During the late 20’s and 30’s the Great Depression created monetary problems for the City of Jefferson and Cole County. On October 5th, 1939, Roscoe Enloe Post 5 was called upon by the Chief of Police Harry Mackey to establish an Emergency Police Force. Chief Mackey explained that his police force was not adequately staffed to handle emergencies and they were over-taxed in handling state affairs at the Capitol. This was supported by the May 3rd, 1939 fire at the Madison Hotel where the police force had great difficulty handling the traffic and sightseers that crowded the streets during the fire.
Chief Mackey had made preliminary arrangements with the City Council to enact the necessary ordinances to create the emergency police force. The Legionnaires called into the conference agreed with the Chief and after discussion temporary officers were selected. “The American Legion Police of Jefferson City, Missouri” was born.
Permanent officers, consisting for a Captain and Adjutant were soon elected, after which the Captain selected his Lieutenants, Sergeants, Corporals and Patrolmen. It was decided a suitable badge be secured for each member, to be worn while on active duty – and each man purchased his own badge. After the officers were trained each member was officially sworn in by Police Judge Foster Wheatly, thus making these Legionnaires full-fledged Peace Officers for the City of Jefferson.
The American Legion Police operated under the direct supervision of the Chief of Police and were only on duty at his call. While each member of the Legion Police was a duly authorized police officer and had the power to arrest at any time, great care was taken that the privilege was never abused. The work of The American Legion Police was of a volunteer nature, without compensation of any kind. This organization saved the city tax money and provided the extra protection for its citizens that they would not have been able to provide.
After December 7, 1941 our country was at war and the need for the service of the Legion Police was greater than ever. Their services were offered to the Cole County Civilian Defense Council to assist the Cole County Draft Board, a force of fifty-six men were assigned to this duty.
A 1942 article in the Jefferson City News Tribune appeared stating: “The American Legion Police have responded to about 100 calls from the Chief of Police during the last year and a half. And have assisted on all such occasions to the extent that these men have contributed approximately 5,000 man hours of gratuitous service to the community by such activities. They have handled traffic during parades and at major athletic events; have assisted in controlling and directing the public during major fires and have responded to calls for help during flash floods in Jefferson City, also in Cedar City.“
The American Legion Police continued to support the local police department well into the 1960’s. By the mid 1960’s the State of Missouri started to provide funds to the City of Jefferson to support state events and provide state money to be used to pay the Jefferson City Police Department for State sponsored events, thus allowing The American Legion Police personnel to be replaced with permanent officers.
Research provided by Ed Green