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IMPD Motorcycle Officers, 1927


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Starting in 1821 with the earliest sheriff in Marion County, public safety has a long record of service in Indianapolis. This digital archive spans much of the Indianapolis Police Department (IPD) and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) histories. Inside you will find arrest logs from the early 1900s, information about some of the very first policewomenmug shots from the turn of the century, IPD personnel records, and video footage of policing from the 1980s and 1990s. If all major events in IMPD's history were written out, it would be a book. So for the sake of brevity and clarity, please browse this timeline as a way of orienting yourself in Indianapolis police tradition.


To learn more about the history of policing in Indianapolis, please see the IndyPL catalog entry for IMPD Archivist Patrick Pearsey.



  • 1821 First Sheriff in Marion County, Hervey Bates
  • 1870 (approx.) Beer Garden Riots by the White River
  • 1876 (May 13) The first six African-American police officers are appointed
  • 1886 (May 24) Benjamin Thornton becomes the first African American IPD detective
  • 1882 (August 28) Patrolman Hugh Burns becomes the first First Line of Duty Death
  • February 27, 1892 Street Car Strike. Numerous police officers are assaulted
  • 1895 IPD begins using bicycle-men for quicker response times
  • 1897 Gamewell emergency call box system installed throughout Indianapolis
    Gamewell Call-box, 1890s
  • 1904 Albert Perrott replaces the Bertillion identification system with fingerprinting after attending a course at the St. Louis World's Fair
  • 1906 Motorized patrol wagons replace horse drawn paddy wagons
  • 1906 (September 30) First multiple-officer killing: Edward Petticord and Charles Russell
  • 1909 Four precinct houses established in four quadrants of Indianapolis
  • 1909 Motorcycles begin replacing the bicycle patrol
    IMPD Motorcycle Officers, 1927
  • 1911 (October 24) Doctor Helen Knabe is found murdered. Case is unsolved to this day.
  • 1913 (March) Great Flood. A few IPD officers keep order on the west side of White River
  • 1931 (October 31) Street Car strike. 33 IPD officers refuse to ride shotgun on the street cars and are temporarily suspended. Six people are killed and over 100 injured during the 8-day long strike
  • 1918 (June 15) First 14 policewomen appointed to IPD. IPD had 23 policewomen in 1921, most in the world. Captain Clara Burnside was in charge, the only female police Captain in the U.S.
    Emma Christy Baker appointed 1918
  • 1929 (December 14) IPD's radio station goes on the air, making IPD 3rd police department in U.S. to have a radio station
  • 1930 (January 28) IPD announces their intention to become the 5th major police department to use the science of "forensic ballistics"
  • 1931 IPD is the first department in the U.S. to build its own radio station building
  • 1931 IPD builds the first radio for a motorcycle in U.S.
  • 1934 IPD builds the first two-way radio in world.
  • 1936 (November) Chief of Police Michael Morrissey appoints Roderic Rae to head up new a Criminal Laboratory, one of the first in the United States
  • 1943 (May) IPD hires the first of 51 female police officers, due to a manpower shortage created by WWII. Uniformed and armed, after the war ends, they are expected to quit or return to desk work, switchboard operation, or jobs in Juvenile.
  • 1943 (August) Army WAC Maoma Ridings is murdered in the Claypool Hotel
  • 1954 (June 30) Nine officers are wounded by a barricaded mental patient at the Battle of Elder Avenue
  • 1954 18-year-old Dorothy Poore murdered by Victor Hale Lively at the Claypool Hotel
    Crowd at 733 Elder Avenue
  • 1957 First African-American promoted to Captain, Anthony Watkins
  • 1955 Gamewell system replaced with modern police and fire call boxes
  • 1958 (July 31) Eli Lilly executive Forrest Teel is found murdered and suspect Connie Nichols is arrested within 24-hours
  • 1960's IPD begins fielding integrated teams of officers for the first time on street patrol
  • 1960 (February) Canine Section (K-9) is established with two German Shepherds
  • 1962 64-year old police headquarters at 35 South Alabama is torn down and department moves into the new City-County Building at 50 North Alabama Street
  • 1963 Coliseum Explosion. Seventy-four people killed at the Coliseum at the State Fairground
  • 1968 IPD begins using a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter
  • 1968 (September) Patrol Car 47. Betty Blankenship and Liz Coffal Robinson become the first policewomen in the United States to patrol in a squad car of their own.
    Coffal and Blankenship on firing range
  • 1969 IPD is the first department in U.S. to assign marked police vehicles to officers on a 24-hour basis (also known as the take-home program)
  • 1969 (January) IPD begins using policewomen as dispatchers for the first time, a previously only male job
  • 1969 (June 9) Riot along Indiana Avenue. 200+ officers called up for emergency duty, several officers injured
  • 1970-1980s Policewomen are assigned to investigative tasks, rather than typing. Pioneers were: Ruth Beaver, Narcotics, 1970; Peggy Patton, Sex Crimes, 1973, Penny Davis, Burglary/Larceny, 1976, Deana McGivern, Vice, 1976 and Donna Holmes, Homicide, 1982.
  • 1971 (January 1) IPD switches its record system over to an IBM computer
  • 1971 Three men found with their throats slashed on LaSalle Street. Murders were never solved.
  • 1977 (February) Tony Kiritsis takes a realtor hostage for two days, before releasing him
  • 1977 (August 30) In a protest over the end of the take-home car program, hundreds of cars are parked in front of police headquarters, locked, with sirens and red lights on
    Take-home Car Turn-in protest, 1977
  • 1987 (August) Pan Am Games are hosted by Indianapolis; a major event for which IPD provided security
  • 1989 AFIS computerized fingerprinting system is adopted by IPD Identification
  • 1991 (December) Metropolitan Emergency Communications Agency (MECA) is created to control police communications
  • 1995 (July) Riot near College Avenue in IPD North District.
  • 2006 IPD merges with the Marion County Sheriff's Department to create the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD)
  • 2012 (November) An explosion in the Richmond Hill subdivision kills two people and causes more than $4 million in property damage
  • 2017 The Lichtenberger History Room at Southwest District is created to house police archives


Made possible by Lilly Endowment Inc. through gifts to The Indianapolis Public Library Foundation.


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