection of the department’s personnel, and the present era of the Non-Partisan Force began.

Read a long-form history narrative

History of the Salt Lake City Police Department
Compiled by Lieutenant Michael Ross

This history of the Salt Lake City Police would never have been possible without the hard work of my friend and mentor Lieutenant Steve “Duffy” Diamond. Duffy and Captain Judy Dencker have been responsible for preserving the proud history of the Department for many years. Without them, most of what we have noted here would have been lost. I also need to give credit to Sergeant Max Yospe, the department historian prior to Lt. Diamond, who had preserved the record of our history so that it might be displayed in this book. Much of the material used by Sergeant Yospe came from a master’s thesis by Herbert Lester Gleason, entitled, “The Salt Lake City Police Department, 1851, 1949. Permission was obtained by Sergeant Yospe to present the highlights of the Department’s history from this study.

In August, 1901, under the supervision of Chief of Police Thomas A. Hilton, the Salt Lake City Police Department published a resume of the departments’ prior history. The department had just attained its 50 year jubilee on January 12, 1901. The occasion was passed virtually unnoticed by both press and public.

As preface to this brief history in 1901, an unknown writer did publish a rather descriptive tribute to the police officer of the day:

“Contrary to the generally accepted idea, it is not everyone who is fitted for the position of a policeman. Provided a man is in perfect physical condition, can keep his temper under the most trying conditions, is endowed with that rare quality – tact, and is willing to take his chances on being maimed for life, or perchance killed, he may be accepted as a guardian of the lives and property of citizens. Having attained to the dignity of patrolman, he is subject to call at any moment when he may be required to be on duty for twenty-four hours at a stretch. When he kisses his wife and little ones good-bye before going on shift, he never knows how soon he may become target for the ready gun of a thug, or the recipient of a hearty kick from the heavy brogan of the miner who has come to town for a touch of high life.”

Over a century later, many things have changed in the Salt Lake City Police Department but so many of the words still apply to the profession of law enforcement today. It is the intent of this brief history to remind the reader of the past in hopes it can help guild the department into the future. If law enforcement has no concern for their history they are destined to make the same mistakes.

As one reviews the history of Salt Lake’s Police Force, one can divide the flavor and tempo into three subheadings: The Mormon department from 1851 to 1890; the Liberal Regime from 1890 to 1894; the Nonpartisan force from 1894 to present. For the first 39 years of the department’s existence the LDS Church had tremendous influence. In 1890, as the valley’s population began to grow and become more diverse, a Liberal Regime was put into place. This was a time of turmoil in the department. If a mayor was elected who was of a religious faith outside of the LDS Church then all Mormon officers would be fired and new officers hired. If a mayor who was of the LDS faith came into office then vice versa. In 1894 the citizens would no longer tolerate political influences in the selection of the department’s personnel and the nonpartisan force was created.

PART 1: The Mormon Department

When the City of the Great Salt Lake was chartered in 1851, provision was made for police officers to protect the city from undesirable characters that might break the peace and disturb the citizens in their homes or on the streets.  Prior to 1851 policing was handled by the LDS Church. There were nineteen Mormon wards within the city with a bishop presiding over each ward. The bishops were given the power by Church leadership to appoint a watchman over their respective districts. These were the first law enforcement officers in the state. So peaceful was the climate in Salt Lake City that these lawmen had very little to do. On October 3, 1847 John Van Cott was appointed the first Salt Lake City Police Chief, although his official title was “City Marshall.”

On March 10, 1851, the Mayor authorized the creation of a police department consisting of 40 men. Wages were 25 cents per hour. Shortly thereafter, Elam Luddington was appointed the second “City Marshall.” Luddington’s tenure was a short one and on April 4th, Leonard Hardy was appointed as the third Chief of Police. It was not until July 3rd, 1851 when the first 47 officers were hired. There has always been some disagreement as to when the Salt Lake City police Department officially began. Some would say it was the March 10, 1851 date when the Mayor of Salt Lake City authorized the creation of a police department. However, it is now accepted that the department started on July 3rd, 1851 when 47 men were sworn in as police officers, the first of the Salt Lake City Police Department.

The peacefulness of Salt Lake City all came to an end seven years later. On September 16, 1858, it was written: “Because of disorder and lawless men prowling around during the night,” the strength of the police department was increased to 200 men. Every effort was made by the department to subdue the activities of solders, miners, and drifters who came into the growing city. During this same year Andrew Cunningham became the Chief of Police. Wages for officers were raised to $3.00 per day to attract good men to the force.

In 1859, John Sharpe became the fifth Chief after Chief Cunningham resigned due to pressing business interests. His tenure came to an end on February 25, 1862 when Andrew Burt became the sixth Chief of Police. At 2:30 p.m. on Monday, March 8, 1868, the tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad reached Ogden, Utah. With the tracks came a new wave of strangers into Salt Lake City. Most did not take kindly to the old Mormon “blue law” restraints. A concerted effort to eliminate such laws began to surface. Finally, with the aid of Federal Judge McKean, the existing laws were set aside. While the original settlers of Utah, the Mormons, were determined to uphold territorial law and keep liquor and baser evils in check, newcomers were equally determined to have their own way.

The annual report for 1872, noted a remarkable increase in crime in Salt Lake City and cited the feelings within Mormon circles toward the intruders and Federal Government intervention:

“This ends the year 1872, remarkable for the increase of crime of all kinds in this city, owing to the influx of so-called Christians, and the protection thrown around every kind of vice by Federal Officers, backed up and sustained by the Government, especially President Grant.”

