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Memphis Police Department
The following is an encapsulated History of the Memphis Police Department:

the 1800's

In 1827, John J. Balch was appointed town constable. This was the birth of the Memphis Police Department. Several years later, a town watch was created with two men paid $400 a year to work the night watch.

The first police station was constructed. It was a 12' by 20' brick calaboose located at Main and Market, at a cost of $185. Rattles were purchased for the night watch. Yes, the first Memphis Police Officers carried big rattles which could be used as clubs.

The Department grew rapidly, totaling twenty-one people. The City of Memphis was divided into districts and patrolmen were sent out in pairs.

The Town Marshal was given the title of Chief of Police.

After the end of the Civil War, a new, more efficient police force was organized on the basis of Wards instead of Districts. The Department increased in size by nearly 100 men.

The "Yellow Fever" epidemic fell on Memphis in 1878 and a 55-man force fought its hardest fight. All but two remained on duty and, while 55 men were stricken, only 10 died.

The first patrol wagon was purchased and was dubbed the "Black Maria."

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the early 1900's

In the early 1900's, the Department began working with 8-hour shifts. The first motor vehicle were purchased- one an ambulance, the other a patrol car. Barksdale Substation became operational.

The emergency car was introduced, which consisted of 6 officers working 2 per shift responding to emergency calls. Police radios were installed in 12 police vehicles.

In 1932, Memphis received international notoriety when it was named "The Murder Capital of the World." There were 102 homicides that year.

George "Machine Gun" Kelly was captured by Memphis Police Officers.

The Police Academy was opened by Lt. Bill Raney, after his graduation from the FBI National Academy in 1937.

The first riot squad was formed, consisting of 30 men who were trained in tear gas, rifles, and submachine guns.

Police Officers gained civil service status.

In 1948, the first black officers were hired. The Department has 471 total personnel, 83 automobiles, 22 motorcycles, and 3 patrol wagons. The work week was reduced from 48 hours to 40 hours. The last horses from the horse patrol were sold and Barksdale station was closed.

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the 1950's - 1970's

Old Captain Badge

Badge worn by Captain Louis Distretti who joined the Department in 1949. He retired in 2002. 

Armour Training Center was opened. The year is 1958.

In the early 60's, the Emergency Squad was formed which contained 15 experienced and specially trained officers and the present Dog Squad was formed.

Dr. Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis in 1968, causing riots and curfews.

The first law enforcement planning agency was created by Detective Carl A. Goolsby.

In 1973, the department witnessed the formation of two police unions. The Afro-American Police Association was formed and the Memphis Police Association, a bargaining unit representing patrolmen and sergeants, was formed. 

In the summer of 1978 Memphis Police went on strike for eight days.

The West Precinct opens at 247 Washington becoming the MPD's fourth precinct.

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the 1980's

The Tact Unit rescued 3 doctors and one nurse held hostage during a 32 hour siege at St. Jude Research Hospital in 1982.

Also in 1982 the Hostage Negotiating Team was formed.

In 1982 the West Precinct moved from 247 Washington to its current location of 1925 Union Avenue, 

Hostage situation on Shannon Street resulted in eight deaths, including the police officer taken hostage. The year for that bloody assault was 1983.

In early 1984 the implementation of the Police Service Technician Program designed for the hiring of future commissioned police officers began.

Specialized Patrol, a pilot program, was instituted to attack the problem of criminal activity using innovative techniques and tactics. Twenty officers and 2 lieutenants were divided into two eleven man teams to target specific crimes in the city.

Operation Involvement became fully operational in 1986, successfully implementing a program of developing mutual respect, cooperation, and understanding between the Memphis Police Department and the citizens of Memphis.

Specialized Patrol made into a permanent unit. Formal institution of the career development program.

The Department started operating four shifts to reduce response time during peak hours. The Delta Shift was implemented.

The Neighborhood Watch Program was introduced within the Precincts. The first Police Open House was held.

