Department History

Historical Photos

Elmer Joslin

The 1898 Patrol Wagon - T. H. 'Harry' James and Arthur W. Slack pose atop the Council Bluffs Police Department's patrol wagon in the doorway of the old patrol barn. Charles Graves, the sewer department foreman, stands in the doorway.
Patrol wagonThe 1898 Patrol Wagon - T. H. 'Harry' James and Arthur W. Slack pose atop the Council Bluffs Police Department's patrol wagon in the doorway of the old patrol barn. Charles Graves, the sewer department foreman, stands in the doorway.
1902 DepartmentThe Council Bluffs Police Department in 1902.
1910-1913The undated department photo is thought to have been taken sometime between the latter half of 1910 and 1913.
Thompson gunThe department's 1921 model Thompson sub-machine gun. (photo by Officer Steve Andrews)
1934 HudsonThis is a photo of Police Chief George L. Bennett's 1934 Hudson. Bennett purchased the "speedy" Hudson with his own money for police use. From left to right are: Patrolman Cortland E. Tisher, Captain Jesse H. "Jack" Dempster, Chief Bennett, and Captain Elmer C. Lane. (The photo was taken in front of the old police headquarters at Bryant Street and Vine. The large building in the background is the old Central Fire Station; behind that is the old Washington Schoolcupola.)

Historical Timeline of Council Bluffs and the Council Bluffs Police

1804: On the morning of August 3, explorers Lewis and Clark held council with six native American chiefs (of the Otoe and Missouri Indians) near what is now Council Bluffs to discuss the change in government from France to the United States.

1824: There is evidence that as early as 1824 a trapper named Hart had a trading or trapping station at or near the site of present-day Council Bluffs. To early traders, the hills were known as "Hart's Bluffs" and/or "Cote de Hart," and were later named "Mynster Springs."

1837: Arguably, the first building in Council Bluffs was built in the area of what is now East Pierce between Grace and Union Streets. I was variously known as the "Old Blockhouse," the "Old Fort" and the "Old Mission." The Blockhouse was built by U.S. Dragoons to protect the newly arrived Pottawattamie, Ottawa and Chippewa Indians from the Sac and Dakota Sioux, who had threatened war. The Old Blockhouse was the nucleus around which early Council Bluffs grew.

1846: In June, the Mormon Grand Encampment was established at what is now the Iowa School for the Deaf. One of the Mormons, Henry W. Miller, settled a short distance west of the "Old Blockhouse." A village soon formed that became known as "Miller's Hollow."

1848: At a conference meeting of the Saints a resolution was adopted changing the name of the village from "Miller's Hollow" to "Kanesville." At its height, between 1847 and 1853, Kanesville consisted of 350 log cabins, two log tabernacles, a post office and numerous shops, stores and businesses.

1848: Pottawattamie County became part of what was then known as the Sixth Judicial District. James Sloan was the district judge.

1849: The California Gold Rush was in full swing in 1849. When gold was discovered in California, the Mormon Trail through Kanesville soon replaced the Oregon Trail as the primary route to the West. Kanesville became an important supply point and thousands of fortune hunters passed through. This was the beginning of the rise of what would become Council Bluffs.

1849: The County purchased Pottawattamie County's first courthouse from Mormon Apostle Orson Hyde for $800. The courthouse was located on Madison Street (now called 1st Street) at what is now 220 South First Street.

1849: The first county jail, the "old cottonwood jail," was established at what is now 216 South 1st Street. It was built by the county and made of three inch thick wooden planks, doubled to break up joints and filled with spikes driven in so thickly that it was nearly impossible for prisoners to cut their way out. A second jail was erected later as a replacement on the same spot.

1852: Many Mormons in Kanesville sold off their property at whatever prices buyers would offer and left for Salt Lake City, Utah, with a six-month supply of provisions. This greatly decreased the population of Kanesville.

1853: For the first time the majority of the Kanesville population was no longer Mormon. Kanesville became incorporated as Council Bluffs City on January 19.

1853: The first City Council meeting was held on April 13 and the first City Marshal, Nelson T. Spoor, was appointed. The City Marshal became the first municipal law enforcement officer in Council Bluffs. This is the origin of the Council Bluffs police. Before the City Marshal, crime and punishment was handled by the Mormon Church.

1853: The first recorded lynching by vigilantes occurred in mid-May. Marshal Spoor appointed three deputy marshals before resigning, his resignation perhaps a result of the lynching.

