History of Vancouver Police 1900-1997

Circa 1912

George A. Nerton became Vancouver's first official Police Chief on January 2, 1900. This was a very political position that often changed as new mayors were elected until 1937, when Police Chiefs fell under civil service rules.

By 1908, Vancouver had six police officers. In 1908, the railroad bridge was completed, which contributed to a population boom that tripled the size of the city and increased the number of police officers. In 1910, the population of Vancouver was 9,500. In 1911, the city was bordered by West Reserve Street to the east, 32nd Street to the north, the railroad tracks to the west, and the Columbia River to the south. By 1912, the Vancouver Police Department consisted of eight police officers.

By 1915, the Vancouver Police Department was using horses.

In 1917, the Interstate Bridge was completed, connecting Vancouver with Portland via Washington Street.

The world's largest spruce cut-up mill was located where Pearson Airport is now. During World War I, this mill cut raw timber into lumber, which was used to build warplanes.

The population of Vancouver in 1920 was 12,647. The city at that time occupied 6.64 square miles with over 20 miles of paved streets and 10 miles of gravel streets. Vancouver's police station in 1920 was at 710 Washington St. The police station and fire department were located inside City Hall.

On September 20, 1920, Chief Sandford resigned as Vancouver Police Chief because his duties interfered with his giving proper attention to the farm he recently purchased. L.E. McCurdy became Chief on September 21, 1920, having been a Police Chief until retiring to accept a position with Vancouver Sand and Gravel Company.

By 1921, Vancouver Police were using motorcycles.

In 1928, Vancouver's north border reached 43rd Street and its east border reached Date Street. The day after the stock market crashed in 1929, Mayor Kiggins ordered that a new City Hall building be built where the old City Hall was (710 Washington St.). The new City Hall building had two floors plus the basement and included the fire and police department/jail. The new building was much larger than the old one, taking up almost the whole block now instead of just a small part of it. By 1930, Vancouver's population was 15,759. The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) had 13 police officers, 2 autos, and 1 motorcycle in 1930.

The first civil service examination for Vancouver Police was given on December 18, 1937. John Blaker became the first Vancouver Police Chief appointed under civil service, retaining the position he held since January 1936. Of the 11 officers working for VPD in 1937, only nine passed the civil service examination. The position of Captain was established in 1938, and was initially filled by Sergeant B.W. Raguse.

The city had a population of 18,788 in 1940. The Vancouver Police Department in 1940 consisted of 15 police officers, including 1 Chief, 1 Captain, 2 Sergeants, and 11 Patrol officers. By 1941, the Vancouver Police Department was using automobiles.

During World War II, shipbuilding at the Kaiser Shipyards created many new jobs and resulted in a dramatic population increase.

Harry Charles Diamond served as Vancouver Police Chief from 1945 to 1962, making him the longest running Chief in VPD history. Diamond Park, located at Northeast 148th Avenue and 33rd Street, was named after him.

By 1946, Vancouver grew to a population of 39,500. Clark County's population was 82,000 at that time. The city had 90 miles of streets, 26 miles of which were paved.

In 1946, a group of Vancouver police officers formed a singing group.

Lucille Havel became the first female police officer to work for the City of Vancouver on August 1, 1948.

In 1950, Vancouver had a population of 41,664, consisted of 10 square miles, and had 143.1 miles of streets (101.2 miles paved). Until 1950, dispatching was done from and by Portland, sharing just one radio channel for all police agencies in the Portland/Vancouver area. Starting on January 1, 1950, dispatching was done from the police station by an officer. The police station was never locked, and was staffed by an officer at all times.

Employment testing for Vancouver Police in 1952 included a written test and a medical examination, with strict guidelines for an applicant’s weight. New officer training consisted primarily of riding with other officers. When available, officers also attended training lectures taught by the FBI, practiced at the FBI range, and took first aid training.

In 1952, the Vancouver Police Department had 35 officers. Each officer was issued one hat badge and two shirt badges - officers were expected to buy the rest of their equipment. Police cars at this time were equipped with a few flares, a small first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, a blanket, a shotgun, and a police radio. Vancouver Police officers in 1952 worked an 8-hour day, with 10 days on and only 3 days off.

Vancouver was geographically divided into four districts at that time. VPD had four traffic officers, investigators, and several patrol officers. Shifts included a Lieutenant, a Sergeant, and several Patrol officers. The downtown district was assigned a two-officer patrol car, and the other three districts were each assigned a one-officer patrol car. There also was a juvenile car and a traffic car.

In 1965, Vancouver Police moved into the former Carpenters’ Union Hall at 300 East 13th Street, which was built in the 1940s. During renovation, fierce winds destroyed the north wall. Over time, this police station has housed a jail (including cooks and a sally-port), dispatch center, detective bureau, traffic division, laboratory, elevator, shooting range, records division, and line-up stage. This building is currently used as the Vancouver Police West Precinct office. A tree at the southeast corner of the West Precinct building was planted in memory of former Police Chief Pete Carlson, who died in 1979.
In 1980, the police academy training lasted for 3 months. Dispatch services were moved to the basement of City Hall. In 1984, VPD discontinued use of its jail and transported prisoners to the Clark County jail instead. In 1984, Vancouver Police had 1 Chief, 3 Captains, 4 Lieutenants, 14 Sergeants, 15 Corporals, 36 Officers, and 15 civilian employees.

Circa 1921
Circa 1927
Circa 1930
Circa 1941
Circa 1948
Circa 1965
Circa 1986