Beale Street Substation Museum was opened.

In 1988, the First Black Director was appointed, James E. Ivy.

Central Precinct was opened, sharing space in the East Precinct until a permanent facility could be located.

The state-of-the-art John D. Holt Training Academy opened.

The Police Memorial Committee was formed and the first Police Memorial Service held.

The Crisis Intervention Team was formed to respond to calls for assistance involving the mentally ill.

Mendez Training Program implemented in Memphis City Schools, grades K-12. Peer Counselor Program started to provide a confidential source of support for fellow officers.

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the 1990's - 2003

As the 90's began the Family Trouble Center was opened at 620 S. Lauderdale, designed to attack the root causes of domestic violence.

Cordova is annexed into the city and police services are provided.

First Recruit Class is trained with the 9 MM pistol.

The Emergency Vehicle Operation Course began operation at the Training Academy.

In 1991, the TV show COPS was filmed in Memphis and the World Police and Fire Games were held.

Eddie B. Adair was named first black Chief of Police in 1992.

Computerization of the Memphis Police Department begins in the Robbery Squad and the Central Precinct opened August 15, 1992.

First Police Summer Youth Camp for inner-city boys, ages 8-12, is held.

1993 brought the creation of the Downtown Precinct, which became the sixth precinct.

The Tel-Serve reporting system becomes operational.

MPD monthly newsletter "Behind the Badge" begins publication.

The Field Training Officer Program was implemented in all six precincts.

The Police Advisory Council was created to act as a liaison between the police and the community.

A Computer Network links precincts to bureaus.

Midnight Basketball program begins for at-risk males, ages 18-30.

Burglary Squad created by the restructuring of Investigative Services.

In 1994, the COACT Unit was created and assigned to the Orange-Mound/Binghampton area to initiate new Community Policing Program. This program was expanded to Mississippi/Walker in the fall.

The Memphis Police Sports Federation was formed to promote athletics within the Department.

The Training Academy initiates "Freeze" pepper gas training for all officers. Seventy-five recruits graduate from the Training Academy as the largest class in Memphis Police Department history.

Uniform Patrol divided into two districts containing 3 precincts each.

Citizens Police Academy begins in the South Precinct as a nine-week training course for civilians.

D.A.R.E. is launched in the Memphis City Schools with eight officers and 800 kids.

Downtown Precinct Officers attend Bike Patrol School at Training Academy for full certification.

Olander Franklin promoted to Chief Inspector, the first female to hold that position.

As 1995 began, the anti-gang program G.R.E.A.T. joined D.A.R.E. in the city school system.

COACT was expanded to the areas of Jefferson and Cleveland and Cooper-Young.

A civilian, Kathy Todd, is promoted to Chief Administrative Officer over Administrative Services.

The long awaited Promotional process for sergeants and above begins and is scheduled for completion in the Spring of 1996.

Weapons Watch, patterned after Crime Stoppers, is introduced within the city school system.

Over 400 guns are confiscated in the first year.

A new restraint device, the Ripp Hobble, is issued to all officers.

In 1996, Walter J. Winfrey is named Director of Police Services by Mayor W.W. Herenton.

COACT is expanded in the Westwood, Cooper-Young, and Jefferson-Cleveland areas. Westwood begins its Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) program.

Family Trouble Center moves to North Precinct and begins work on its Domestic Violence Pilot Project.

Internal Affairs and Security Squad move to new offices in the 100 N. Main bldg.

CrimeStoppers establishes a website on the Internet.

HBO documentary "Memphis PD: War on the Streets" premieres. The America Undercover documentary takes an inside look at the emotional toll police work is exacting upon police officers.

East and South Precincts hold their first "Back-to-School" supply giveaways to over 1,000 children.

First Crime Prevention Merit Badge is awarded to the MPD Boy Scout troops by Director Winfrey.

Promotional process completed in January of 1996 and the first officers in a large pool of sergeants, lieutenants, majors, and inspectors promoted in May.