So as to illustrate the type of entries on the police “blotter” of the day, generated by the enforcement of the old blue laws, the following are examples:

“Allowing a dance party in his house on Sunday, fined $10.00; Selling liquor on the Sabbath day, $100.00; Allowing a team to run away, $5.00; Throwing cayenne pepper on the floor of Hassey Dance Hall, $2.50; Foot racing on Sunday for money, $2.50.”

January 9, 1877 Chief Burt filed his first annual report. 961 persons were arrested in Salt Lake City that year.

Chief Burt was a conscientious and fearless lawman but his career came to an end at 200 South and Main Street on August 25, 1883 when he was shot and killed. In that year 1,736 arrests were made.

March 18, 1884 William G. Phillips became the next Chief of Police. The police force totaled 12 officers, and the population of Salt Lake City swelled to 25,000.

In 1886 Chief Alfred Solomon succeeded Chief Phillips and remained until 1889. There were simply 29 officers on the force, and the total cost of running the department in 1889 was $20,000.00. In his annual Report to the mayor, Chief Solomon reported that the City had been “infested by a large number of tramps, burglars, cracksmen, veranda climbers and sneak thieves who have annoyed our citizens.”

October 22, 1889, was the first time that officers of the Salt Lake City police Department were required to wear an official uniform. During that year 29 officers made 1,555 arrests. During this time, following a hard fought campaign, the Liberals, or anti-Mormon party had succeeded in capturing the city election. Liberals felt now was their chance to show how the city should be run, and for the first time in its history, Salt Lake City was being run “wide open.”

In 1890 John Young was appointed as ninth Chief with 27 regular officers on the department. Chief Young found that there was an underlying feeling of dissatisfaction from the officers in his department and from the community they served. An extreme example of the problems in the department came to light on November 29, 1891, when Salt lake City Police Captain Parker was involved in a heated argument with Officer George Albright. Captain parker pulled his sidearm and fired at Officer Albright, missing him. Officer Albright, who was the better shot, returned fire and killed Captain Parker. This happened just outside city hall. Officer Albright was acquitted without the formality of a trial.

The era of law enforcement under the strict control of the Mormon Church was drawing to a close. For the next four brief, but critical years, the Liberal influences would be felt by the citizens of Salt Lake City and make the city one of the most wide open, crime ridden communities in the west.

PART 2: The Liberal Regime

During their first year, the Liberal police force made 3,139 arrests, found 37 lost children, impounded 626 animals and added a patrol wagon powered by a team of horses and manned by two officers.

By the end of the year 1890, there were no less than 82 saloons in operation in Salt Lake City and the arrests for prostitution doubled. By December 31, 1891, arrests for prostitution increased 700 percent.

On February 1, 1892, Edgar M. Janney was appointed 10th Chief of Police. During his short tenure as Chief he followed the suggestions of former Chief John M. Young and implemented the system of photographing criminals. “Call Boxes” were introduced and wired directly to the Police Department. On June 22, 1892, the first black officer, Paul Cephus Howell, was appointed to the department. His great grandson, Jake Green, would later become an officer and retire in 1985.

Samuel Paul stepped into the leadership role as the eleventh chief on July 5, 1892. The department boasted 55 men and the “Call Box “system was expanded. In his annual report Chief Paul asked for a matron and improved jail space. Staff consisted of 55 officers and they made 3,303 arrests that year.

PART 3: The Nonpartisan force

In 1894, January 2nd, Arthur Pratt became 12th Chief of Police. Pratt had developed a reputation as a lawman that knew how to handle the criminal element. Pratt was a U.S. Marshall at age 19. He had once travelled to California to bring back a suspect wanted for murder and traveled the entire distance back to Utah with the suspect handcuffed to his wrist. Chief Pratt had seen the problems growing in Salt Lake City and he saw to it that the Saloons in Salt Lake City would close on Sunday for the first time since 1890. Needless to say, this sort of action made the Chief very unpopular in certain circles and rival factions tried to remove him from office. During his tenure a number of improvements in the department took place: the installation of perfected call boxes; a modern patrol wagon was put into use by the department; updated uniforms for officers; a perfected system of registering and identifying criminals; tactful and effective administration; and the first automobile ordinance was passed. The previous year the liberal party was dissolved and politics in Utah was taken over by two national parties – Republican and Democrat.

December 7, 1896, Chief Pratt was removed and replaced by former Chief of Police Samuel Paul. Pratt contested his dismissal to the court, which ruled that until a hearing could be conducted, the city was obligated to pay Pratt his salary of $10,000 per year until the case was decided. The city, having been compelled to Pratt, ceased paying Chief Paul his salary. Paul, not surprisingly, refused to serve without payment. Pratt prevailed in court and the city was ordered to reinstate him. The day following the court directive, Pratt was re-instated, then immediately placed on suspension pending a hearing on alleged irregularities during his tenure. Pratt, having made his point to his political enemies, abandoned further attempts to regain his office and pursued other endeavors.

The legal battle between Salt Lake City and Chief Pratt went on for nearly 1 year. When Pratt left the department Chief Thomas H. Hilton was appointed as the fifteenth Chief of Police, April 5, 1899. He was, at that time, the youngest Chief of Police in the United States. Under his leadership the department experienced a sense of wellbeing never experienced before. Even though the budget of the department had been cut to less than $17,000.00, Officers knew that their resignation would never be requested at the whim of a political party leader.

In spite of low wages and inadequate numbers, most officers of the day felt that a great achievement had been accomplished just by eliminating religious affiliation and politics as considerations in the selection of an individual to serve as a police officer.

In 1903, William Lynch succeeded Chief Hilton, and increased the departments staffing to 48 officers to compete with the rising crime rate. Arrest that year totaled 3,801.

