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Cape Girardeau Police Department makes many changes in 150 years since creation

Thursday, March 26, 2009

(Photo)
File photo taken by G.D. Fronabarger
A Cape Girardeau police officer directs traffic at Broadway and Sprigg Street in the 1950s.
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the formation of Cape Girardeau Police Department in 1859, when it consisted of a captain, a lieutenant and six officers.

Since then, the department, now made up of 75 officers, has gone through a number of changes, including in its staff size, headquarters and role in the community.

The original ordinance creating the police department allowed the identities of officers on the force to remain secret from residents, giving only the city marshal and mayor the right to know who served the captain.

The ordinance also bestowed on police officers the power to arrest anyone caught violating the law and put them in the "calaboose," a brick jail just north of the fountain on the grounds of the present Common Pleas Courthouse.

The calaboose included iron rings fastened to the walls where prisoners could be chained. A dungeon whipping post was nearby.

Today, police use the municipal jail inside the police department headquarters at 40 S. Sprigg St. to house suspects.

Adapting over time

The department has adapted to its share of challenges and changes over the past century and a half, such as dealing with the city's considerable expansion, adjusting to the use of new technology in law enforcement and losing four officers and a chief who died in the line of duty.

Still, the fundamentals of solid, day-to-day police work have remained unchanged at the Cape Girardeau Police Department, current chief Carl Kinnison said.

"The obvious changes, from the cars to the handheld radios to the handguns that we carry, the pieces of equipment, those have changed," Kinnison said.

When Kinnison started his tenure at the department 30 years ago, officers carried Smith & Wesson .357 magnum revolvers, which had only six shots.

"As the criminal element began carrying semiautomatics, there was a need to move into that world," Kinnison said.

Initially, police officers began buying their own semi-automatic handguns and were allowed to carry them before the city budgeted the purchase of the firearms for the department, Kinnison said.

Today, every Cape Girardeau patrol officer drives a Ford Crown Victoria, emblazoned with the teal lettering outlined in black that says "Cape Girardeau Police," but when Kinnison began with the department, the vehicles were purchased from local car lots and came in a smattering of colors, makes and models.

At the inception of the police department, police officers received a fee of one dollar for each arrest they made.

The fee continued to escalate, and by 1918, the pay scale had been abolished. In 1959, when the police department turned 100 years old, the pay scale was $250 per month for patrol, $285 for sergeants, $305 for lieutenants, $315 for captains and $365 for the chief of police.

Today, patrolmen have a starting salary of around $31,700, with $40,300 for sergeants, $44,300 for lieutenants and $48,000 for captains.

Community-oriented

It was during the early to mid-1990s that the department began a transition to a more community-oriented approach, said former chief Rick Hetzel.

Ike Hammonds and Charlie Herbst were the first officers assigned to the community position, where they worked toward establishing a rapport with residents and business owners.

Hetzel said he came to the department during this transitional period amid some division.

"It was an interesting time. Not every police officer thought that was what they should be doing," he said.

Hetzel said he referred to the department as a "slice of America pie," vastly different from the police department in Norcross, Ga., where he'd served as chief.

"The town embraced the police department, they had parades — it was very refreshing," he said.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

388-3635

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Very interesting article.I would like to add that somewhere in this history the words "Protect and Serve" seemed to have lost their importance. In the new "Police style state" we have going on it seems much more important to radar the roadways than to manage the criminal element. I suggest we get more officers out of their comfortable Crown Vics and let them patrol on foot where the crimes are being committed.

-- Posted by 2wheeler on Thu, Mar 26, 2009, at 10:26 AM

I wanted to add another very important "first" to this. The very first female patrol officers were hired in--I believe--1976. They were Ellen Baily and Donna Combs. They were followed by Karen Sullenger and Mary Hopkins in 1977. This was a HUGE milestone. When Karen and Mary went to buy their off-duty weapons at the gun shop where the men bought theirs, they were told they were "out"--so they had to go to Otasco and buy what was available there. Ellen and Donna were true pioneers in the city of Cape, paving the way for women in this area who have entered law enforcement.

