Donation Recalls City's Early Cops

By Eric Olson

June 18, 2010 Updated Feb 5, 2010 at 5:28 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (Indiana's NewsCenter)--They’re called the thin blue line, that fragile human wall that stands between society and anarchy. No matter what you think of the cops just imagine society without them. It’s frightening.

“It’s not like today. The biggest thing back in them days was the drunks”, says veteran Fort Wayne police officer Jim Stahl. “And every Friday night you had fights fights fights. Saturday night fights then it wall died down and you went back to normal.”

Him spent 21 years on the force, retiring as a captain in 1980. And he’s just made a donation to the History Center; one of the first badges worn by Fort Wayne police dating back to 1864, the year the police force was formed. The badge will become part of the History Center’s extensive police museum, which tells the story of the force from the very beginning. The city’s first police officers didn’t face the deadly weaponry today’s officers do but these early lawmen were no boy scouts.

“And in those days it was a very physically demanding job because you didn’t have cars to transport prisoners,” says History Center curator Walter Font. “If you arrested a prisoner you had to drag him all the way back to the police station, or you could call the paddy wagon, you had to hole on to him until the paddy wagon showed up.”

It took tough guys to maintain order in old Fort Wayne, guys like Fred Linecooly, a former canal barge hand who served on the force from1864 to 1891. He’s 64 years old in this photo, still wearing the uniform and still one tough old bird. The modern era of city law enforcement began at the turn of the century, uniforms and regulations were standardized, the detective squad was created. By 1913 Fort Wayne had alarm boxes, motorcycles and our first policewomen. In the ‘20’s and ‘30’s radios, steel vests and machine guns made the force as modern as any you’d find across the country…the force Jim Stahl served on for 21 years. It’s a story he’s proud to be part of, proud to help tell through his donation. A story we could all stand to learn a little more about. Eric Olson reporting out in Your Country.

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