Community policing defined early chief


Northeast News
November 13, 2013

Showing “‘Some of the Finest,’ Metropolitan Police Force, Kansas City, Mo.,” this postcard was published by the Elite Postcard Company of Kansas City, Mo.

The officers are posed in front of the former police headquarters at Fourth and Main streets in what is now the River Market area.

After humble beginnings in 1874, the department went from being simply a town marshall to a full-fledged police force, commanded by Police Chief Thomas Speers. (Speers is buried in historic Elmwood Cemetery.) No chief since Speers has had so long a tenure – during his 21 years serving Kansas City, Speers oversaw the change from what was essentially considered “frontier justice” to a professional police force. At the time the department was instated, Kansas City’s population was between 30,000 and 40,000 and was policed by about 30 officers. Beat cops at the time earned a whopping $75 per month. Captains earned $100 per month, and Speers as chief earned $165 per month.

By 1912, the city’s population had grown to about 250,000, and the department’s ranks swelled to 502 officers who patrolled the 10 districts of anywhere between five and 30 beats each. The police department even had its own matron, Mrs. Patti Moore, who oversaw women arrested for prostitution and vagrancy. Moore also helped officers find husbands accused of abandoning their families.

One interesting side-note about Chief Thomas Speers is that he very well could have been the father of modern community policing. Speers thought it wise for officers to proactively work their beats so as to prevent crime instead of reactively responding to calls from different areas of the city… a 125-year-old lesson modern day command staff could do well in heeding.

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