By 1905 arrests increased to 4,619, a 21 percent increase. Prostitution arrests increased to 1,015, an increase of 19 percent.

The permissiveness allowed under the Liberal regime had created a climate in which all types of crimes and vices could flourish. Now, the Salt lake City Police Department under the leadership of dedicated administrators was making every effort to cope with that part of society that the Liberal factions had allowed. In 1906, George Sheets became the seventeenth Police Chief and gambling was officially closed down. Prostitution arrests reached 1,261 and drunkenness arrests totaled 1,467.

On August 1, 1907, R. McKenzie became the eighteenth Chief, only serving for approximately 2 months. In October of 1907, Chief Tom D. Pitt replaced McKenzie. Chief Pitt reported that crime, including prostitution, was getting so far out of hand that his officers were often working 35 hours without sleep to solve crimes. The 66 Salt Lake City Officers made 4,458 arrests that year. 137 saloons were flourishing in the city. In order to control the growing problem of prostitution Chief Pitt suggested to the City Council that they put aside a piece of ground to accommodate several hundred prostitutes. The ground would be surrounded with a high fence, similar to a stockade. In fact, the “stockade” came to fruition with several buildings being built on the west side of the city. Though Chief Pitt believed in the concept of controlling prostitution, he felt stronger in the letter of the law. On December 14, 1908, when the Mayor ordered the Chief to relocate prostitutes to the “stockade”, Pitt balked, informing the Mayor he would not comply with the order. Chief Pitt felt that that the ordinances which required police to “suppress and prohibit” prostitution needed to be changed. The Mayor insisted and Chief Pitt resigned.

In 1909 Samuel Barlow became the twentieth Chief of Police. Heading a department with 79 officers, the new chief felt it was easier to ignore prostitution than to try to enforce confusing ordinances.  Due to the confusion over policy, arrests for prostitution fell to 9 as compared to 1,493 the previous year.

The motor car had arrived and the department which was eager to be progressive, added two automobiles and a motorcycle to the force. Officers, who had been working seven days a week, were given one day off each month. The 1911 annual report indicated a force of 82 men; 65 violations of the auto ordinance; 22 arrests for prostitution.

In 1912, the City Council form of government changed to a commission form and with it a new Chief of Police, B.F. Grant. Chief Grant promptly dismissed most of the older officers of the department. The Bertillon system of identification was implemented, but really didn’t function until 1915. A new traffic squad, under the direction of Officer Lester Wire, was established. Officer Lester Wire is the individual credited with creating the modern day traffic semaphore. Officer Wire used a smoke stack from a locomotive and developed the traffic light. The light was used on Main Street in Salt Lake City.

By 1913, Salt Lake City had truly become the crossroads of the West. Addicts of all kind, thieves, conmen, etc. seemed to flood Salt Lake. Arrests reached an all-time high of 10,418. Drunks alone accounted for 3,959 arrests. A special enforcement problem for officers was women drinkers. Forbidden to enter saloons, women found that they could still drink by entering restaurants and secretly drink liquor served in milk glasses.

On May 1st 1915, the Police Department moved its operations from the City Hall, 120 East 100 South, to the then recently vacated YMCA building located at the corner of 100 South and State Street. The police department would operate from this location for the next half-century. The old City Hall Building was moved from 120 East 100 South to its current location, across from the Utah State Capital Building, in 1961.

With the move to a new facility came much needed improvements. A crime laboratory was begun, offices enlarged, new equipment was moved in and a garage became available to service mobile equipment, and store property which had been long left out in the weather. The new building included a gymnasium, swimming pool, a hospital and a morgue. The swimming pool became the place to store bicycles that had been recovered or found.

In 1916, Chief Grant was removed with a change of administration. He was replaced by a tough, old time cop from Denver, Colorado, C.W. “Doc” Shores. Intent on cleaning up the city, he took a shotgun and a squad of men, and began creating havoc with anyone or anything which disturbed the tranquility of the City. Certain interests, who were not impressed with “Doc’s” display of force, complained that “Doc” was not qualified to be Chief because he had not been a resident of Salt Lake City for the required time prior to being appointed. Shores was removed from office on this technicality after serving only five months as Chief.

J. Parley White, a former Salt Lake County Sheriff, stepped into the job as Police Chief. 1916 was the year that brought the police Department their first policewoman, Jane Barrett. With Europe at war, the department was fortunate to have 125 officers.

On August 1, 1917, the Volstead Prohibition Act became effective. The City continued to be plagued with prostitution, many were “window tappers” (prostitutes operating from second and third story windows tapping on the window panes to attract their prospective customers.) The City decided to follow the lead of eastern cities, and register all prostitutes. 150 girls were screened and supervised in housing along Commercial Street.

During 1918, the draft into military service took a great number of the country’s manpower and practically eliminated unemployment. With much of the community involved in the war effort, crime dropped as well as the number of arrests in Salt Lake City (3,374 arrests for the year as compared to 9,676 arrests the previous year.) Bootlegging still harassed the department, but in spite of the availability of booze and the human anxieties of a country at war, drunkenness decreased as a problem. The war had brought a degree of soberness to the community.

During 1919 a new auto theft law was passed making auto theft a felony. The result was a dramatic drop in the number of stolen cars. The supervised prostitution program proved to be a failure. A new program was instituted and for the first time the department had an “Anti-Vice” squad to deal with prostitution.

Chief White recognized the need to protect police employees and the Civil Service was established during his administration. He felt it was important to guarantee tenure to police officers. In late 1919, Chief White left the department seeking political office.