1853: In early June, a house was purchased to serve as a City jail.

1853: At the June 6 City Council meeting, Mayor Cornelius Voohris created a standing committee on vigilance. The "Vigilance Committee" was responsible for several lynchings in the next several years.

1855: Indians Broke into the Weber Saloon; the City Marshal Burned an Indian Camp.

1856: There were many Rowdies and Ruffians in Council Bluffs; Five prisoners escaped from the City jail.

1857: In May, there was a petition to remove the City Marshal, he resigned in August.

1859: Abraham Lincoln visited Council Bluffs before becoming President.

1860: A lynching by the Vigilance Committee.

1862: The City bought the County jail for $100; President Lincoln designated Council Bluffs the Eastern Terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad.

 1863: A horse thief was lynched; a suspected highwayman was also lynched.

1865: A serial robber was lynched.

1866: The City jail burned, one prisoner died.

1867: A prisoner escaped the City Marshal's work crew.

1868: The two-story brick and stone county courthouse at Pearl Street and Buckingham was completed-- it would only stand for 20 years before being declared unfit. (Buckingham is now called "5th Avenue")

1869: The Police Department was established on March 20.

1869: A saloon shooting.

1872: Officer Ezra W. "West" Jackson arrested the City Marshal after the Marshal assaulted a man on Election Day.

1872: Officer Miller and Officer Jackson win a "knock down" fight with two "bullies."

1872: City Council spectators cheer the re-appointment of Officer Jackson.

1872: A major theft ring was broken up by Officer Jackson.

1879: Seventeen to eighteen prisoners escaped the City Jail.

1879: Chief of Police / City Marshal Benjamin F. Baldwin abandoned his position.

1880: The Federal Census reported that a policeman died from the accidental discharge of a revolver, however, no record of an officer death can be found in city records or newspapers. In October, Officer Job. Nelson was seriously wounded when he accidentally shot himself in the leg; it is possible that some may have assumed Nelson would die when the deadline to submit Federal Census data arrived.

1880: A constable's gun accidentally discharged in the office of the Justice of the Peace, nearly hitting an attorney.

1880: On April 5, the City Council elected Patrolman Ezra W. "West" Jackson to be Chief of Police.

1880: Chief Jackson required officers to wear uniforms for the first time, beginning on June 1.

1880: Longtime resident John S. Sapp was murdered in his saloon.

1880: Police Chief Jackson solved numerous thefts.

1881: The flood of 1881 created Lake Manawa.

1884: The Police Department moved to its own police station and jail at Bryant Street and Vine.

1884: There was large Election Day fight at the Junction Saloon.

1885: The Squirrel Cage jail was completed.

1885: A "confidence man" shot two people at the Union Avenue Hotel Saloon.

1886: Three escaped from the two year old City Jail.

1888: A new courthouse was completed to replace the one built just 20 years earlier.

1890: The Police Department adopted a "Metropolitan" style uniform, similar to New York City Police Department uniforms and uniforms made famous by the "Keystone Cops".

1894: Constable Baker was beaten unconscious by thieves when he tried to arrest them for the theft of buggy shafts.

1894: Police arrested a man accused of raping a 5-year-old. Once locked up in the City jail, however, a crowd began to form and it was clear that trouble was brewing. Fearing a lynch mob, police hustled the suspect into the Patrol Wagon and rushed him via back streets to the more secure Squirrel Cage jail. The news leaked, however, and a lynch mob numbering in the thousands began to gather outside the Squirrel Cage jail. The sheriff addressed the crowd, ordering them to disperse. Inside the jail, armed deputies and police officers prepared to defend the jail to the death. News of an even larger lynch mob approaching from the South prompted the sheriff to summon even more help from the Dodge Light Guards; 29 of them, armed with Winchester rifles, were soon stationed at the jail. By 1:00 am the crowd was dispersed and later that morning the prisoner was moved to Fort Madison penitentiary for his safety.

1896: The first known African-American Council Bluffs police officer, Andrew Neeley, was appointed by Mayor Carson.

1896: In July, police raided a gambling party above Ben Long's Turf Saloon on Broadway. Police filed into the saloon and rushed up the stairs before the man at the door of the stairway could warn gamblers. The gamblers were arrested and taken to jail in the police Patrol Wagon. A faro bank, roulette wheel, several poker tables, chips, cards and counters were seized as evidence. The raid was part of Mayor J. H. Cleaver's intention to rid the city of gambling. Captain Darwin Maltby headed the raiding party along with Officers L. B. Cousins, George L. Martin, William C. Vandenburg, John Sandal and H. V. Slead.

