Sergeant Michael B. Webb
Kentucky State Police
Public Affairs Branch
Office (502) 782-1780
Kentucky State Police Celebrates 60 Years Of Service On July 1
Date of News Release: 06/27/2008
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(Frankfort, KY) - In 1948, the world was a very different place. Like the rest of the country, Kentucky was still recovering from the effects of a world war and adjusting to peacetime. Gov. Earl C. Clements was convinced that a state police force was the commonwealth's best answer to the challenges of a post-war increase in traffic problems and crime.
Consequently, on July 1, 1948, Clements signed into law an act that created the Kentucky State Police. With the stroke of a pen, Kentucky became the 38th state to pass a State Police Act, which gave the agency full jurisdiction and power of arrest throughout the state except in cities with 1,000 residents or more. (This single restriction on the agency's border-to-border authority lasted until 1976.)
Guthrie Crowe, an attorney and former police judge from LaGrange, was appointed as the agency's first commissioner. Most of his 147-member staff consisted of former members of the Kentucky Highway Patrol. Clad in gray uniforms trimmed in black (said to have been patterned after the Louisville Legion led by Gen. Zachary Taylor during the Mexican-American War) and gray campaign hats inspired by the old 123rd Kentucky Cavalry, Crowe and his troopers set out in distinctive black Ford cruisers to establish a force that would one day become the pride of every law-abiding Kentuckian.
With the help of the FBI and the Indiana State Police, a three-week training program was held at Ft. Knox and Frankfort. Bowling Green resident Joe Barrett, one of the first troopers to hit the road, said the training was something he'll never forget. One of his instructors was the legendary FBI crime-fighter Elliott Ness.
Training was essential, for Crowe was determined to form a modern law enforcement organization. In a December 1948 article in the Cincinnati Enquirer, Crowe said he expected his troopers to be "courteous, efficient and attractive in appearance, but firm in their treatment of law violators."
"Policemen," he wrote, "are no longer expected to be ferocious in temperament, not to employ domineering and loud-voiced tactics whereby the luckless transgressor is nearly frightened out of his wits for making a traffic error. The new policeman should be a man who can render service to and deal properly with people. He should be a friend to the public and not a bug-a-boo with which to frighten small children."
In his efforts to build this modern force, Crowe established the state's first crime lab, acquiring a $1,200 comparison microscope for bullet and cartridge case analysis. He hired a young, chemical engineering graduate from the University of Louisville, sent him off for two weeks training with the Indiana State Police Criminal Investigations Lab and budgeted $600 for the start up. The lab opened on May 15, 1951 with a public announcement that its services were available to any city, county or other local police officer in the commonwealth.
One of the first missions of the new agency was highway safety. In a December 1948 Courier Journal Magazine article, Crowe stated, "We are essentially an organization to police the highways. It was clearly the intent of the legislature that we devote 80 percent of our time to this work. Eighty percent of our income is derived from highway users. They are entitled to 80 percent of our effort.
"From a criminal standpoint, our organization is purely a supplemental one to aid the local constabulary," he added. "We are not designed to supplant local officers, but to lend them assistance when they request it."
The same article went on to explain that "the day's work of a trooper is primarily traffic control, checking for stolen cars, accident investigations and testifying in court against violators."
Resources and equipment were sparse. A July 1, 1948 inventory lists 96 automobiles "of various ages and stages of repair." Only 45 had two-way radios. One former trooper remembered that if headquarters wanted him, they would call a local gas station, which switched on an outside light as a signal for the trooper to find a phone and call his post commander.
But the challenge remained. In 1948, troopers traveled at about 35 miles per hour except when pursuing a speeder. Only a few congested urban areas had any speed restrictions. The only law allowed police to charge motorists with reckless driving if they were going more than 45 miles per hour! Even then, the officer had to convince a judge that the condition of the road and the vehicle, combined with excessive speed, created a clear hazard to highway safety.
KSP was undaunted, however. On Oct. 30, 1948, in a joint operation with military policemen from Ft. Knox, KSP held its first traffic safety roadblock at the top of Muldraugh Hill in Hardin County. For 10 hours, every vehicle was stopped, the operator's permit inspected and the vehicle checked for safety violations. Motorists who had been drinking were arrested. And this was just the beginning.
Two months later, when the agency totaled up the state's highway deaths for 1948, fatalities were down 28.2 percent. In June of 1950, the traffic fatality rate was 23 percent lower than during the same period in 1949.
As the new decade dawned, KSP continued its highway safety efforts both on and off the road. Public safety programs were developed and highway safety exhibits were displayed at the Kentucky State Fair and other events. Troopers also worked with student safety patrols, which assisted with student pedestrian safety by directing traffic at intersections around school grounds and helped teach safety rules to students.
One unique program involved KSP Lt. Lee Allen Estes, whose entertaining talents as a magician and ventriloquist brought pedestrian safety messages to school children throughout the state.
As the 1950s progressed, KSP took on new duties. In 1951, Gov. Lawrence Weatherby directed the agency to take action against illegal gambling, liquor and prostitution operations in northern Kentucky, Henderson and other areas around the state.