Joseph Burbidge was sworn in as Police Chief in January, 1920. Unlike his predecessors, Chief Burbidge remained Chief for 13 years. He had a rather unique record in the department where the average tenure for the Chief seemed to be less than two years.  Under Chief Burbidge, the vision of Chief White came to fruition. The department was put under Civil Service. Rules were established for officers concerning residence, physical fitness standards, and new competitive testing was initiated.  Retirement benefits were established. Sick leave, vacation, and holidays were set up for employees.

On February 8, 1921, Chief Burbidge and a squad of detectives, including Green B. Hamby, entered the Nord Hotel at 59 ½ East Second South to arrest burglary suspects. Hamby kicked open the door and was immediately shot in the head. In the ensuing gun battle, Chief Burbidge was wounded, but his return fire killed the suspect.

By 1923, Salt Lake City, like most of the country, found itself in the middle of post-war problems. The city became popular as a tourist center but also attracted the criminal element from all over the west. The jail was constantly full. It became necessary for the patrol wagon to pick up some of the criminal element, transport to the city limits, and dispatch them with a warning not to return. The 1920’s presented a very violent atmosphere for officers and citizens. In 1923 alone there were thirteen murders in Salt Lake City. Officers were instructed to work in pairs, and if required to, “shoot to kill” in order to defend their lives.

Hard hit by bandits were street car conductors who would be held up at the end of their runs late at night. Several were murdered in the attempts.

In spite of prevailing conditions, by 1925, the Salt Lake City Police Department initiated many “firsts”.  They installed a PBX switchboard in Police headquarters. The first “Junior Traffic Police” unit in the United States was established. Arrests totaled 11,511 for the year. The “Roaring Twenties” brought with it a very violent atmosphere to Salt Lake City. Within the first 5 years of the 1920’s the Salt Lake City Police Department had 5 officers murdered in the line of duty.

In 1927, it was determined that officers needed to be better trained to deal with the diverse problems now encountered by officers. It was in this year that the first Police School was established. Officers were trained in their duties and responsibilities. A portion of the training was dedicated to helping the officers be “good salesmen”…. selling themselves to the public. Police officers were trained in first aid, firearms and other related police functions. In April of 1927, officers were required to carry a new standardized department weapon, the Colt .38 Army Special.

1928 and 1929 saw an increase in the traffic problems which were a constant source of public criticism. As a result, additional semaphores and stop signs were erected. The department worked very hard to gain public support during these years. KDYL radio installed a microphone at police headquarters and periodically Herman Bauer and others read police bulletins over the air informing the public about stolen cars, wanted persons and recent crimes. Another program started was the public parading of officers at Liberty Park. There were drills, inspections and first aid demonstrations. Chief Burbidge insisted that his men be neat and clean in their appearance.

During 1929, the first accident investigator was appointed. A new record for arrests totaled 13,242. Known offenses included 907 burglaries, 158 robberies and 6 murders.

1930 was the beginning of the Great Depression and with it new police problems arose as officers began to deal with many more citizens that were unemployed. The job security that came with being involved with law enforcement became highly sought after. This was the first year that Uniform Crime Reports were submitted to the FBI.

The election of 1931 brought a different political party into power, and with it Chief Joseph Burbidge was replaced by Chief William Payne.

Chief Payne had been with the department in 1914, however had later joined the FBI until he was selected to be Police Chief. He brought with him new and fresh ideas on administering police functions. Uniforms, regulations, and firearms were again standardized. New equipment was purchased. The City did not have funds for some of the new equipment and therefore Payne, being from a wealthy family, purchased much of it out of his own pocket. Under his administration the department was overhauled and refurbished.

Chief Payne believed in “operating out of the front office”. He felt that he needed to have an active involvement in enforcement of the law and did so. Payne introduced radio communications to further enhance the ability to respond to criminal activity. Use of the teletype was inaugurated during Payne’s administration, and Salt Lake City became the monitoring station for many of the outlying police and sheriff’s departments. Payne attempted to deal with the increasing “juvenile” problems, but later admitted he was stumped for a solution to many of the youth problems. He attempted to counter some of the problems by referring youth to parental or church authority. Chief Payne did institute the first Youth Bureau within the department, recognizing that minors had to be dealt with differently than adults.

In 1936, Chief Payne resigned and went to work for the National Auto Theft Bureau. Chief Harry Finch, a businessman, was his replacement by order of Mayor E.B.Erwin. During this time period traffic problems in the downtown area had become so aggravated that the public demanded action by the police department. There were forty accident fatalities in 1936. Parking was such a mess that the city installed 300 parking meters on Main Street. The meters resulted in a “parking strike” and had to be removed. With only 151 officers on the department, the city’s finest had their hands full. By 1937 the parking meters were reinstalled permanently. Immediate results were realized from the reinstallation. Regulation of moving traffic received more attention and emphasis was placed on the writing of more traffic citations. Accidents and fatalities began dropping in number in 1937, from forty the previous year to thirty.

1938 brought with it a scandal in the police department involving members of Vice Squad. Chief Finch and Mayor Erwin were also implicated.  The traditional “bag men” had been sent out to collect “take” money from several madams and prostitution houses. Some of this money made its way into the pockets of individuals who held prestigious offices in the police department and city hall. Chief Finch and Mayor Erwin were both charged and prosecuted. Chief Finch was sent to jail and served only a short time due to ill health. He died shortly thereafter.

1938 Odes B. Record, Inspector of Police, was selected as interim Chief and served in that position until a retired Army Officer, Colonel William Webb, was appointed as the next Chief of Police.

