History of the Reserves

Written and compiled by Phil Fleury

Origins

The Reserve Officer program in Portland can be traced back to 1903. In 1903, section 186 of the Portland City Charter provided that the City Council could appoint special police officers who would not be city employees but would have full police powers. This section also granted the city the authority to have a regular police force as well as the power to appoint temporary policemen in times of emergency.

The city’s police force consisted of 55 members, many of whom patrolled their “beats” on horseback with the rest patrolling on foot. In May of 1903, Harry A. Circle joined the force and served until he retired in 1952. Captain Circle served in many capacities, including as a Captain of Detectives and also as Captain of the Police Auxiliary. Captain Circle was always very conscious of the link between poverty and crime, and he and his men’s charitable efforts with the poor of the city laid the foundation for the Portland Police Sunshine Division and also could be construed as the roots of today’s Community Policing programs.

George Baker was Mayor of the City of Portland from 1917 to 1933. In 1922 the State Tax commission, in an attempt to protect citizens from excessive taxes decreased the budget for the police Bureau by almost $80,000. This resulted in an elimination of 40 sworn officers.

In response to this cut, Mayor Baker declared a public safety emergency and created the Portland Police Vigilance Reserve, He appointed Inspector C.H. Tichenor as its head Tichenor joined the Portland Police Bureau in January of 1902. He served in a variety of positions, including supervision of the city rock pile, patrol officer, jailer, mounted officer and detective. Initial response to the formation of the Vigilance Reserve was very favorable. Prominent local businessmen like Norman Thompson felt as if the tax cut was made by individuals who failed to understand the law enforcement needs of a city like Portland, and many businessmen applied to be members of the unit. Initially 63 were sworn in and served the city.

Vigilance Reserves and the Sunshine Division

The history of the Portland Police Reserve and the Sunshine Division have been intertwined since 1922. In that year the tradition of police sponsored food deliveries was begun. On Christmas eve of 1922 regular uniformed police officers delivered food baskets to families in need. This program actually was started the year before, in 1921, but became formalized in 1922. The department’s paddy wagon was used for most of the deliveries. The next day the newly formed Police Vigilance Reserves along with the chief of police as well as the mayor and several merchants delivered more food baskets to families in need. This action resulted an an article in “The Oregonian: and much attention being given to the Vigilance Reserves. Both the Regular officers and the Reserves each had unique assets to bring to this task, but the two groups were working in parallel rather than collaboratively. The regular officers lacked the flexibility and the resources that the Vigilance Reserves did, however the two groups did share the common goal of working together to support those less fortunate and in need. The following year, in 1923, public attention turned towards the uniformed police deliveries of Christmas baskets as a result of their helping a particularly unfortunate family. The uniformed officers continued to donate and deliver food to the poor, and the Vigilance Reserves continued to support them in this project, until the Sunshine Division was formalized. The idea of Reserve officers supporting the Regular Uniformed officers continues today, though the methods of delivering that support have changed.

From Vigilantes to Reserves

In current terminology, a “Vigilante” is considered an individual who takes the law into his or her own hands. When The Portland Vigilance Police were created, the vigilance they were referring to was being sensitive to. and looking out for, the needs of the city, As time passed and negative connotations began to be attached to the term, Inspector Tichenor, in 1926 requested that the City Council change the name of the Portland Police Vigilance Reserves to The Portland Police Reserves. The Police Reserves, as well as a Fraternal group called the KGW Hoot Owls continued to work collaboratively with regular officers to serve families in distress.

Tichenor had many talents but one of his most important was the ability to lead and communicate with people from widely differing backgrounds. Under his leadership, the Police Reserve grew to include people from all walks of life, professionals, businessmen, butchers and grocers. All worked together to safeguard the most vulnerable families in Portland. Over the years, thousands of food baskets were given away. On Tichenor's watch the name “Portland Police Reserves” was permanently established and the sunshine Division was established within a precinct. Police sponsored food distribution became a year round activity

Tichenor also cultivated a fraternal bond between the regular police and the Reserves. This began with a shared interest in helping the poor and evolved into a solidarity between the two groups. In 1926, 107 Police Reserves signed a petition to put a fire and police wage increase on the ballot for the May election. They backed their signatures with personal donations to put the measure before the public. The measure passed.

