history wv state police - Mackey's Antiques & Clock Repair

History West Virginia State Police

Mackey's Antiques & Clock Repair
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Parkersburg WV 26101
 

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Governor Cornwell Signed West Virginia State Police Act in 1919 The West Virginia State Police are not one hundred years old but their 44 years Of service certainly deserve a place in the Centennial issue. During those first 66 years, the young state of West Virginia grew  from the frontier, sparsely populated state to the Mountaineerstate filled with expanding communities numerous, but isolated because of the terrain. The arrival of 'the railroad, the discovery of coal and oil and the development of some small industries was followed by the usual increased lawlessness caused by the Riff-Raff of humanity which always accompanies such progress. As the state grew, so did many problems which needed control and in some cases, elimination. The young state, faced with labor unrest in the mining regions, the appearance of innumerable moon- shine stills well hidden in the hills, the criminal activity which more than kept pace with it, had no unified police organization with which to control it. The need of police officers with state wide authority, in addition to those in the counties and towns, increased, and reached its peak about 1918 and 1919.  

Act Passed in 1919 

Governor John J. Cornwell realized this urgent need and it was through his efforts, supported by other civic minded individuals, which brought the West Virginia State Police into being during an extraordinary session of the state legislature in 1919. The Act was passed on March 21, signed by Governor Cornwell on March 31, and became law within ninety days. It has been amended from time to time, but not in any way to change its original intent; to create a state police organization with state wide police powers. From the history of the department found in the July 1, 1934 through June 30, 1936 Biennial report. 

Governor Cornwell, reputably reported to have been, elected to the office of governor through his own efforts and personality andon his own reputation for honor and honesty, without partisan support, knew the type of police department he needed to control the increasingly incorrigible criminal element in the young state. 'He modeled it along 'he lines of the, Canadian Mounted Police. The early history" of the West Virginia State Police, or the Department of Public safety, if you will, is so well told in the Twelfth Biennial, Report of the organization that it deserves direct quote.  

Quote from Biennial Report 

We of the United States and of West Virginia are proud of our democratic way of life; of our right to a voice in the affairs of our government; of our legislative system through which our elected representatives enact rules by which we live. We are proud of our judicial system and above all of our Federal and State Constitutions into which far sighted statesmen have written a Bill of Rights which stand as an eternal safeguard against the loss of those things which every free man cherishes and for which enslaved people struggle. 'Americans have long' enjoyed this priceless heritage-so long that they are apt to lose sight of the contributing factors. When our legislative bodies pass an act we accept it as a matter of course that the law will be voluntarily complied with or that it will be intelligently enforced.  

How long would our federal and state governments last without intelligent enforcement? A clue to the answer of this question may be found in the history of our Continental Congress which bad only the power to recommend. If its mandates were unpopular with a certain group, they were disregarded with impunity, even though designed for the common good. The framers of our Constitution recognized this weakness and created an executive branch of government with power and' authority to enforce when the interest of the people required it. 

Down through the ages, police organizations have reflected the image of the government of which they were a part. Corrupt and brutal agencies have been the counterpart of despotic rule. Decadent of ineffectual public administration has bred inferior service and rapid decline in police prestige. Likewise, enforcement agencies have been the standard bearer a of honest government and in many instances have paved the way for new eras of enlightened rule. Government of the people, by the people and for the people can exist only when the mandates of the people are executed honestly, intelligently and without fear or favor irrespective of the effort required or of the personal danger of sacrifice to which the enforcement agency is exposed. Like all new frontiers, the State of West Virginia had its youthful growing pains and it fell the lot of the newly created police department to help it through its adolescence.  

Changes in state 

 The writer of that report then gives a brief, concise review of the changes which took place in the new state; the arrival of the a railroads, the exploitation of the coal, oil and gas, the struggle of the infant government to keep pace with the economic development. The broad and deep and rushing changes of that era moved not less silently or peacefully than has the upward and onward course of mankind been quiet and peaceful from, savagery to the civilization of today he states. The West Virginia State Police Department was the creature of a vital forces. It Was hardly the time or place that an infant would choose to be brought into the world but this one what unwanted child had a destiny. Lieutenant Colonel Jackson Arnold of Weston was the first superintendent of the newly organized police department He had just recently returned from active duty with the American Expeditionary Force in France. Col. Arnold and about fifty men, most of them just back from the trenches of the First World War laid the foundation for the present department during those years under extreme difficulty.  