Chief Webb’s first priority was winning back the confidence of the citizens of Salt Lake City, which he did. He had a renewed emphasis on discipline and key officers were sent to the East Coast for specialized training at the FBI National Academy. Chief Webb had difficulty managing a quasi-military organization as opposed to strictly military. He left the department only after approximately one year.

In 1939, Charles Olson became the new Chief replacing Chief Webb. Olson had originally been a Salt Lake City Police Officer, however, had sought a career with the FBI. He was a good administrator, and had the support of the membership of the department. However, when political interests impeded his administration of the department, he signed and returned to the FBI after serving only seven months as Chief.

Reed Vetterli, another former FBI agent, was selected as Chief to replace Olson in 1940. The city’s population reached to more than 175,000 with 158 sworn officers walking the beat.

In 1941, World War II broke out. The department began to lose many of its officers. Many officers left for military service while others became involved in the war effort by finding work in war plants. A patrolman’s wages started at $145.00 per month. Officers were granted one day off per week, formerly they had one day off per month. Military installations and plants geared up to support the war effort provided better pay. The City could not compete. It was very difficult to attract replacements into police work. Military Police were utilized to patrol the community to help cover the shortage of city officers. Chief Vetterli wrote an appeal to Mayor Ab Jenkins: “We are laboring under many handicaps due to circumstances beyond our control. For example, inadequate and improper equipment, lack of certain personnel, improper facilities for proper police work and numerous others which I shall not take time to enumerate.”

By 1942, thousands of military personnel continued to flock into the area due to the new military bases. Military leaders warned the department concerning the sudden increase in prostitution, venereal disease, and crime. Numerous teenage girls were arrested while engaged in prostitution. A system, which involved quarantine, was instituted to screen for venereal disease and many of these women were held for three days before being released. This holding period created more of a burden on police facilities and manpower. In 1942 Chief Vetterli again wrote to the City Administration: “There has been no increase in manpower in the Salt Lake City Police Department despite the influx in population. We definitely need additional manpower. There is a definite need for additional motor equipment. We need additional automobiles. The police department of any metropolitan city must be equipped to endeavor to scientifically analyze every crime committed. We are still in our infancy in this regard. One of the first steps that should be taken when funds permit would be to purchase two automobiles which might be termed “scientific crime detection cars.” By 1943, the city was able to purchase two more automobiles which were available to the Department. Due to increases in cost of living expenses and officers not receiving any pay increases to offset it, officers had to “moonlight”, working two or more jobs to make ends meet.

In 1944, due to the war effort, gas was rationed. Despite rationing and the lack of cars on the streets, traffic accidents increased to 1,707 with 19 fatalities. Juvenile delinquency reached crime wave proportions with many of these crimes involving violence. The department was successful in making positive impacts on prostitution.

In hopes to compete with private industry for manpower, the City, in 1945, raised the salary of police officers from $145.00 to $225.00 per month. This same year Chief Vetterli resigned to go into private business.

In November of 1945, a Lieutenant from within the department became the 25th Chief. A veteran of 17 years and an FBI Academy graduate, Len C. Crowther became the first Chief of Police in Salt Lake City history to come up through the ranks.

With the ending of the war, department manpower began to grow and by 1946 the department totaled 200 officers. Many former police officers were released from their military service and desired to return to their old profession. They were badly needed as crime increased that year with 8 murders, 1,919 accidents and 19 fatalities.

Utah celebrated its’ Centennial in 1947. One million visitors were recorded at the Mormon Temple Visitors Center that year.  Post war years were still producing high incidences of crime in Salt Lake City.

During the next three years, the department showed a very minimal growth in personnel. With a budget of $751,000.00 in 1949, records show 206 personnel. In 1950, with an increased budget of $830,000.00, police personnel were increased by four officers to a total strength of 210. By 1951 three more officers were added to the force along with two-way radios in 60 patrol cars. 20 patrol cars had three-way radio capability.

In 1952, Captain F. Clark Sanford became the second Chief of Police to come from within the department. The budget that year reached $958,755.00. Under his administration, a new telephone dial system was installed in the department along with a new records system to handle Police Department statistics.

As part of his annual report Chief Stanford wrote, “There is indicated an overall increase in caseloads, incident reports, and certainly this expresses the need for additional officers. Recommendations made by national organizations depict this need to be approximately ninety men to bring this department’s personnel level up to the standard suggested to maintain a minimum desirable police operation. Our department is spread much too thin to give the quality of protection the citizens of this community should enjoy.”

Inspector Odes B. Record became the 27th Chief in 1954. A new legislative act allowed the Chief to appoint three assistant chiefs to assist in running the department. In December 1954, the department began to operate under a forty hour work week. Prior to this change, officers only were allowed one day off per week. By 1955 the public and the press became very critical of the police department, and the City Commission hired Bruce Smith Jr., an authority of police department evaluations, to come from New York City to evaluate the police department. One of the recommendations in this evaluation was to replace the Chief with someone from outside the department to oversee the agency.

In 1956, W. Cleon Skousen, a former F.B.I. Agent for 16 years and a BYU professor, was appointed as the 28th Chief.  His mission was to reorganize the department into an efficient police organization. The Deseret News wrote, “Give the Chief enough professionally trained administrative assistants to let him do the job. Few, if any men, are big enough to do it alone when the department has fallen into such a state of internal jealousies and politics.” Chief Skousen was authorized to bring in two assistant chiefs from California, and to choose a third from within the department. That third assistant chief was found in one of the departments’ most respected Captains, Golden Haight.

