History of the TFPD
For over one hundred years, the Twin Falls Police Department has been ready to protect, defend and serve the citizens of this community. Starting from very humble and meager beginnings to the now strong force of 77 sworn officers and 26 support employees, the department has overcome many challenges over the years and has earned the reputation of a professional and service-oriented organization.
Early Twin Falls Law Enforcement
Albert Snodgrass was appointed the Night Watchman and Road Overseer of the Village of Twin Falls on April 25, 1905, with a salary of $75 per month. Two weeks later, the staff was expanded to include Fred Ramsey as a Deputy Marshal for $40 per month. By June 15, 1905, I.A. Walters was appointed the Village Marshal, and Snodgrass was notified that his services were no longer required. Walters was informed his Village Marshal duties were to "take care of peddlers, draymen, and dogs that have not paid their license."
Walters lasted only four months before he resigned, and C.W. Dyers was appointed Village Marshal. It was noted that C.W. sent out bids for the meals at the jail requiring: "Soup, one kind of meat, potatoes and one other vegetable, bread and butter, tea or coffee. All food to be well cooked and furnished in a wholesome and sanitary condition."
Dyers hired Robert Lamon as an additional Deputy Marshal on April 5, 1906. In May 1906, Marshal Dyers was requested by the Village to procure a bid for a horse and a run-about for his use. Bids for these items ranged from $85 to $93.50. A later meeting showed that Dyer had purchased his own horse, and the Village reimbursed him.
TFPD is Born
On April 8, 1907, C.W. Dyer was appointed the first Chief of Police for the town of Twin Falls. His salary was $900 per year. When Dyer resigned in the summer of 1907, he asked to buy his horse for the $75 that the village owed him, plus an additional $25. Dyer later served as Sheriff of Twin Falls County from 1909 to 1911.
For the next few years, several men served as the Chief of Police:
- L.E. Prothero was appointed Chief of Police on September 2, 1907, with a salary of $85 per month ($1020 annually)
- In 1910, W.G. Thompson was appointed Chief of Police
- In 1918, William Taylor became Chief of Police
- In 1925, Ralph E. Leighton was hired as Chief of Police and held that position until 1935
- In 1935, Samuel B. Elrod became chief of Police and resigned a few month later
Chief Howard Gillette
In 1936, Howard Gillette was appointed Chief of Police to what has been described as a very corrupt department. Gillette made it known early in his career that he would not tolerate corruption and unethical behavior from his officers. During his tenure, several significant criminal cases occurred and numerous advances were made in the field of policing. Gillette served under numerous mayors and transformed the Department from a dysfunctional organization into one of the premiere law enforcement agencies in the State of Idaho.
The Case of the Murdering Ex-Mayor
Two years after Gillette was appointed the Chief of Police, he learned that a traveling jewelry salesman named George Olsen had been found murdered in his car outside of the old Park Hotel. During the early stages of the investigation, it was learned that the man who had hired Gillette, the former Mayor of Twin Falls, Duncan Johnston, had both a business and personal relationship with the victim.
At that time, Johnston operated a jewelry store on Main Avenue and had frequently purchased jewels from Olsen. Gillette personally led the investigation, and he quickly learned that Johnston was the last person to see Olsen alive, $15,000 worth of jewelry that Olsen had with him was missing, and that Olsen had come to town to collect a substantial amount of money that Johnston owed him.
When it became apparent to investigators that Johnston was being dishonest about his alibi and relation with Olsen, Gillette decided to conduct a covert investigation to find out if Johnston had committed the murder. At 4:00 a.m. on June 2, 1938, Officer Craig Bracken was assigned to sneak into the basement of Johnston's store and observe the former mayor's activities. At 9:00 am, Bracken heard Johnston coming down the stairs into the basement. He then observed Johnston remove a piece of the concrete wall, revealing a hiding place. He watched as Johnston took a small piece of folded cloth from inside the wall.
Bracken revealed and identified himself and discovered Olsen's missing jewels. He then arrested Johnston and brought him to the police station. A later search of Johnston's store revealed the murder weapon, a .25 automatic Colt pistol, hidden in the basement floor. It was later proven that Johnston owned the gun, despite that fact that he had previously swore to Gillette that it had been sold. Johnston was charged with the murder and was convicted by a jury on December 11, 1938, of first degree murder.
Throughout his long service of twenty-five years to the City of Twin Falls, Howard Gillette was known for his love of law and order. He was a stern man and lived by a strict code of ethics. He also expected his police officers to honor that same code of principles. Gillette memorized his expectations to writing and posted them on the wall of his office. His "Requirements of a Police Officer" inspired numerous officers and citizens and reflects a more candid time in our country.