Eight men were killed during the organizational period violent gun battles were commonplace. Personnel turnover was terrific more than 300 men entered and left the State Police during its first three years they just couldn't cope with the requirements danger and problems. the most tenacious stuck it out and twenty-two were still on active duty when the 1942 report was written, twenty-three years after the first small West Virginia State Police Department fought so valiantly for its place in the history of the state. 

Major R. E. O'Conner, an Elkins attorney, and the second department superintendent, aptly describes the changed public opinion regarding the State Police in his biennial report. The erroneous suspicion that it (the department ) was created for the purpose of oppression has been dissipated and the department has qualified as our most dependable agency of protection. It molests no one who does not infringe up on the guaranteed rights and liberties of another.  

Transportation 

Transportation from one area to another was a real problem, for the West Virginia roads of the 1920's were in some places, almost nonexistent. Although the troopers had horses for use in specified sections, train and street car were the commonest means of transportation. Within the areas where horses were used, the troopers combined their training with unusual feats of horsemanship, and many became experts. But the increasing number of motor vehicles soon made it necessary to mount the troopers on motorcycles. The department purchased the first one in 1920. Although a lone officer could patrol-during the day, night patrols required two men, and many of the motorcycles were equipped with sidecars. 

The list of members of the State Police who were killed or injured in line of duty includes many who were involved in motorcycle accidents, caused, not by their carelessness, but by that of drivers of the vintage cars of the day attempting 'to evade the officers, or by the road conditions combined with the need for speed on the part of the troopers. During those early days, the esprit de corps" which was developed by the danger, meager pay and the often hostile attitude of the public, was intense, and the loyalty of the men to each other and to the department far overshadowed petty in the department problems. 

Training

Discipline and training, marksmanship and quick thinking, calmness and a level head, bravery and stick-to-itiveness were essential, and these traits are still an integral part of the department. But by the time Col. P. D. Shingleton took charge as superintendent in 1933, the West Virginia State Police had become wracked by appropriation deficits, payless months, and depleted equipment, jointly attributed to political interference and the terrible economic depression. Although the department had been divided into four companies, it became necessary, because of lack of about everything, including manpower, to cut it back to two companies, and drastic reorganization took place. The 1935 legislature, realizing the existing conditions, and also the value of the state police to a the citizens of the state, voted sufficient funds to permit the addition of 75 new members. It was during this revitalizing activity that the criminal identification bureau and the scientific crime laboratory were also authorized, and both have been kept updated and continue to efficiently serve the organization. The new troopers were given intensive training and the department companies. This set up is still in operation Company A has its headquarters at Fairmont, Company B. in Charleston, Company C in Elkins  and Company D in Beckley.  

Reorganization 

Following the 1935 shake up, for the first time, each of the 55 counties had a state trooper signed to it. Members of the department took on added duties as the number of vehicles on the roads increased and the highway patrol became one of the most important tasks. They were required to keep up their training and the growing amount of scientific knowledge used in crime investigation added to the subjects they were required to study. They also organized safety clubs and safety councils and the protection of school children from the motorists became their job.  

West Virginia State Police operated 57 automobiles and 42 motorcycles at the beginning of the 1934-1936 report. Due to the establishment of the new posts and the enlistment of new members, 34 automobiles and 36 motorcycles were purchased in 1935. Evidently one of the cars surpassed the motorcycles for in 1936, 25 of the older model two wheelers were traded in on 25 new cars. That period of reorganization brought the department to a total of 196 enlisted members and 10 civilian employees, in addition to the superintendent by June, 1938.  