In 1997, the Mounted Patrol was invited to participate in President Bill Clinton's Second Inauguration in Washington, DC.

Wellness Study started and conducted by University of Tennessee Department of Preventative Medicine on bike officers and nonbike officers in the West Precinct. The study will monitor the officer's stress levels over a 6 and 12 month period and is the first study of its type in the U.S.

MPD begins its own hiring process, separate from City Hall Personnel, and utilizes print media, as well as, billboards as part of the recruiting effort.

Bethel Labelle COACT opens in the East Precinct.

75th Recruit Class graduates 66 new police officers.

Jackson Avenue COACT opens within the Hispanic area of Jackson and National. Several bilingual officers are assigned to this miniprecinct.

Street Crime Abatement Team (SCAT) formed. Made up of sergeants and TACT Unit officers this unit's primary objective is to target specific street crimes and hot spot locations throughout the city.

The MPD Accountability Plan  - a quarterly report to Mayor Herenton - begins in  February of 1997.

Civilian Terrence Woods is appointed as Deputy Chief over Administrative Services.

Director Winfrey and his Command Staff begin implementation of Strategic Action Management (SAM).

Debby Hall is hired as the MPD's new Media Relations spokesperson.

MPD begins to implement the COMPSTAT program which is modeled after the NYPD's successful computer crime analysis program. COMPSTAT spreads to each precinct and involves "report cards" that track crime within each precinct.

In 1998, Brenda Harris Jones becomes the first female to achieve the rank of Deputy Chief within the Memphis Police Department.

Largest recruit class in MPD history graduates 113 new police officers on June 18, 1998 at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.

Director Winfrey begins his monthly "Townhall Meetings."  

Richard McBryde is appointed as the Executive Commander of Police Administration and will oversee Finance, Personnel, Communications, Administrative Services, and Information Systems.

The Southeast precinct opens on July 1st at the now closed Defense Depot on Airways. It is the MPD's seventh precinct facility.

Crisis Intervention Team members - Danny Parris, Debra Ham-Kelly, Sheryl Stanback and Roger Nelson -  are recognized for ten years of service to the CIT program and for being CIT "pioneers" at the annual CIT Banquet.

Orange Mound COACT opens in the Central Precinct in the first building built specifically for a COACT Unit.

Graceland COACT opens in the South Precinct and Todd's Creek COACT opens in the North Precinct.

Over 900 kids attend 29 Anti-gang/Anti-drug summer camps sponsored by the MPD and the Black United Fund.

The Sage SL-6 27mm L3AOS (Less Lethal Launched Ammunition Ordnance System) is implemented after CIT and Tact Officers recieve training in its use.

Westwood COACT is recognized by the National League of Cities for Excellence in Community Policing.

In December the largest recruit class in MPD history graduates 117 new officers.

Binghampton COACT opens in the Lester Community Center.

Seven Officers from Chisinau Moldova visit the MPD in January of 1999 as part of an international exchange program sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. The Moldovan officers spend two weeks learning about the MPD. Seven Officers from Memphis travel to Chisinau for their two weeks of Moldovan training in   February.

In April of 1999 Director Walter Winfrey retires after 31 years of service. W.P. "Bill" Oldham is appointed Director by Mayor Herenton. Deputy Chief Dugger is appointed Deputy Director and Inspector Mike Dodd is promoted to Deputy Chief over Uniform Patrol District 1.

In July, ground was broken for the Northeast Precinct which will be completed by the Spring of 2000. This precinct is lauded as a true "community" precinct and will have computer kiosks setup to allow citizens the opportunity to look up crime reports, traffic information and other MPD information.

Hickory Hill COACT opened in the newly annexed area of Memphis. A capacity crowd attended the grand opening.

The first Citizen's Police Academy is held at the Hickory Hill COACT with a waiting list for the next class. 

Bike Patrols are expanded to the East Precinct and to the Hickory Hill area.