On Aug. 31, 1951, Commissioner Crowe personally led 52 troopers armed with shotguns and pistols in a raid on the Latin Quarter and Club Manana in Wilder, just outside of Newport. Sixty-eight people were arrested, almost $20,000 in cash was seized and thousands of dollars worth of gambling equipment was confiscated including dice tables, roulette wheels and slot machines.
Other raids soon followed. The Hi-Dee-Ho Club. The Lookout House. The Beverly Hills. The Yorkshire Club.
Operations were also mounted in the Henderson area against nightspots such as The Trocadero, The Dells, Riverview Gardens, The Little Commando and the Kentucky Tavern.
Newspaper clippings of the period mention accounts of other raids in Paducah, Boonesboro, Scottsville and Richmond.
One raid in Richmond uncovered "a second-story handbook operation at the corner of Water and First Streets." Thirty people were arrested and the confiscated equipment included a ticker tape (which was in operation as officers entered), four telephones, a dice table, public address system and microphone, five odds boards with pasted race forms, a betting box, 34 racing journals, book betting slips, parley forms for betting on football games and an adding machine.
KSP continued its battle against vice throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. They must have done something right. In 1965, a Louisville Courier-Journal reporter toured Newport after dark and was told by one life-long resident that the city was "dead and gettin' deader."
The 1960s marked the beginning of two new KSP programs aimed at young people. In 1961, children visiting the Kentucky State Fair were treated to the debut of Safety Town at the KSP exhibit. Under the watchful eye of state troopers, children pedaled tricycles through a miniature city, complete with replicas of real-life structures, tiny streets and working stoplights. Designed to teach pedestrian safety, it is one of the agency's longest running and most successful programs and it is still in existence today.
The other program, Trooper Island, was originated by KSP Lt. John Ed Tomlinson and launched by KSP Director James E. Bassett, III in 1964. It established a free summer camp for disadvantaged boys on Dale Hollow Lake in Clinton County. Financed entirely by donations, the camp offered good food, fresh air, recreation, guidance and structured activities designed to build positive relationships with law enforcement officers. Today, Trooper Island remains in operation offering esteem-building summer activities for boys and girls aged 10 to 12.
As the 1970s, 80s and 90s evolved, so did KSP, responding to new missions for new times. A drug enforcement unit was created, full-scale marijuana eradication was initiated (KSP destroyed 493,692 plants in 2007) and DARE and drug interdiction programs were started. A Special Response Team was formed. Canine, Missing Persons, and Hazardous Devices units were created. With the coming of the new century, special units were formed to handle issues such as Oxycontin and methamphetamines.
Over the years, KSP has continually progressed in terms of size and quality of service it provides to the citizens of Kentucky. Today, the agency has 16 posts and 961 troopers throughout the state. Its six regional crime labs provide a variety of forensic support to local law enforcement agencies. Its duties have expanded to include the protection of executive and legislative branch leaders, government facilities security, drug interdiction, marijuana eradication, arson investigation, white collar and electronic crimes, child and sexual abuse cases, anti-terrorism and special response teams.
Training now consists of a 23-week program that includes more than 1,000 hours of classroom and field study in subjects such as constitutional law, juvenile and traffic law, use of force, weapons training, defensive tactics, first aid, high speed vehicle pursuit, criminal investigation, survival Spanish, computer literacy, hostage negotiations, evidence collection, radio procedures, search and seizure, crash investigation, drug identification, traffic control, crowd control, armed robbery response, land navigation, electronic crimes, sex crimes, hate crimes, domestic violence, bomb threats and hazardous materials.
Despite its many high tech activities, such as radar and video surveillance, DNA testing and on-board vehicle computers, KSP remains committed to the tried and true fundamentals of traditional police work that produce results. Following the concepts of "community policing," its troopers live in the areas where they work, providing "shoes on the street" for an effective and personal local presence.
KSP troopers are involved in their local communities by meeting with civic and community organizations, providing lectures on crime prevention and drug education programs to schools and other youth organizations and assisting schools and businesses in developing security and emergency response plans.
True to KSP's original mission of saving lives on Kentucky's roadways, the KSP Highway Safety Branch continues to educate the public about the use of seat belts and the dangers of speeding and driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol. The Drive To Stay Alive teen driving academy and the Friday Nights, Blue Lights program are just two examples.
In the early days of the Kentucky State Police, troopers' duties were far different than today. They worked a 10-hour day, six days a week and were lucky if they weren't called back after their shift.
The men and women who wear the distinctive gray uniform and campaign hat of the Kentucky State Police today have much in common with those early troopers. They are all dedicated, hard working individuals who perform their duties because they want to serve others and make a positive difference in society.
The history of the Kentucky State Police is the history of each one of these individuals-past, present and future-who have been or will be a member of the organization.
"The successes of the Kentucky State Police are many and the observance of its 60th anniversary is a tribute to all of the past and present employees of the agency, especially the 25 troopers killed in the line of duty," said KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer. "We stand on the shoulders of all those who have gone before us and strive to live up to and continue their high level of dedication and commitment to the principles of public service and law enforcement. In doing this, we set an example for those to come and so 'The Thin Gray Line' continues."
(This article was written by Les Williams, Public Information Officer, Kentucky State Police Public Affairs Branch.)