By 1957, the department began to reflect moderate change. An extensive training program was instituted using the talents of many of the department’s officers. New policies and procedures were written. New equipment and uniforms were issued to officers. Black and white patrol cars were put into service and one-man patrol units were instituted. 87 changes were put into effect in an 18 month period. Gradually, the confidence of the community in the department returned. The number of sworn officers increased to 282, and a new K-9 detail was put on the streets, making it the first K9 Unit west of the Mississippi River. Morale began to grow among the rank and file. Even so, the situation was destined to be short lived. Chief Skousen was fired by Mayor Bracken Lee. In Chief Skousen’s effort to enforce laws as they were written he ran into political forces that had no more patience for the police chief. Skousen was fired in 1960, without notice.

L.C. Crowther, who had been the Chief in 1945, was appointed as the 34th chief in 1960. With this change, the situation in city government, and specifically the Police Department, became much leaner as funding was cut. Gradually, for the next fourteen years, police services were reduced to bare necessities. Many programs that were considered prevention or community oriented policing either never got off the ground, or were phased out because of lack of funds or manpower. Established proactive law enforcement programs which had proven their worth over a period of years, and had been kept despite the cost, now had to be abandoned. All able-bodied, (and some not so able bodied), police officers who had “inside” assignments were reassigned to the street. Their jobs were either phased out or assumed by non-sworn clerks. The “squeaky wheel” no longer got the oil, and when complaints came in that police officers were late in arriving on crime scenes, or a detective was very slow at making contact the administration would respond without apology. When the question was voiced by the public, “is this the type of police service I’m paying for”, the answer from the department was, “yes, it is exactly the type of police service you are paying for.”

In 1962 Ralph C. Knudson became Chief, replacing Chief Crowther, who retired. This period of the department was relatively unremarkable, and it is generally felt that the Department merely maintained status quo due to political and budget considerations.

Chief Knudson retired from the department in 1966 and was replaced by Chief Dewey J. Fillis. During his administration, an organized group of prominent citizens pushed for a dramatic increase in manpower and wages. A proposal was made to the state legislature to pass an optional quarter percent sales tax to fund the police effort and newly proposed crime prevention programs. City politicians, however, insisted that the monies from the proposed tax be used throughout the city, not just for the police.

The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act had become a great platform for political exploitation. The public, frantic for relief from the crime wave, would listen to such a platform formulated by political aspirants. Law enforcement became a scapegoat to whose tail one could attach any efforts for fundraising.

Chief Fillis was forced to resign in 1970. A new chief was solicited from the Board of Captains. Calvin C. Whitehead was the only taker. A veteran of the department and a most dedicated law enforcement officer, he felt obligated to assume command and try to reconstruct an effective policing machine. Chief Whitehead actively worked with the legislature to make them aware of the problems the department was experiencing because of the lack of funding.

In 1971, J. Earl Jones was selected to succeed Whitehead, who was acting in the capacity of interim chief. Chief Jones, a retired military officer, with great organizational skills, quickly found himself involved in department politics. Because of differences with a young new police commissioner, Glen Greener, and the disloyalty of a high ranking police officer, Jones tendered his resignation in 1974. Public Safety Commissioner Greener said of Jones’ resignation that it had been requested because of an increased crime rate, and “lack of aggressive leadership” in dealing with crime. The firing of Chief Jones was immediately criticized by police union officials, police wives and other city officials who complained that Greener had not consulted anyone before firing the Chief. In October 1973, Chief Jones had hired the first three female officers in nearly thirty years. For the first time in department history they were assigned to patrol duties, traffic duties and planning.

Chief Dewey Fillis was again appointed to lead the police department in 1974. During the course of his second tenure as Chief, his rapport with his Board of Captains became so strained that the Captains went to the Commissioner and asked for the removal of the Chief for the good of the Department.

In 1977 E.L. Bud Willoughby, professional police officer who saw service with the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department and as Chief of the Pueblo, Colorado, Police Department, became the 40th Chief of the Salt Lake City Police Department. Willoughby, a master political tactician, soon became well connected in prominent social and business circles. He immediately established a power base with leaders of industry, education and the religious community in Salt Lake City.

Chief Willoughby immediately set about to re-structure the department. A task force of officers was selected to provide input into the transition process, and ultimately the Department began taking on a more harmonious atmosphere, and police functions began to run much smoother.

Under Chief Willoughby, wages increased dramatically, state of the art equipment was obtained and new innovative programs were put into place. Willoughby received very little resistance from political factions, due to his skills in dealing within these circles. Bud Willoughby served for eleven years as the Chief of the Department until health problems forced him to retire. In June of 1988, Major G. Ed Johnson was appointed interim Police Chief to serve until a successor to Willoughby was found.

A successor was found quickly and in 1988 Michael P. Chabries, Superintendent of the Utah Highway Patrol, was selected to replace Chief Willoughby. Chief Chabries, who was the first to admit he was a people manager and not a policeman, instituted “Community Oriented Policing” as a new direction for the Department. Many veteran officers saw this “new direction” as an often tried program under a new name. Resistance to the changes was noticeably present throughout the Department. Chief Chabries was well-liked by the rank and file of the Department largely due to his liberal views on discipline, and his open door policy.

In the fall of 1991, Chief Chabries unexpectedly announced that he would be retiring from law enforcement and leaving the Salt Lake City Police Department.

When Chabries left the Department in 1991, G. Ed Johnson was appointed as 42nd Police Chief. Chief Johnson pledged to continue the movement toward the Community Oriented Policing concept, which by now was becoming more unpopular within the Department.

In late August 1992, Chief Johnson announced that he would be retiring from the Department in October. Chief Johnson did not give a reason for his retirement.

While a replacement for Chief Johnson was being sought after in a nationwide search, Assistant Chief Brent Davis was asked to take the position of interim Chief. Davis vowed to keep the Department moving in the direction of Community Oriented Policing.