Chief Gillette gained the respect of criminals by providing funds for information and to leave town. He proved time and again that he wanted to take care of his officers and his community. During World War II, Gillette attended the FBI Academy and was called to serve the FBI as an agent for approximately two years. He then returned to Twin Falls as the chief and retired in 1962.
During Gillette's leadership, several men served on the Department and then went on to serve the citizens of Idaho in leadership roles. One of these men was Patrolman A.E. Perkins, hired approximately 1938, went on to work the Idaho State Police and eventually retiring as that agency's Superintendent. Another was Officer Wesley Dobbs. Dobbs was hired by the TFPD in 1948 and he temporarily left to serve in the Korean War. He returned in 1951 and served Twin Falls until 1961. He left the TFPD to join the Idaho State Police, and in 1965 created and managed the Law Enforcement Training at the College of Southern Idaho for over 30 years.
Dobbs states that during his career with the Twin Falls Police, several unique stories come to mind. One is the way the officers were summoned for calls. Several call lights were place on the corners and on top of buildings. If the desk person wanted you for a call, a light would come on and you would "respond to the light" by calling the desk sergeant via a phone or call box, or by reporting directly to the station. Retired Captain Kenny Johnston,who served from 1945 to 1979, remembers when there was only one radio available to talk to the dispatcher. He relied upon the eight other officers for backup and having telephones nearby.
The Loss of Craig Bracken
Three years into Gillette's tenure, Twin Falls Police Department faced its one and only loss of a police officer while in the line of duty. On May 8, 1939, Craig Taylor Bracken, 45, was fatally wounded in a dramatic gun battle while attempting to make an arrest. Convicted felons Danny Williams and William Hale stole an automobile, robbed a service station, and were stopped by Bracken and partner Ken Barclay near the intersection of Washington Street and 4th Avenue West.
After stopping the stolen car, Bracken approached the passenger side of the vehicle and was shot by Williams with a .38 caliber Harrington and Richardson revolver. The bullet struck Bracken in his left side, just below the heart. Both Bracken and Barclay returned fire, and Barclay was able to wound both suspects. Barclay and two citizens chased and caught the injured Williams but in the confusion, Hale managed to escape despite suffering a gunshot wound to his head. He was captured the following day trying to hitchhike out of the area.
Both suspects were later tried and convicted of grand theft, robbery and the murder of Craig Bracken. Bracken had been a police officer for three years at the time of his death, and he had previously served his county in the army during World War I. He left behind a wife and three small children. Bracken was posthumously awarded the Department's Medal of Valor in January of 2000.
Officers Taken Hostage
On January 15, 1951, Twin Falls City Patrolmen Angus A. Spence and Lee Talkington, along with Chief Deputy Sheriff James Benham, were taken hostage by Robert Lee Gilford, a prisoner in the Twin Falls County Jail. Gilford forced the three officers, at gunpoint, to drive a city patrol car. They fueled the car in Twin Falls and headed to Utah, stopping in Malta, Idaho for oil. Communications during the chase were complicated as all law enforcement agencies were using the same frequency.
Airplane patrols were used to track the patrol car. In Willard, Utah, the patrol car stopped for more fuel. Box Elder County Sheriff Hyde distracted Gilford by tapping on the rear window and then running to the right side of the car. Deputy Benham lodged the web of his hand between the hammer and the frame of the pistol held by Gilford, which was pointing at the back of Talkington's head. According to newspaper accounts, after a short struggle and the use of Patrolman Spence's sap, Gilford was apprehended.
Chiefs Barnett and Qualls
Frank Barnett replaced Gillette as Chief of Police in 1962 and served in that role until 1979. Barnett served in various positions, including the department's traffic supervisor before accepting the position of Chief of Police. Barnett exhibited many of the same qualities of Chief Gillette, and he was widely respected by the citizens he served and the officers he supervised. During his time as the Chief of Police, he created the organization's first rank structure, appointing two of the department's most legendary officers to the rank of Captain, Kenny Johnston and Roy Lindell. He was also highly influential in the careers of many of the officers who came of age during the 1960's and 1970's, including future TFPD leaders Bob Hodge, Pat Birmingham, Bill Stonemets and Jim Mildon.
