I enjoy finding the histories about things, stuff, organization, etc. I do not miss many opportunities to put head gear of some sort on Aztec’s head. (He is the horse pictured above) I then write a history of that hat. Sometimes opportunities just happen. They are not planned.
One day when I drove up to The Riding Center where I stable Aztec an Illinois State patrol car (see above) was parked in the lot. I knew he wasn’t there to see me so I went about my business and got Aztec out of the paddock and started getting him ready for our ride.
As it turned out the officer was waiting on his family. He and his wife had scheduled a pony ride for their daughter. While the officer’s daughter was on the ride, I struck up a conversation with the two of them. I mentioned that I wrote short histories and asked if someday I could possibly get a ball cap from the officer to put on Aztec’s head and write a history of the Illinois State Police. Trooper Cox went to his patrol car and produced the hat Aztec is wearing. Here is some of what I learned as a result of Aztec posing in Trooper Cox’s trooper hat.
In the United States, state police, as a police force, are unique to each state. Their statewide authority varies from state to state. In addition to conducting statewide law enforcement activities and criminal investigation, they perform functions outside the jurisdiction of the county and local law enforcement officials. They include enforcing traffic laws on state highways and interstate expressways, overseeing security of state capital complexes and their governors, and providing technological and scientific services.
In my home state of Illinois there was no state police until 1922. Prior to 1922 laws were enforced by individual counties and cities. A great deal of damage was being done to the roads because of overweight trucks. Many of them were ignoring the weight laws of the state roads. Something had to be done to protect the them. The 52nd. General Assembly of the State of Illinois on June 24, 1921, authorized the Department of Public Works and Buildings to hire a sufficient number of State Highway Patrol Officers to enforce the Motor Vehicle Laws. To enforce those laws was their mission. Obviously, over time, the mission and the number of officers increased.
How many was a sufficient number?
John Stack became the first Director of the Illinois State Police. He and eight other men became the first highway patrol officers. They began their service to Illinois highways on April 1, 1922. Surplus WWI motorcycles and uniforms made up the equipment these men used.
The first patrol cars were Chrysler coupes and were issued in 1927 only to Seargents. They were District Commanders. The troopers patrolled on motorcycles.
In the mid to late 1920s there was much trouble in Southern Illinois between the Charlie Birger and the Carl Shelton gangs as well as rampant organized crime in Chicago. That led to a public outcry for effective police response. The Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, which is affiliated with the Northwestern University School of Law, was created as a result. More changes came in the 30’s and 40. Among them was a mobile crime laboratory containing an x-ray unit, photography, fingerprinting and polygraph equipment, and microscopes. The mobile lab also contained supplies that allowed scientists to conduct nitrate and blood stain tests, identify fluids, restore serial numbers erased from metals, and conduct qualitative and quantitative analysis of unknown substances.
The original qualifications stated that applicants must be at least 21 and not more than 35 at time of appointment, be a US citizen, have no criminal record, and a resident of Illinois for the previous two years. The applicant must be no shorter than five feet nine inches and no taller than six feet four inches, be of sound mind and body, be of good moral character, and required to have a high school diploma or GED.
Qualifications were established for women in 1963. To be qualified, a woman must have at least five years employment experience in social, group, probation, parole, law enforcement, nursing, teaching, or investigation. She was required to be a qualified stenographer or a college graduate. A female applicant was to be no less than twenty five and no more than forty with a minimum height of five feet two and maximum height of five feet nine, without shoes.
By its 50th anniversary in 1972 the State Highway Police had become a leader in law enforcement across the country. It had 1,709 sworn officers and 602 civilian employees. The Department grew to 2,124 men and women officers and 1,680 support personnel by its 75th anniversary in 1997.
On July 1, 1977, the State Highway Police changed its name to Department of Law Enforcement. With a name change came changes in qualifications. The new criteria stated applicants must be between twenty one and thirty six, or twenty if applicant completed two years of law enforcement studies with a “C” average or better. Applicants must have valid driver’s license, be physically fit, have no defects affecting or interfering with nature of work, and have 20/20 vision or corrected to such. Tattoos on either hand, wrist or forearm would not be considered.
Their name was changed again in September 1988. They became known as the Illinois State Police.
The Illinois State Police today has 21 patrol districts, seven investigative zones, six operational forensic science laboratories, and five regional crime scene services commands. The ISP comprises of more than 3,000 sworn officers and civilians and is one of the most modern and efficient police organizations in the country.
A sad note though, as of 2019 more than 60 state troopers have given their lives in service to the State of Illinois and its citizens.
Thank you for your service to the State of Illinois.