Team Compete In Matches 

The State Police practiced their marksmanship training during the two year period, 1936-1938 and the revolver team and pistol shooters participated in ,ten matches in Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, with gratifying results. The team won over the New Jersey State Police team and took first honors in Maryland at two matches. The pistol team beat the Coast Guardsmen at Ft. Meade and several troopers carried off individual first place honors, as well as placing high in nearly all matches. The State Police had added first aid to their long list of accomplishments by the opening of World War II, not because of the war, but because of the highway accidents.

The pride held by the men and officers for the organization seems well stated in this quote from the 1942 biennial report; 23rd Anniversary The department passed over its 23rd anniversary. Among state police departments it may, with its long and arduous experience, be regarded as a battle scarred veteran. It helped develop a new era of policing in the United States. Only three surviving departments preceded it.  (note, these were identified as Pennsylvania, 1905; New York and Michigan, 1917). None faced greater obstacles. None have' contributed more to the safety and well-being of the citizens whose lives and property it protects or to the strength and development of democracy within the state. 

Now it is faced with the new task, the test of strength enforcement of law in war time, protection of the citizens and a just contribution to the maintenance of the internal security of the nation. With pride in Its traditions, firmness in Its resolution and confidence in its strength it faces the new task and test. It was during this period that the members of the German Embassy and of the Hungarian Legation were, interned at The Greenbrier Hotel at White Sulphur Springs. Sixteen members of the West Virginia State Police escorted the interns to the hotel from the train and kept them under strict supervision and close surveillance for a period of time until they were relieved by officers' of the Border Patrol.  

81 Members In Service 

War duties, added to the growing amount of knowledge necessary for the State Police, included civil defense, air raid observation and blackout watching,  his, added to the loss of 81 members to the armed forces of the nation, posed a real task for the troopers, which they carried out successfully. Forty eight of their number joined the Navy, twenty nine went into the Army, the Marines got three and one joined the Coast Guard. Eleven civilian employees also "joined up," including one who joined the Waves. 

Local Former Troopers

We are indebted to Captain E. S. Duckworth, retired, who was the first man to serve with the West Virginia State Police for thirty years for all of the pictures and much of the information in this story. Chief. R. (Dick) Callaghan, present chief of Parkersburg police department, also a retired State Police captain, provided the four Biennial reports which furnished information and statistics, and he also told of some of his experiences. Captain Duckworth joined the department in 1919, and for most of that time, served as physical instructor.

 In 1935, Duckworth was loaned to the FBI as a jujitsu instructor. He retired in 1952 and served as security officer at the Union' Carbide for ten years, retiring in 1962. Captain Duckworth has literally hundreds of pictures of State Police activities, members and classes, as well as a vivid memory of its "wild and wooly" early history which should be captured on paper before it is too late.

Captain, (now Chief), Callaghan joined in 1935 when the big reorganization took place. He, too, has many records and memories of the interesting, dangerous life of the troopers; although the first rough years were past when he became a member. Other retired members doubtless could add interesting facts. Other Parkersburgers whose names are on the long list who served with the department include Hobart Martin, also a former Parkersburg police chief, O. C. Boles, now in charge of the state penitentiary at Moundsville, Lloyd Layman, who became Parkersburg fire chief after retiring as captain from the State Police. 

tactical training, they must learn the technical application of the scientific knowledge which have become part of their job. Individual initiative is one requirement for a good trooper, who cannot quickly summon aid to assist in completing a mission. Some 275 state police are now scattered over about 25 thousand square miles of West Virginia, and their duties cover a miscellaneous variety of fields. The trooper cannot call the homicide  squad or the accident or criminal investigation bureau to come he is whichever division is needed. and must also know how to efficiently make use of the scientifically laboratory. almost his only outside aid. The department believes that only officers well' grounded in police in science and in the principles of law enforcement can efficiently carry out the mission of the West Virginia State Police. To achieve these ends the Basic Training Course has been increased to 16 weeks with a total of 687 training hours covering 109 different subjects.  

Among these subjects is work in the criminal investigation bureau, work in the master file room, photography, chemical laboratory, accident prevention bureau, traffic safety, school bus inspection, motor vehicle inspection, division of supplies and accounting, communications division, and many others. The life of a West Virginia State trooper is varied, but ready for almost any emergency.

 

 

 

 

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