In November of 1992, Mayor Corradini selected Ruben B. Ortega as the 43rd Chief of Police. Chief Ortega served 31 years in law enforcement prior to his appointment in Salt Lake City. He spent his entire career with the Phoenix, Arizona, Police Department. His last 11 ½ years there were served as Chief. During his tenure with the Salt Lake City Police Department, he created the Citizen’s Review Board. This Board reviewed disciplinary matters and specifically use of force issues. Chief Ortega continued to demonstrate his strong belief in community involvement and Community Oriented Policing.

Under Chief Ortega’s direction, a domestic violence squad, warrants unit, drug abatement response team and many other community oriented squads and programs, including a Mobile Neighborhood Watch program, which attracted nationwide attention, were organized. He supported the establishment of a police fitness center, sponsored a city-wide gun buy-back program, and drafted model gun control ordinances for Salt Lake City.

In 2000, Mayor Corradini was replaced by Rocky Anderson. As it has been shown many times in the past, with a new Mayor came a new Chief of Police. Chief Ortega left the department, and for the next year the department was led by an interim Chief, A.M. “Mac” Connole. Mayor Rocky Anderson established a nationwide search and found Charles F. “Rick “ Dinse, a 34 year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department, to be the next Chief of the Salt Lake City Police Department. Chief Dinse, upon his appointment, announced his commitment to a partnership with the community, and charged each officer and employee of the department to conform to the core values of the department: Integrity, Reverence for the law, Respect for individuals, and Service to the community.

Salt Lake City won the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. The department spent most of 2001 gearing up to deal with any potential problems. When the traumatic events of September 11, 2001 occurred, there were discussions to cancel the Winter Olympics. Ultimately, the Winter Games planning proceeded and the event was successful.

Chief Dinse announced his retirement from the department in August of 2005. He had to deal with the national spotlight three times during his tenure as Chief: the 2002 Winter Olympics, which the Chief referred to as the highlight of his career; the Elizabeth Smart Case; and the Lori Hacking murder investigation. Chief Dinse mentored the next Chief of police, Chris Burbank, who acted as Chief Dinse’s Executive Officer.

Chris Burbank was hired as a Police Officer with the department in May of 1991. Burbank rose through the ranks of the department and developed a reputation as a “fair and level headed leader.”  After Chief Dinse left the department, Chief Burbank was selected by Mayor Anderson in 2006. Chief Burbank had developed a reputation as a very outspoken opponent to the cross deputization of police officers as immigration enforcement agents. He was asked to appear in Washington DC on several occasions to address the United States House of Representatives involving racial profiling and civil rights issues.

Chief Burbank was instrumental in educating the public about the need for new police facilities. Under his leadership a new bond proposal was passed and a new public safety building was completed in 2013.

Chief Mike Brown took over the Department in 2015 and is the current leader of the Department.

A look through time...

