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History of Blue

The current IMPD sleeve badge
The current IMPD sleeve badge
Fox 59 News online

The IMPD (Indianapolis Metro Police Department) has recently gotten a lot of attention. The death of one of their officers, and the need to recruit more officers as the current numbers dwindle are both hotly debated topics. IMPD has even created a fundraiser, the "I will always get out of my car" initiative that has brought them both money and news coverage. As a citizen of Indianapolis, it has always been interesting following the happenings of IMPD whether on social media or on the police scanner. The major news coverage has gotten many citizens more interested in the intricate workings of the IMPD and also the men in blue who came before.

That's why, when IMPD's Facebook page started including historical looks at fallen officers, the idea for delving into their history came to life. As an aside, if you haven't visited this page on Facebook, and you're curious about IMPD, a stop at this page is in order. They post many current wanted photos of criminals, crime feeds, and also positive posts. It's a great page and well worth the visit.

IMPD hasn't always been IMPD. Beginning in 1854, just 14 men were appointed to the first police force. Of course, the city's population was only around 8,091, so there wasn't a huge need for a bigger force. After disbanding several times due to misuse of firearms, civilian deaths, and mismanagement, a somewhat stable force was created by 1857. The department grew as the city grew and by 1862, officers were working day shifts instead of just night shifts. The population, by the 1860s, had ballooned to 18,611! By 1900, the city was at nearly 170,000 citizens so the police force was increased to 166 officers with 1 chief, 9 day officers and 18 night patrolman. 1862 also marked the first year the officers were fitted for uniforms and, of course, they were blue in color. (Source)

One piece of fascinating history for tech junkies is that the Indianapolis Police Department was the second police department in the country to install radios in police cars. Indy was technologically progressive! It's a pretty important feat, considering before radios, officers had to check in using Gamewell phone systems that were positioned all over the city. In fact, an officers death at the hands of the Gamewell system is what brought this writers attention to the "In Memoriam" section on the IMPD's Facebook page. An officer Edward William Dolby was...

killed on July 14, 1906, when a heavy charge of electricity surged through Circuit 7 of the police department's Gamewell call box system. Officer Dolby was in the act of inserting his key into the lock of the box at Kentucky Avenue and the White River bridge, preparing to make his hourly call, when the current passed through his body. The shock caused Dolby to stagger backward and fall to the ground. His partner, Samuel Rariden ran to Dolby and heard him gasp out, "Don't touch it!"Seeing Dolby was badly injured, Rariden ran to the nearest telephone and notified the Police Station. When he returned, Dolby was dead. The patrol wagon arrived a few minutes later and transported Dolby's body to the morgue where it was determined he had been electrocuted. (Source)

What's really interesting about this particular story is how dangerous the everyday tasks of being a police officer were. Officer Dolby wasn't shot or hurt during a chase, but killed during an hourly check in with headquarters. So, technological improvements were not only neat historically (considering the small size of Indy) but also a necessity for safety reasons. Officer Dolby's death brought about safety changes including the burying of all electrical wires within the mile square. What is also notable from this story is how Officer Dolby, even while dying, saved his partner from also meeting the same fate.

There is much more depth to the IMPD story than can fit in a single article. If your interest is piqued and you would like to learn more, the links marked Source throughout the article are from the IMPD websites and they are filled with wonderful content. Also, the MCSO (Marion County Sherif's Office) has some neat historical background. If you'd like to view the "In Memoriam page on IMPD's website, it has the complete historical listing, including the write ups of how each officer was killed in the line of duty. IMPD has very rich history as well as a very interesting present.

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