-- Posted by Maxine_the_Magnificent on Thu, Mar 26, 2009, at 11:35 AM

I enjoyed reading the article. I am grateful for the police and what they do. It is a dangerous job. Thank you for all you do!

-- Posted by colleague on Thu, Mar 26, 2009, at 12:12 PM

2wheeler;

I believe CGPD is taking applications. You could join up and force change on the department. Most officers will tell you they've made better arrests on traffic stops than walking a beat. The only difference between getting a speeding ticket and robbing a bank is the punishment handed down by the court. They are both crimes.

-- Posted by Yankee Station on Thu, Mar 26, 2009, at 12:32 PM

Maine;

Hate to tell you, but Karen was the first female officer hired by the CGPD. Her interview was in the old station at 40 South Sprigg. Donna was part of a large recruit class in the new building.

-- Posted by Yankee Station on Thu, Mar 26, 2009, at 12:52 PM

Maine;

Hate to tell you, but Karen was the first female officer hired by the CGPD. Her interview was in the old station at 1 South Sprigg. Donna was part of a large recruit class in the new building.

-- Posted by Yankee Station on Thu, Mar 26, 2009, at 12:52 PM

"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." - Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)

CGPD has Officers whose primary focus is on traffic with others who are on routine patrol who handle all sorts of calls from domestic disturbance to robbery and while not on call will issue citations for traffic offenses. Some rarely issue citations while other issue several. Should they ignore offense which occur right in front of them? This is their job. You misinterpret "To Serve and Protect" as it is generic rather than specific in nature. Their job duties are determined by statutes and policy; been to a City Council Meeting lately? Made any contact with city officials with relevant, specific concerns?

Go spent a boatload of money getting POST certified, go through the selection process and get hired so you can work twelve hour days and on most holidays while your family celebrates without you.

-- Posted by RA on Thu, Mar 26, 2009, at 12:54 PM

...or find another job?

-- Posted by insider63785 on Thu, Mar 26, 2009, at 5:18 PM

2 wheeler has it all wrong. An officer assigned to traffic stops cars and writes tickets. I do not imagine the detectives write many tickets, but I bet they do a lot of investigating.

-- Posted by bigdaddy200 on Thu, Mar 26, 2009, at 8:14 PM

longtime_cape_resident,

Most of them do.

-- Posted by RA on Thu, Mar 26, 2009, at 8:40 PM

I notice they state that CGPD Officers now ride around in Crown Vics, and before they had cars bought off of Local Car Lots, they are not saying that Chief GERIECKE was told that was all he could get, and that they were to run them into the ground, by the City Council and Mayor.

-- Posted by billsheppard52@gmail.com on Fri, Mar 27, 2009, at 11:10 AM

I notice they state that CGPD Officers now ride around in Crown Vics, and before they had cars bought off of Local Car Lots, they are not saying that Chief GERIECKE was told that was all he could get, and that they were to run them into the ground, by the City Council and Mayor.

-- Posted by billsheppard52@gmail.com on Fri, Mar 27, 2009, at 11:10 AM

It is interesting to see the coment that the police dept. had grown in size to 75 officers...In 1970-1973 there were 56 officers so in 38 years the department has grown by only 19 officers...As an ex Cape PD Officer who served in 70-73 I can remember one night when there was only one officer on patrol...That was me...Lt. Kelly was my shift Lt. Our shift had the lowest crime rate when we were on night shift...We were proud to serve the city and worked hard to keep the people of Cape safe...When I first came on the dept. my training officer was Jack Rueble and we drove a dodge...With a single rotating red light on top...After training I got lucky and assigned to Lt. Kelly's Buick when he went to a ford...No one on my shift like those fords at all Not anything agaionst Fords but the ones we got were rattle traps...Our police station and Jail and courthouse was the old church located at 1 South Sprigg...I had to work part time at the ambulance service to try and make ends meet...I am glad they finally got the saleries up to where they are now...

-- Posted by Taggart on Thu, Sep 8, 2011, at 10:09 PM


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