1896: The positions of City Marshal and Chief of Police were combined.

1902: Police Station Quarantined Due to Smallpox.

1903: Exchange of Gunfire with Leffert Jewelry Store Burglar; Police and Sheriff Protect Robbery/Sexual Assault Suspects from Vigilante Mob.

1904: Chief George Richmond's Boy Police Program; Constable Alberti Wounded By Accidental Gunshot.

1905: Mayor Macrae Advocates Civil Service for Police; Thomas F. Callaghan Becomes First Chief of Detectives; Patrol Driver Charles Platner Shot, Killed While Chasing Burglar. 

1907: Detective George Wilson Killed in Shootout, Patrolman William Richardson Wounded. 

1908: Police Matron Hired.

1909: Gunman Dead, Patrolman Charles A. Horner paralyzed.

1910: Patrolman Frank Philbrook Outruns Wagon To Capture Thieves; District Court Removes Chief of Police/City Marshal George H. Richmond.

1919: During 'Wild' Car Chase, Detective Jumps on Stolen Car, Pistol-Whips Driver.

1920: $3.5 Million Mail-Car Robbery; Patrolman Jesse H. 'Jack' Dempster Shot at 8th Street and Avenue I.

1921: Gun Battle with Snyder Gang.

1922: Detective Charles R. Kelley Seriously Injured Answering Emergency Call; Identification Bureau Established; Patrolman Robert P. Bolin Wounded, 'Panama Jack' Thomas Killed in Carnival Grounds Gun Battle; Possible Link between the Notorious Criminal John Dillinger and Council Bluffs.

1925: Patrolman Robert Weimer Seriously Wounded in Gun Battle.

1927: Grand Jury Finds City Jail Unsafe.

1933: Detective C. A. 'Pat' Bangs Shoots, Kills Robbery Suspect.

1934: Chief Bennett Buys Speedy 1934 Hudson for Police Use. (Photo of 1934 Hudson at right, left to right in photo: Patrolman Cortland 'Cort' E. Tisher, Captain Jesse 'Jack' H. Dempster, Chief George L. Bennett, Captain Elmer C. Lane).

1935: Sergeant Wilbur B. Miller Killed in Shootout with Armed Robber; First Mobile Police Radios; Chief Bennett Hits Boy with Police Car. 

1936: Patrolman Robert Edwards Bitten by Arrest, Contracts Gangrene.

1939: Captain Dempster Dies from Kidney Stone Complications.

1940: Earl E. Miller First Council Bluffs Officer to Attend FBI National Academy; Police Department moves to 209 Pearl Street.

1941: Meyer Lansky's Dodge Park Kennel Club Opens; Officer Terminated Due to Lack of City Funds.

1942: Jail Break; Prisoner in City Jail Commits Suicide; Chief Pat Bangs Tried to Keep Officers from War Draft; Department Recognized for Arrest of Rathbun Jewelry Store Robbers.

1943: Two-Way Mobile Radios Used for the First Time; B-24 'Liberator' Bomber Crash.

1944; Illegal Gambling Crackdowns; Weatherill Murder; B-26 Bomber Crash; Patrolmen Shoot, Wound Girl's Attacker.

1945: Two Escape City Jail, Shot at by Jailer Pat Moore, Captured in New Hampshire; First Council Bluffs Police Academy; Armed Robber Captured; More Gambling Raids.

1946: Patrolman Forest L. 'Bud' Foster Returns Fire, Kills Murder Suspect; Citizen Shoots and Kills Prowler.

1948: CBPD Featured in 1948 Harley-Davidson Magazine Advertisement. 

1949: Council Bluffs Police Quit Sharing Omaha's Police Radio System; Five Prisoners Escape County Jail, Three Captured by Council Bluffs Officers.

1950: First Field Sergeant; Detective Bernie Lund Captures Mysterious Nature Boy Prowler; Fleeing Convicted Felon Shot and Killed.

1951: First Uniform Clothing Allowance; First Shoulder Patch, Other Uniform Changes.

1952: Rookies Capture Armed Robbers; Flood of 1952, Sergeant Nick Sulentic Flies Levee Watch.

1953: Civil Defense Auxiliary Police Formed; Modus Operandi File Started by Lieutenant Jack Hoden.

1954: First Radar Unit.

1956: Frank Street Rest Home Fire.