Captain Tichenor passed away on May 1, 1942 from complications after surgery. At his funeral his active pallbearers were Police Reserve Lieutenants H.D.Jensen, Norman A Thompson, Dean H Knowles, C.M. Pomeroy, J.F. Hill and George Pearson. The two organizations that he nurtured, The Portland Police Reserves and the Sunshine Division still stand today.

The War Years

During the war years around 1941-1947 Special Police were individuals hired by private interests to protect property, and were members of the Portland Auxiliary Police. The Veterans Guard and Patrol Unit had a different area of responsibility. The United states Office of Civilian Defense defined the role of the Auxiliary Police as being a “force for law and order”, and Auxiliary Police were expected to maintain Law and order during times of emergency, including blackouts and air raid alarms. Auxiliary Police responsibilities included keeping streets open for emergency vehicles, maintaining patrols in vulnerable areas and quickly roping off areas made unsafe by unexploded bombs; as well as apprehending criminals and preventing looting. Authority was conferred on individuals through local law, and The Portland Police Department generated “Rules and Regulation for the Veteran’s Guard and Patrol”, and the unit was placed under the command of John J. Keegan, who was also Chief of Detectives. Captain Keegan noted in the handbook that the Veteran’s Guard and Patrol was established for the purpose of providing a “necessary service” to the community and that the members, in times of emergency, must be “implicitly relied upon for the proper discharge of such duties as may be assigned to them.”

The unit was defined to mean an organization of civilian volunteers selected by the chief of Police to assist regularly appointed police officers in the discharge of police duties in emergencies arising from the country’s involvement in the world War. The purpose of the organization was to assist the Portland Police department in protecting life and property in emergencies, especially those threatening the safety and security of life ad property. Should such an emergency occur, it was expected that all members of the organization would promptly respond and be available for service. Members were also expected to “keep cool” no matter how great the danger, and to set an example for the rest of the city population. Members were expected to be able to deal with the enforcement of blackouts, extinguishing fires resulting from incendiary bombs and traffic and crowd control after and during an air raid. In 1942, there were 5000 men participating in the Police Auxiliary/Veteran’s Guard. By 1945, membership had declined to 2,000 as World War 2 came to an end. In 1944, Portland Mayor Earl Riley commended the members of the Veteran’s Guard for their service. He noted that members of the Veteran’s Guard “saved the day” by giving more than 269,000 hours of service to the Portland Police Bureau in 1944. This was especially significant because the number of regular officers had declined secondary to the loss
of many of them to the armed forces, and the city population had increased. Mayor Riley was quoted as saying:

“Only because of this (The Reserve/Guard) was Portland able to maintain law and order through a period in which disorder and crime were to be expected. The public owes these men a great debt of gratitude.”

Post World War II

Post World War II, interest and participation in the Veteran’s Guard and Patrol declined as people went about the task of putting their lives back together. On April 28, 1955 Mayor Fred Peterson created the Portland Auxiliary Police. The purpose of the Auxiliary Police was to augment the regular police bureau in the event of a major disaster or another war. Robert G Smith was appointed commander of the organization an initiated a recruiting drive. Smith also appointed Jack Swan as assistant commander with the rank of Captain. Smith and Swan had both held command positions in the Auxiliary Police/Veteran’s Guard during World War 2 and were very experienced Reserve Officers. In a relatively short period of time 700 men between the ages of 21 and 65 volunteered to serve in the Auxiliary Police. Auxiliary police officers attended a basic academy which was held weekly in the evening for a 10 week period. Officers were unarmed and served without pay. Duties included augmenting regular police in emergency situations, assisting regular police on parades, protecting children and property in city parks, aiding in public enjoyment of the city zoo and assisting regular officers to police Halloween. Auxiliary Officers provided their own uniforms which were the same as regular police uniforms except for the absence of a gray stripe down the side of the pants and a different shape to the badge.

