History of the Glasgow Police Department
The first year and a half of Glasgow’s existence was without Law Enforcement. Overall, people got along very peacefully and it was not until the creation of Valley County that an occasional man was killed. At that time, it was always a case of two gunmen, and with the dead man never on hand to tell his part of the story, it was always a case of self-defense.
The first officer to be appointed Deputy Sheriff for Valley County was Charles Morarity, who was roadmaster for the Great Northern.
Glasgow became incorporated in 1902. It was then that the first city Marshal was appointed, and the Glasgow Police Department began. His duties as a law enforcement officer were to walk around the town and keep the peace. The only way of knowing if a law was being violated was to have someone tell him, or come upon it as it was happening.
The responsibility of the first law enforcement officer was to keep the drunks off the streets, enforce prostitution laws, inspect stove pipes so fires wouldn’t start, keep the fire equipment in good working order, post tax notices, and just about anything else the city council felt needed doing.
In the beginning of the police department, the patrol procedures were simply to walk around the town, and the only means of communication were verbal. In 1904 the first phone system was brought in. This would aid the communication later on.
In 1911, the city council made some laws that regulated the times that bars could be open. This created the need for a night marshal. At this time the police department doubled in size and went to a two-man force. The night marshal worked from 6PM to 6AM, and sometimes took calls during the day.
In 1915, two big changes came in the patrol procedures and communication. The telephone office was in full 24-hour operation so the city decided to put up two red lights that could be seen from the main areas of town. The telephone operator could operate these lights. If someone was having trouble, they would call the telephone operator, tell her the problem, and she would turn the red lights on. The policeman on duty would always have to be somewhere that he could see one of the red lights. When the light would come on, he would go to the phone and call the operator and she would tell him where and what the problem was, and he would respond to it, this was a big help for the communication system.
The operation of the police department stayed pretty much the same up until 1933.
In 1933, the Fort Peck Dam project began. This project brought thousands of people to the area. The Glasgow Police Department increased their size to seven officers overnight. Because of the influx of so many people, some patrol procedures were added along with some duties.
The Glasgow Flour Mill donated a town whistle that was placed on the fire hall. When it blew, anyone under 18 years old had to get off the streets. The night policemen had the duty of blowing this whistle at 9:00 P.M. every night from September through April, and at 9:30 P.M. from May though August.
Another area I patrol procedure changed was that a time clock system was added. Here a key was placed in certain areas of town and the night policemen carried a time clock. They would have to go to these keys, stick them in the clock, and the date and time would be recorded on a piece of paper in the clock. They had to make so many visits to each key a shift. The total distance after each shift was seven miles.
Another aspect of patrol procedure that was added in 1936 was a police dog. The dog was a German shepherd, which had been abandoned in Glasgow. The dog was called Rex and was taken to Walt Baynham, the night policeman. They worked together and remained friends until the dogs death in 1948.
During these years of the Glasgow Police Department, the duties, communications, and patrol procedures remained much the same as the beginning, except that traffic enforcement progressively became a larger and larger part of the job.
In the 1950’s, the Glasgow Police Department saw some big changes in the methods of operation. First off, they purchased the first city owned patrol car. This expanded the area they could patrol, and cut down the time it would take to patrol it. It enabled them to handle traffic control much more efficiently and they were able to respond to calls for assistance much quicker. During this time they still had a walking beat.
They still had the same problems with communications, so a few years later; they added a police radio to the car. They would get their calls from the Sheriff’s dispatcher from 8:00 AM until the dispatch shut down at midnight. Between the hours of midnight and 8:00 AM, they again relied of the red lights and the telephone operator. Occasionally, they could talk to a Highway Patrolman that might be working.
In 1958, the city hired their own 24-hour dispatchers and set up their own complete radio system. This enhanced the speed of response 24 hours a day.
In the 1960’s, the Glasgow Police Department experienced another large influx of people to the area when the Glasgow Air Force Base came into operation. The operation brought 10,000 more people. The workload on the police force became so heavy that the Air Force would send military police to aid the local police department. If airmen got into minor difficulties with the law, MP’s would take charge of them and return them to the base.
From the time the police department began through the 1960’s, the duties of the policemen were pretty much to watch the town, keep the peace, and only enforce misdemeanors, although they would sometimes aid the Sheriff’s Department in felony investigations. When the 1970’s came, they then took over the job of investigating all felonies inside the city limits.
The 1970’s found the Glasgow Police Department with a seven-man department, 2 patrol cars and fairly good radio equipment. The duties of the officers remained the same as through the years. The bulk of action had changed from picking up drunk and disorderly people to traffic enforcement. (Although there were still plenty of drunks) The officers began receiving training in the investigative fields and began spending as much time as their other duties would allow, investigating felonies. Much new equipment was added to the Dispatch Center. They had a Teletype machine that enabled them to send messages’ and check for wanted individuals or cars. This era experience technology taking some big steps forward. By the end of the 1970’s, the Glasgow Police Department found itself a ten-man force that could handle any type of violation that would or could occur.
The patrol procedures during these years were pretty much done with vehicles. The walking beat was done away with. Duties had progressed to handling anything that was a violation of federal, state and local laws. Communication was as good as could be purchased for this area.
The 1980’s followed along the same lines at the 1970’s. The only real changes made through 1986 were the radio system being changed to a high band system and the Teletype system went computer. The duties remain the same. We now have a full time plain-clothes detective that does all the follow-up investigation.
From 1902 to 1986, the Glasgow Police Department progressed a long way. The patrol procedures, communications and duties of the officers have seen breath-taking changes. High technology is moving at such a rapid rate that it seems impossible to project where the department will be in the next 84 years.
**This information was taken verbatim from the local museums book “Footprints in the Valley” and was written by former Chief of Police Robert West