Laptop computers are installed in the squad cars and officers receive training on their use.

Mobile data beepers are tested in the field by bike officers, mounted patrol officers, and motorcycle officers. These "beepers" are used to run vehicle tag numbers, drivers license numbers, and warrant checks.

On December 7, 1999 Interim Director Bill Oldham retires after 27 years of service to the Memphis Police Department.  Deputy Chief Walter E. Crews is named Interim Director by Mayor Willie Herenton.

The Memphis Police Sports Federation inducts eleven officers in to the newly unveiled Sports Federation Hall of Fame located in the Training Academy on April 10th. 

After a 4 year drought brought on by lawsuits 20 patrol officers were promoted to the rank of sergeant on February 24th, 2000.

On June 8th, 2000 the 81st Basic Recruit Session graduated 34 new police officers.

July 13, 2000 Mayor Herenton names Walter E. Crews as permanent Director after a nationwide search.

Director Crews appoints James H. Bolden as Deputy Director to replace Deputy Director David Dugger and names Dr. Rita Dorsey head of the Training Bureau. Deputy Chiefs Brenda Jones and Sam Moses  retire and are replaced by Chuck Cook and Al Gray. Inspector Mary Wright is promoted to Chief Administrative Officer and replaces the retiring Richard McBryde.

Forty-three lieutenants and 63 sergeants were promoted during a standing room only ceremony held at City Hall on July 12th, 2000. On the list of those getting promoted were several interesting pairs - mother and son ( Sgts. Dennis and Vertie McNeil); brothers (Sgts. Tim and William Green); sisters (Sgts. LaFrancine and Gayniece Bennett) and husband and wife (Lt. Michelle and Sgt. Jay Locastro).

Northeast Precinct opens in August of 2000 as the MPD's eighth precinct and the first newly constructed precinct facility in decades.

The COP Team is formed in the fall of 2000. COP stands for Child Occupancy Protection and officers assigned to the COP Team check for properly installed child restraint seats and educate parents about child safety. The first two members of the COP Team were Officers Stoddard and Hawkins who received special National Highway Traffic Safety Administration training. 

Fall of 2000 the Memphis Police squad car takes on a new look as a new design is unveiled - the first new design since 1992. The bold red stripe and bright blue letters reading "POLICE" are designed to increase police visibility. This look, designed by Sgt. Susan Lowe, is also applied to the Crime Response Unit's new mobile crime response van, as well as, 2 MPD Youth Program vans.

The Missing Person/Juvenile Squad is formed in October of 2000 to investigate missing persons and juvenile runaways. The squad is comprised of retired officers, one full-time sergeant and a captain and is located at the Northeast Precinct.

Director Crews announces in November that Occupational Nurse Carol Harriss and Finance Manager Chuck Fox will join the Administrative Services Division of the MPD. Nurse Harriss will be in charge of the MPD's Hypertension Program as well as other OJI duties while Mr. Fox will manage the Finance Division.

In January of 2001 the Training Academy was the site of another standing room only crowd who gathered to watch 8 new inspectors and 22 new majors cross the auditorium stage to accept their new promotions.

Officer Marco Yzguirre is designated as the first Latino Liaison for the Memphis Police Department in February of 2001. Officer Yzguirre hosts his first Latino Townhall meeting and over 1,400 Latino citizens attend.

In the spring of 2001, Law Enforcement News names the MPD's Crisis Intervention Team as its 2000 People of the Year.

The Child Abuse Unit is moved into the newly renovated Child Advocacy Center on Poplar Ave.

In 2001 the MPD became a liaison with YO Memphis (Youth Opportunity Movement), a nationwide initiative funded by the Department of Labor. During their annual  awards ceremony the MPD was recognized as one of YO Memphis' outstanding partners.

The East Precinct hosts the first Bi-Cultural Citizens Police Academy and graduates 30 new ambassadors in May of 2001.

