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Police History

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Longmont was founded by Chicago businessmen and local farmers in 1871, and was named in honor of Longs Peak, a 14,259-foot peak visible from anywhere in the city. It was two years beyond the forming of Longmont that early policing began to take shape (1873).

Longmont originally had a Night Watchman system in which a party was hired to watch over town while everyone else slept. In 1899, the Longmont newspaper reported, “The council then fixed the salaries of appointees as follows: Night Watchman $50 per month.

Up until 1930, Longmont law enforcement was called Marshals. After 1930, they were called police officers.

Boundaries
Longmont’s city boundaries for police to “serve and protect” has grown substantially since 1873:

  • 1942 – North side of town was 11th Avenue, South of 1st Avenue was not in the city limits; East side of town Martin  on the east side not in the city limits, West side of town the Longmont Golf Course at Sunset was not in the city limits.

Calls for Service
Records relating to “police reports” have been found as early as 1899. The March 31, 1899 Annual Report of the Marshal in the Longmont Times-Call Reports the following arrests: 37 for intoxication, 1 for fast driving (which would not have been a car in this year but likely a horse and buggy), 1 for running horses on streets, 3 disturbances, and 1 for indecent exposure. This amounted to 23 calls for the year 1899.

“Calls for service” are generally calls in which require commissioned officer response.  It is interesting to note that the Longmont Emergency Communications Center answers another 60% in volume above the number that officers are needed to respond to.

Other calls for service numbers.

  • 1937 – 1,630 calls for service
  • 2005 – 78,000 calls for service
  • 2010 – 87,000 calls for service

Famous Cases

  • Likely, the most well-known case in Longmont would be that of William Henry Dickens, a prominent and wealthy member of the Longmont community. He owned the Dickens Opera House, located at 300 Main Street (3rd and Main NW corner) where he ran the Farmers Bank on the first floor. The upper floor was used as a community center in Longmont early days. Social and cultural community life revolved around this building. Mr. Dickens was shot and killed through the bay window of his then two story home located at 303 Coffman Street (NW corner of Coffman and 3rd Avenue) on November 30, 1915.  Longmont Police arrested Rienzi Dickens (one of William Henry Dickens five children) for the murder of his father. Rienzi was found guilty at the first Boulder County trial. His attorney’s appealed the conviction to the Colorado Supreme Court stating a piece of evidence should have been inadmissible. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed and sent the case back to Boulder County to be tried a second time. At the second trial, Rienzi was found not guilty. He boarded the train in Longmont at 2nd Avenue and Main immediately following the sentencing and left for El Segundo, California. The word is that Rienzi never returned to Longmont again.  The court papers regarding this case can be found at the Denver library.
  • On November 1, 1955 a United Airlines Flight from Denver to Portland blew up on the east side of I-25 at Hwy 119.  The structure began breaking apart there and scattered all the way to the area of Hwy 66 and Weld County Road 13. Investigators stated that the debris field was 6 square miles. Thirty nine passengers and 5-crew were aboard.  The mother of the suspect was on the plane. He had planted dynamite in her luggage. Prior to takeoff he had also purchased a substantial insurance policy in the lobby of Stapleton International Airport (predecessor of DIA).  The first 15 minutes of the 1959 American drama film starring James Stewart “The FBI Story” outlines this tragic accident outside of Longmont.  This incident has also been termed as the first terrorism incident in the U.S. connected to an aircraft. The book, “Mainliner Denver” was written about this incident in which all Longmont officers were dispatched to assist.

Leaders of Longmont Police
The Longmont Police Department has been managed by a Police Chief, and sometimes a Police Chief as well as a Public Safety Chief. The structure of leadership has evolved.

  • 1930’s – Rae Bennett (one of the youngest Police Chiefs in the state at 26 years of age)
  • 1934- 1942 – Orval Barr
  • Unknown dates – Miles McPhillips (served for 12 years)
  • unknown until 1966 – Keith Cunningham
  • 1966 until 1977 – Carol Hebrew (Police Chief)
  • 1977 until 1984 – Harry Johns (Police Chief)
  • 1984 until 1987 – Fred Rainguet (Police Chief)
  • 1987 until 1993 -  Larry Hesser (Police Chief)
  • 1993 until current - Mike Butler (hired as Police Chief from 1993-2008, currently the Public Safety Chief 2008-2015, four Deputy Chiefs serve under his direction)

(Please note that these dates are a work in progress, they are being updated as additional information is located).

Technology
Longmont has long been a police department that had a lot of firsts.

  • 1934 - Call boxes were installed in Longmont in June 1934. Call boxes were boxes on top of a post with a rotating light. When the light rotated, officers knew they had a call for service and would access the phone inside for details of where their services were needed. In the 1950’s the call boxes in Longmont were located at: 3rd and Main (NE corner), old JC Penney building (460 Main Street) Roosevelt Park, and two at 6th Street (one block from Main east and west).
  • 1935  - Longmont got their first automatic stop lights (2) to be used in case of fire or auto accidents to keep the crowd back. The newspaper says that they, “throw glaring light for two blocks.”
  • 1936 - According to the Longmont Times-Call police here were the second agency to be able to take mug shots. The newspaper reported, “It is the newest type of criminal photographic machinery available, and so far as known no other Colorado city with the exception of Denver, has anything to compare with it.”
  • Early dispatch for the Colorado State Patrol was handled by the Longmont Police Department.

Officers

  • Prior to 1965 officers wore light tan shirts and brown pants. Today they wear navy blue pants and shirts.
  • The first female officer was hired in Longmont in 1975. The first female officer hired did not complete the field training officer program. The second female officer completed the program and officially took to policing the community.
  • The shoulder patches currently worn by officers are the 6th patch the department has had. These patches have been worn since1988.
  • The train tracks in Longmont were installed in 1873 on the outskirts of town. Up until the early 1980’s there was no overpass which would allow officers to get literally from one side of the tracks to the other. Dispatch would have to send a patrol car on the “right side of the tracks” for response to emergencies.
  • Officers did not have music radios or air conditioning in their patrol cars until the 1980’s because command staff felt that the officers would not get out of their vehicles if they had either of the two items.  Officers employed at the time claimed to know every giant tree in town that could provide shade for the high temperatures and the extra 34 pounds of weight they were carrying due to duty belts and protective vests.

The Longmont Police Department accepts donations of historic memorabilia by prior members of the department. For additional information or to contribute additional information, please email or call (303) 651-8424.

 

 

 

 

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