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Oregon State Police History

The State Police organization was designed by a committee appointed by Governor Julius L. Meier, who had made a survey of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Texas Rangers, the State Police of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and other states that had been highly successful. Governor Meier incorporated the best features of these agencies into the Department of Oregon State Police.
1931 FW Vehicle
The State Police organizational committee consisted of Adjutant General George A. White, Chairman; Brigadier General Thomas E. Rilea of the National Guard; Luke S. May, a Seattle Criminologist; Roy R. Hewitt, Dean of the Willamette University Law School; and A. E. Clark, a Portland attorney.  In addition to this committee, Major General Smedley D. Butler, United States Marine Corps, came to Oregon as an advisor to the group.
 
The Senate passed the bill creating the Oregon State Police on February 25, 1931, and the House approved it on March 1, l931. An announcement was made March 24, l93l, that the new Department would begin operations on August l, l93l.
 
The new law consolidated under one head the law enforcement activities previously performed by the State Highway Commission, the Secretary of State, the Fish and Game Commission, the State Fire Marshal, and the Prohibition Commissioner.  In addition to enforcing the traffic laws, the game and fish codes, the laws relating to arson and fire prevention, and the prohibition and narcotic laws, the State Police were charged with the enforcement of all criminal laws throughout the State of Oregon.  The Department was created to serve as a rural patrol and to assist local law enforcement agencies, and consisted of 95 sworn police officers.
 
The first Superintendent of the State Police was Charles P. Pray, State Parole Officer and a former Department of Justice Agent.  His appointment was effective June 7, l93l.  Mr. Pray, upon creation of the Department of State Police, announced its objective to be "dignified and courteous law enforcement service devoted to the needs of the public."  This concept has not changed throughout the years.
 
In setting up the new organization, Mr. Pray received the services of Captain Harry N. Niles of the Portland Police Department.  Captain Niles assisted in outlining and establishing a standard system of reports and records.
 
Mr. Harold G. Maison, formerly with the State Traffic Division which operated under the Secretary of State, was appointed as Chief Clerk with station at General Headquarters in Salem.  The appointment was effective August l, l93l, and he was charged with setting up and maintaining a system of reports and records.
 
Charles H. McClees, formerly with the State Game Commission, was appointed as captain and placed in charge of game and commercial fish enforcement.  He was stationed at General Headquarters, a position he held until his retirement on July l, l947.
 
Captain George C. Alexander was placed in charge of the Bureau of Identification and Investigation at General Headquarters and charged with the investigational activities of the Department. He was appointed Deputy Superintendent January l, l932, and served in that capacity until his appointment as Warden of the State Penitentiary on December l, l938.
Mr. Pray organized the field forces by establishing four districts in the state and thirty-one patrol stations.  The original district boundaries were first designated by rivers and highways and later redesignated by counties.
 
Mr. Pray´s first report to the public was published January 20, l933.  The report covered the Department activities for December, l93l.  The report stated that the State Police made 4l5 arrests, resulting in fines amounting to $l6,986.60.  Two hundred liquor violations had been detected and l8l traffic citations issued.
 
Chapter 406, Oregon Laws of l939, authorized the establishment of a Crime Detection Laboratory in the Department of State Police with location at the University of Oregon Medical School in Portland.
 
Superintendent Pray, on June l4, l939, appointed Dr. Joseph A. Beeman as the first director.  Since that time, regional laboratories are now established at Portland (Clackamas), Bend, Central Point, Pendleton and Springfield. 
 
On June l, l94l, Mr. George A. Kanz, a former deputy sheriff and assistant to the Superintendent of the Washington State Penitentiary, was appointed Director of the State Bureau of Identification and Investigation at General Headquarters.   In July of that year, all fingerprint records and photographs were transferred from the State Penitentiary to the State Bureau of Identification and Investigation.
 
In 1993, the Oregon Legislature approved legislation that included several formerly autonomous organizations of the Oregon State Fire Marshal´s Office, Law Enforcement Data System, and the Oregon State Athletic Commission (formerly known as the Oregon Boxing and Wrestling Commission) within the Department of State Police.

Today, the Department of State Police has five bureaus: Police Services Bureau, Field Operations Bureau, Public Safety Services Bureau, Gaming & Employee Services Bureau, and Administrative Services. Field operations are supported by three Region Headquarters with a total of 36 Area Command / Work Site offices. Two regional dispatch centers provide communications support to the field.
 
For additional historical information concerning the Oregon State Police, other sources may be consulted, including but not limited to:  Oregon State Police Archives;  History of the Oregon State Police (printed 1981 in celebration of Oregon State Police 50th Anniversary); the 60th Anniversary Book printed in 1991; Department of Oregon State Police Annual Reports; and Legislative historical sources.
 
Click here to see Past Superintendents of Oregon State Police
 
To see how uniforms, badges and other areas have changed click here for "Then and Now".


Check out here to see the Evolution of OSP Vehicles