C. Tim Qualls replaced Barnett as Chief of Police in May 1979. Chief Qualls started working for the Twin Falls Police Department as a patrolman in February, 1951. Qualls had previously worked for the Kimberly Police Department, but joined Twin Falls because of a pay increase. He worked in various capacities within the police department, including Chief of Detectives. Qualls was known for his expertise in investigative techniques such as handwriting analysis. Chief Qualls was not only conscious of his investigators' need, but also his patrolmen.
It was during this time that a more effective communications system was developed for officer safety. Portable radios were provided to each patrolman on shift. Protective cages were also installed in the patrol cars to enable safe transport of prisoners.
March of 1984 saw a radical change in the Twin Falls Police Department by combining the organization with the Fire Department under one department head. The Department of Public Safety was created in an effort to reduce costs and maximize manpower, and Qualls was appointed its Director. Both police and fire personnel were cross-trained to function as Public Safety Officers (PSOs).
PSOs would work as patrolmen in the field unless a fire emergency required their assistance. Fire gear was placed in the trunk of the patrol cars along with air equipment. This practice continued for several years until a second reorganization split the service, requiring police and fire personnel to return to their previous assignments.
Twin Falls Police Department's first female police officer, Joann Loveland, was appointed and moved to the Patrol Division from the Communications Division in 1985. She was later promoted to the rank of Corporal in February, 1989, also becoming the first woman in the Department's history to serve as a patrol supervisor.
On March 31, 1989, C. Tim Qualls retired as Director of Public Safety.
TFPD in the 1990's and 2000's
On May 1, 1989, Paul DuFresne moved from Michigan to become the next Director of Public Safety. Over the next several years the following programs were created:
- The Accident Reduction Team (ART) was created in 1990 to focus upon reducing the number of injury accidents and increase seat belt and child restraint awareness in the city with funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- The Department's first Canine Unit was proposed and created in June of 1991, by Officer Mike Covington. The canine was purchased from funds donated by the Twin Falls Optimist Club and the local chapter of the Idaho Board of Pharmacy.
- The first Motorcycle Patrol Unit was proposed and created in October of 1991, by then Corporal Dennis Rinehart and Officer Dennis Pullin. The unit was implemented to provide better traffic enforcement during heavy traffic congestion on the city's major thoroughfares.
- The department's first Bicycle Patrol Team was proposed in the summer of 1992 by then Officers Steve Benkula and Jeff Babb.
Prior to DuFresne's departure in 1994, the Department of Public Safety was disbanded, and the Police and Fire Departments were separated back into individual city departments.
Chief Leland R. Devore
In August of 1995, the City of Twin Falls hired Leland R. Devore to become the TFPD's eleventh Chief of Police. Devore had previously served with the Fullerton Police Department in California for 31 years, retiring as the interim Chief of Police. Devore had distinguished himself by working his way through the ranks of Fullerton P.D., serving as a patrolman, motorcycle officer, detective, sergeant and patrol commander.
Devore was among the first police leaders in Idaho to preach the philosophy of "Community Policing". This approach to policing placed an organizational wide emphasis on police officers to engage their customers from a problem solving mentality, and to work with them on preventing crime and increasing their quality of life. Devore also modernized our Department's policy manual, hiring standards and methods of supervision.
During Devore's leadership, the following programs were started and TFPD firsts were recorded:
- The department's first Reserve Police Officer, Ken Rivers, was appointed in October of 1995
- The department's first Community Service Officer, Joan Tomsett-Smith, was hired in April of 1997
- The department was reorganized from five different divisions into three; the Patrol Division, the Criminal Investigation Division, and the Administrative Services Division (then called the Support Services Division)
- Devore mandated that each division was to be managed by a captain. In 1996, Devore promoted Jim Munn Jr. and Jim Massey to join Bob Hodge as the department's three captains
- The Department's Narcotics Unit was started in 1998 to address growing public concerns about the prevalence of drugs, specifically methamphetamine, in our community
- The Strategic Traffic Accident Reduction (STAR) Team was created in May of 2000
- The Twin Falls Police Department was accredited through the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association in February of 2001
- The department's Hazardous Devices Unit (HDU) was proposed and created by Detective Sergeant Dan Lewin in 2000. The HDU received formal accreditation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2002
Chief Devore retired from the TFPD in 2004 after more than 41 years of service to our profession. At the time of his retirement, he had hired 70 of the Department's 90 employees.
The Twin Falls Police Department has continually built upon the progress and hardships of its past and developed into a service-oriented organization that proudly serves its community. From the earliest days of Twin Falls, the men and women of the Twin Falls Police Department have dedicated their lives to ensuring the safety of their neighbors and serving a cause greater than themselves.