Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Thin Blue Line: Oklahoma City Police Department

1889 Oklahoma City Police Dept. Flag
Wikimedia Commons,

By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez

Hello Friends!

Thank you for joining us this month as we continue our series about first responders in our great state of Oklahoma.

First, allow us to say: we wish to pay our respects to the brave men and women of our military, and let them know our thoughts and prayers are with them, particularly those currently on deployment outside our country and away from their families.

However, we also wish to add our gratitude to those that serve outside of our military forces as well. Also called the Thin Blue Line, this group of dedicated public servants serve to keep us, our families, and our property safe. Our hats are off to you, and our gratitude for all you do.

The history of the Oklahoma City Police Department begins even before the city does. In 1887, the Southern Kansas Railroad created a stop on their line called the “Oklahoma Station”, which had two railroad detectives / policemen stationed there. In December of 1887, the US Postal Service established a post office at the rail station.

When the land-run occurred in 1889, there were thousands of settlers that settled around Oklahoma City. At first, as the community was built on federal lands, the railroad detectives and US Cavalry shared the responsibility of “policing” the community.

The city was considered under Martial Law until in 1898, with the commissioning of the Oklahoma Police force. They started with 5 officers, one of which is the department’s first chief, Charles Colcord. They held court in a small tent near California Ave.

Oklahoma City's First Five,
Wikimedia Commons,

By the end of the century, however, public intoxication had become quite the problem. In the process of statehood, the citizenry approved the prohibition of liquor in Oklahoma City. During that period of Oklahoma City law, the appropriation of alcohol became desirable in foreshadow of the decades to come: the running of alcohol to drinking establishments became quite profitable.

With the signing of a new charter in 1911, The City Of Oklahoma City converted the chief of police to a Commissioner, and changed the position from being an elected position to an appointed position. When the new charter was signed, the city commissioners decided to bring in a well known US Marshall to fill the position of Commissioner of Police, by the name of Bill Tilghman.

Bill Tilghman, 1912
Wikipedia Commons,

For those familiar with old west history, Tilghman is almost as well known as Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. For those that are not quite as familiar, he is known for the capture of Bill Doolin, and his heavy handed approach to law enforcement. For those of us that are not as familiar with old west history, but with cinematic history, Bill Tilghman was the inspiration for the character Rooster Cogburn, in the story / movies of True Grit.

Under Tilghman’s leadership, the Oklahoma City Police Department took a stand against the endemic corruption, booze-running, prostitution filled citizenry of Oklahoma City. During this time, the OCPD was considered one of the most brutal, incorruptible police departments in the nation.

Thank you for you joining us this month as we discuss the earliest roots of the Oklahoma City Police Department, one of the oldest in the state. Please join us next month as we cover more history of the OCPD from the nineteen-teens through to the Great Depression.

Born and raised in Edmond, Oklahoma, Alanna Radle Rodriguez is the great-great granddaughter of one of the first pioneers to settle in Indian Territory. Alanna loves the history of the state and relishes in volunteering at the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. Her first published story, part of a collaborative novella titled Legacy Letters, came out September 2016. Alanna lives with her husband and parents in the Edmond area. She is currently working on a historical fiction series that takes place in pre-statehood Waterloo, Oklahoma.



  1. I didn't realize that Bill Tilghman was Commission of Police in OKC or that the True Grit movies were based on him. That's really interesting. Also, judging by the photos, it looks like bushy mustaches were in still back then. :)

  2. Thanks for the informative post, and your tribute to the policemen.