1959: Bid to Change from a 48-Hour to a 40-Hour Workweek Fails; Armed Robber Shot by Police.

1960: First Council Bluffs Police Teletype Unit.

1961: Three-State 'Mad Dog Killers' Caught by Council Bluffs Police.

1962: K-9 Program Begun; Buffalo Escapes Pen near 8th & Broadway, Rounded up by Officers.

1963: Chief Etherton Receives National Award.

1965: Murder of Kathleen Hastert; New Shoulder Patch.

1966: Youth Bureau Established; Traffic Bureau Reinstated.

1967: Officers Consider Joining Teamsters Union; Motorcycles Used Again After 10-Year Absence.

1967: December 5, 1967, Council Bluffs Police Officer John L. Stephens was shot and killed in the line- of-duty at the 64 Club.

1968: Police Department Upgrades to UHF Radio Frequency; New Teletype Computer Hookup with Des Moines and NCIC.

1969: Wives and Police Supporters Protest 1-Man Cruisers, Low Wages.

1970: Council Bluffs Hires First Female Officer, ILEA Has No Female Facilities; Prisoner Dies in Police Custody; Officers Attend Riot Training.

1971: Lieutenant Pat Moore Killed by Bank Robber; College Pay for Officers; Police Department Accused of Discrimination; Plans Approved for Police Firing Range at Council Bluffs Airport.

1972: Investigator Rank Created; Community Relations Post Created; Patrol Officer Ronald Roberts  fatally Injured by Omaha Police Cruiser (photo of Officer Roberts at right); Foot Patrol Reinstated downtown; Police Reach Agreement to Use IWCC Helicopter; Courthouse Found to Be Sinking, Declared Unsafe.

1973: IWCC Helicopter Ready for Police Use; Auto Theft Bureau Established; IACP's 400-Page Report on the Council Bluffs Police Department.

1974: Weekend Police Raids by 83 Officers at Five Lounges; Police-School Liaison Program; Department Begins 4-Week Basic Law Enforcement Training for All New Recruits; Council Bluffs Officers Affiliate with the Fraternal Order of Police; FOP Members Threaten Mass Resignation; City's First Public Safety Director; Patrol Officer Ronald G. Roberts Passes Away.

1975: CBPD Leads Iowa in Educational Achievements; FOP and City Reach Three Year Contract Agreement; Southwest Iowa Law Enforcement Training Course at IWCC; 'Modified' Team Policing Begins May 19; Police Chaplain Corps Planned; Several Escapes from City Jail.

1976: Department Has Difficulty Meeting Affirmative Action; Half the Police Department Has College Degrees; Police Department Acquires Intoxilyzer Machine.

1977: Retired Captain John L. Schweer Murdered; Police Department Moves to New Courthouse at 227 South 6th Street; Police Department Expands from One Radio Frequency to Five; City Asks Governor for Financial Help for Affirmative Action Hiring Program.

1980: UNO Study of Police Hiring Practices, Creation of New Hiring Test; Council Bluffs Police Lowest Paid of Eight Largest Iowa Cities.

1981: Starting Salary Lowest among Iowa's Ten Most Populous Cities.

1982: Two-Year Law Enforcement Degree Hiring Requirement Dropped; Four Officers Join Omaha Police, CB Police Pay Far Behind Omaha's.

1983: Cab Driver Held Hostage, Murdered in St. Joseph Cemetery; Emergency Response Team Formed.

1985: CBPD Highest Educated Department in Iowa; Budget Cuts, Demotions, Reduction in Authorized Strength.

1986: Beginning of Optional Switch to 9mm Semiautomatic Pistols; First Computer System.

1988: DARE Program Begins; Tornado of 1988; CBPD First Metro Law Enforcement Agency with a Drug Dog.

1990: Officer Edward A. Kaftan Injured by Bomb; Detective Wayne R. Meyer Shoots and Wounds Attacker.

1992: First Citizens Police Academy.

1994: Suicidal Woman Shoots at Officers.

1998: Grandson of Former CBPD Captain Begins Annual Harley-Davidson Donation.

1999: Barricaded Gunman Kills Self after Shooting at Officers, Wounding Officer Steven Kidder; Upcoming Changeover from 1999 to 2000 Sparks "Y2K" Computer Glitch Fears.

2001: Officers Shoot and Kill Gunman; Council Bluffs Officers Assist with Relief Effort in NYC Following  Terrorist Attack.

(Compiled by Ret. Captain RL Miller)