  • Police Patrol Wagon, 1904, Officer George Moore, 120 E. 100 S.
  • SWAT Team, 1988, Front (L-R): Roger Winkler, Nolan Barraclough, Gerry Allred, Dave Hendricks, Russ Adair, Richard Walton, Back (L-R): Bill Duncan, Greg Smith, Greg Hagelberg, Gordon Hanson, Joe Everett, Bill Gray
  • Salt Lake Hardware Company, 1910
  • June 21, 1912 L-R: Capt. John Hempel, Chief B.F. Grant, Inspector C.R. Carlson, Capt. J.J. Roberts, Sgt. William Keyting, Sgt. Al Spears, Sgt. John Lenzi, Sgt. Ben Siegfus, Sgt. Thomas Simpson, Sgt. Charles Olson, Sgt. Emil Johnson
  • Police Baseball Team, 1939 Front (L-R): Unknown, Golden Holt, E.J. Van Balegooie, L.E. Olson, batboy Piercy, Lenard Gifferd, Dee Duncombe, Frank Gilbert, Harry Poole, Unknown Back (L-R): Dick Anderson, Vic Heath, Leland Daley, Johnie Allen, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Charlie Farnsworth
  • Police Officers, 1926 Front (L-R): Thomas Dee, Sherman Falkenrath, Lee Daley, Tom World, Sgt. James Woodward Back (L-R): Thomas Dykes, J.J. Roberts, Odes Record, William Eggleston, Don Vinson, Commissioner T.T. Barton, Russ Hunsaker
  • Salt Lake City Police Band, August 1927, Utah State Firemen’s 28th Convention, Springville, Utah
  • Grand Army of the Republic Parade, 1909 200 S. Main St.
  • L-R: Officers Ed Lange, George Raliegh, W.N. McKurdy, George Allaight, 1890
  • Records, 1958, Sgt. Reed Langford
  • Mobile Crime Lab, circa 1960, L-R: Orval Wilson, Don Aldous, Wade Robinson, Benny Jensen, Reed Langford, K.C. Farnsworth, Ken Price
  • President John. F. Kennedy, September 26, 1963, Salt Lake City Municipal Airport
  • Motor Officers, 1915, Police Headquarters, 125 E. 100 S.
  • Parade for premier of movie “Brigham”, August 23, 1940 L-R: Actor Tyrone Power, Actress Linda Darnell, Officer George H. Volkert
  • Dance Promo, 1940, Actress Hedy Lamarr L-R: Officers Rudolph Peterson, Ernie Olson, Bud Brinton, Gilbert Hopkins, Harry Pollei
  • Parade for premier of movie “Brigham”, August 23, 1940, L-R: Actor Tyrone Power, Actress Linda Darnell, Officer George H. Volkert
  • Motor Officer Dewey Fillis, circa 1950
  • L-R: K9s Shep, Prinz, and KoKo, 1969
  • Training Photo, 1956, L-R: Officers Jack Hailes, Dick Hoagland, Unknown Female, Roy Iverson
  • Police Basketball Team, 1947, Front (L-R): Jack Nell, L.S. Burton, Mel Atkinson, Les Paxton, Bob Blackhurst Back (L-R): Charlie Daniel, Doug Hardy, Pete Peterson, Roland Penshaw, Owen Farley
  • Sugar House Patrol, 1948, Kneeling (L-R): Bill Walters, Ray Brewerton, Laurie Barrett, Ed Gallagher, Joe Banks (rear), D.T. Roberts (rear), Charlie Larson (front), Tom Dimond, F.B. Christiansen, D.B. Pearson, Earl Merrill Standing (L-R): Paul Nelson, Comm. L.C. Romney, Chief L.C. Crowther
  • L-R: Unknown, Zilla Layton, 1958
  • Police Dispatch, 1972, L-R: Officers Marie Bennett, Marci Thorne, Karen Driscoll
  • Ambulance Service, 1953, L-R: Lt. Fred Lee, Officer Earl Broman
  • Police Roadblock, circa 1948, L-R: Officers Cal Harris, 1934 Ford; Ken Farnsworth, 1937 Ford; Dewey Fillis, 1937 Ford
  • L-R: Officers Paul Dahlberg, Robert Bennett, 1962
  • Officer Harry Simonsen, 1963, 125 S. State St.
  • Police Officers outside Utah State Prison, Sugar House, L-R: Ed Janney, Unknown, Curran, W.N. McCurdy, Hudson, Doyle, 1889
  • Police Baseball Team, 1950, Front (L-R): J. Nell, H. Lee, M. Atkinson, R. Blackhurst, L. Smith, N.D. Schiff, Back (L-R): Chief L.C. Crowther, L. Burton, T. Diamond, L. Farnsworth, C. Kloer, L. Olsson, Comm. B. Lingenfelter
  • Hedman Range, 1958, Postum Advertisement, L-R: Sgt. Bill Kuhn, Sgt. Gene Cedarlof, Chief Cleon Skousen, Officer Charlie Bithell
  • L-R: Officers Tom Diamond, L.C. Barrett, circa 1945
  • L-R: Unidentified woman, Officer “Gussie” Friend, 1942
  • Unidentified, Unidentified, Sgt. P.C. Brown, George Chase circa 1910-1920
  • L-R: Officer W. L. Robinson, Unknown, circa 1950
  • Training photo, circa 1950
  • Miles Hotel, 1969, 120 W. 300 S., Officer Ron Martin, K9 Partner Napoleon
  • Officer E.W. Christensen, K9 Val, circa 1969
  • Crime Lab, 1957, Sgt. Reed Langford
  • Crime Lab, 1958, L-R: Officers Wade Robinson, Don Aldous
  • Foot Patrol, 1939, Main St., Officer Bud Brinton
  • L-R: Officers Fred Kingston, Bud Brinton, 1940
  • Chief William Lynch, 1904
  • Officer N. Gulbrawsen, circa 1910-1920
  • Officer W. Carey, 1893
  • President Richard M. Nixon, July 24, 1970, LDS Church Administration Building, 47 E. South Temple
  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt, September 29, 1935, 50 W. North Temple
  • President Ronald Reagan, July 12, 1968, Salt Lake City International Airport
  • L-R: Commissioner L.C. Romney, E. Hal Morgan, F. Clark Sanford, 1947
  • Captain Charles Lange, 1869
  • Officer Mike Sullivan, circa 1890
  • L-R: Officers Joseph Armstrong, unknown, circa 1900
  • Officer Ed Farnsworth, circa 1895
  • Unknown Officer, 1890
  • Officer Fred Schultz, circa 1890
  • Officer Russell Bendixen, circa 1940
  • Round-Up, 1953, 105 S. State St., L-R: Officers Clarence L. “Clancy” VanBibber (left), Max L. Yospe, plainclothes with hat (right)
  • L-R: Sgt. Russell Bendixen,, Unknown Reserve Officer, circa 1960
  • L-R: Officers Fred Kingston, Bud Brinton, 1940
  • Chief William Lynch, 1904
  • Officer N. Gulbrawsen, circa 1910-1920
  • Officer W. Carey, 1893

Department Firsts



First official uniform instated

October 22, 1889, first official uniform instated. Uniforms were modeled after Boston and New York City Police Departments.



First black officer

Paul Cephus Howell was appointed June 21, 1892, and served 20 years. His great grandson Jake Green became an officer in May 1968.



First motorcycle added to fleet

Motors organized in 1909. Pictured is one of the first Motor Squads, circa 1913. Over the years, the squad has ridden Excelsior, Harley-Davidson, Kawasaki and BMW bikes.



First policewoman

Jane Barrett, who served from 1916 to 1941, primarily served on the prostitution detail. Officer Barrett died in 1949 at her home, 44 South 600 East in Salt Lake City.



First police service dog

Chief W. Cleon Skousen decided to establish a K9 Unit in late-1957. Sergeant Eugene Cederlof was selected to study the K9 program in Baltimore, Maryland, and bring the concept back to Salt Lake City.

If you would like more information about the Salt Lake City Police History Project or have items you would like to donate, please contact Deputy Chief LaMar Ewell at lamar.ewell@slcgov.com.

If you would like more information about the Salt Lake City Police History Project or have items you would like to donate, please contact Deputy Chief LaMar Ewell at lamar.ewell@slcgov.com.