Smith had a long history of volunteering with the Portland Police Bureau. He served as captain in the Veteran’s Guard and Patrol during World War II. Smith and 1,500 other members of the Police Auxiliary. Veteran’s Guard guarded Portland bridges and other key river installations against sabotage . In addition to his work during World War II, in 1948 when the Vanport Flood wiped out housing in north Portland, he commanded 500 auxiliary police during the emergency. Auxiliary police controlled traffic at the scene of the flood and also helped keep order during the emergency. Smith also rode in the Portland Police pace car and impersonated the actual, publicity shy, Portland police Chief during one Rose Festival Parade During his watch The auxiliary police were divided into three auxiliary districts, the West side, Capt Thomas Floyd commanding; Northeast commanded by Capt. M.E. Fouch Jr, and Southeast commanded by Capt French Butler. Headquarters district which also operated the Auxiliary training school was commanded by Capt John Hoefling. Captain Jack Swan was assistant commander, Captain Louis Pike ran the recruiting bureau and Captain Fran Johnston ran the firearms
training bureau after Auxiliary Officers were authorized to carry firearms.

Auxiliary officers were armed only with nightsticks for most of this period. In May of 1957, Captain Clark Larsen as well as five lieutenants, several sergeants, and patrolmen resigned from the Auxiliary Police in protest of the demotion of Capt Louis Foust, Lt Jack Leonard and Lt Frank Carpenter. Foust said that members of the Auxiliary Police no longer wanted to serve patrolling city parks, because they were armed only with night sticks. The three men had donated over 1,000 hours of time to the city and called on Mayor Terry Schrunk to investigate the situation. In August 1958, 100 Auxiliary Police were selected for firearms training as a prerequisite for carrying guns on special assignments. Members who completed the training were authorized to carry privately- purchased .38 caliber revolvers as well as a “sap” and handcuffs. They were required to purchase approved holsters. Eventually all members of the Auxiliary Police were authorized to carry firearms

Smith retired in March of 1978 after 36 years of service as a volunteer Portland Officer.

Post World War II to Present

As time went by the role of the Police reserves continued to evolve. Starting out as what had been called by Reserve Commander Dave Aiken as a “rough and tumble bunch” Reserve officers began to receive improved training and take on increased responsibility., Reserve Officers performed in a multitude of roles and widely diverse duties including serving with the Bomb Squad, multiple anti prostitution missions and units. Reserve Officers began doing their own firearm training and qualifications. During this period a large number of Multnomah County Sheriffs Office Reserve Deputies transferred to Portland Police Bureau Reserve Division. Many of these former deputies were search and rescue specialist and also Horse Patrol specialist. Their arrival swelled
the numbers of Reserve officer to over one hundred and twenty. Reserve officers went from being restricted to performing duties at parades or special events to contributing patrol support to the various precincts. As the numbers grew, the training improved until the trainng the reserve Officer receives today is equivalent to the Regular Officers basic Academy. Reserve Officers also started to attend annual in-service training which was integrated with the Regular force. Today the Reserve Division is the ultimate expression of community policing where citizen officer work along side full time Regular Officers to provide service to the city and its citizens.

The role of the police officer has changed over the years, and the tasks and duties assigned to police have become more complicated. The demands of today’s city are very different from half a century or even a century ago. Today’s officer is required to be able to function in a multicultural environment, to be able to relate to many different types of people and to still keep the peace and enforce the law. The structure and responsibilities of the Reserve Division are now part of the General Orders of the police Bureau and this gives the Division status and responsibility that was undreamed of even
30 years ago. With that status comes increased responsibility and need for training, and this puts more demands on the Reserve Officer than ever before. Hiring standards and qualification standards for today’s Reserve Officer are virtually indistinguishable from those of the Regular Officer, and many Reserve Officers do apply to be full time regular officers. Alternatively Officer who have finished their career but still feel they want to contribute to the city may elect to become a Reserve Officer upon retirement.

Today, Reserves continue to support full-time police officers on patrol and special missions wearing the same uniform and badge. In 2011, members of the Portland Police Reserves led a statewide effort to pass House Bill 3153, which granted statewide arrest authority and protection under state law for all reserves in Oregon.

Please DONATE today to support these efforts or join the historic unit and BECOME A RESERVE.

 






 
Portland Police Reserve Officers Foundation