The MPD sends a large contingency of police athletes to the World Police & Fire Games in Indianapolis. They return with a slew of gold, silver and bronze medals.

The East Precinct hosts the first 3-0n-3 "Taking it to the Rim" Basketball tournament and draws 2165 kids from 54 teams on August 11th, 2001.

The Central Precinct hosts the first annual citywide Summer Safety Fair. Over 320 children from various community centers attended the day long Fair.

The Memphis Police Sports Federation inducts 21 officers in to the Sports Federation Hall of Fame on October 6th. This is the second group of inductees for the Hall of Fame.

The Brooks Road Substation opens on October 9th.

Promotions are held in the Property Room on November 2nd as Alnita Campbell and Jackie Layrock are both promoted to supervisor after 19 years as property room attendants.

Ground is broken on November 16th for the future home of the new Central Precinct which will be located on Tillman just North of Johnson. It is scheduled for completion in late 2002.

On December 6, 2001 the Memphis Police Department welcomed 64 new Memphis Police Officers who graduated from the Training Academy as part of the 84th Basic Recruit Class.

Design work begins on the restoration of the old police headquarters located at 128 Adams. Plans call for the police department to relocate the executive, administrative and investigative offices in the historic building upon completion of the restoration project in late 2005, early 2006.

In March of 2002 Deputy Director Bolden launched the P.R.E.P. Program designed to act as an introductory program for junior and senior high school students who wish to pursue a career in law enforcement. 

Director Crews and his Command Staff  promoted three majors and 56 lieutenants on April 12th of 2002.

The MPD welcomed 48 new police officers on June 20th during Basic Recruit graduation exercises held in Whitehaven.

In the Fall of 2002 Director Crews announces the formation of the Juvenile Violence Abatement Project and appoints Dr. Rita Dorsey, commander of the Training Academy, as its project coordinator. Major Jimmy Kelly is selected as Training Academy commander.

In January of 2003 246 police officers are promoted to the rank of sergeant - the largest promotional process in MPD history.

In February of 2003 Director Crews announces his retirement after 33 plus years with the Memphis Police Department. Mayor Herenton taps Deputy Director James Bolden to be the next Director of Police Services pending confirmation by the City Council.

In March of 2003 the Memphis City Council confirms James H. Bolden as the next Memphis Police Director.

In the Spring of 2003 demolition work begins at 128 Adams - the historic police building that was abandoned in the 1980s - as the dream of finally restoring it to its former splendor becomes a reality.  Renovation will begin in 2004 with a scheduled grand opening in the Summer/Fall of 2006. This renovated historic facility will not only house the MPD Command Staff and police personnel but also City Courts and their employees. 

Director Bolden presented his new management team on April 11th during a promotional ceremony in the Directorís Conference Room.  Deputy Chief Ray Schwill was promoted to Deputy Director and will be in charge of the police departmentís day-to-day operations. Director Bolden also promoted Inspector Janice Pilot of the North Precinct and Inspector Larry Godwin of Special Operations to Deputy Chief. Deputy Chief Pilot will be over Uniform Patrol District Two and Deputy Chief Godwin will oversee Special Operations.
These two new Chiefs will fill vacancies that were created when Chief Schwill was promoted to Deputy Director and the retirement of Deputy Chief Mike Dodd. Inspector Mary Wright was also promoted to Deputy Chief and will remain in Administrative Services where her duties will remain the same. 
Chief Gray has been assigned to Investigative Services and Chief Cook will oversee Uniform Patrol District One.

The Fraud & Document Unit changes its name to Economic Crimes Bureau as their investigative focus has expanded due to an increase in internet fraud and credit card and identity theft.

The Central Precinct moves to a new state-of-the-art facility at 426 Tillman in July of 2003. The building, located in the heart of Binghampton, not only serves as a police precinct but also features community rooms and a computer lab for citizens and other city employees.  



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Last updated on Tuesday, June 17, 2003 03:49 PM.

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