From 1840 to 1865, area law enforcement was a service provided by the Howard County Sheriff. In 1865, Kokomo held its first election, with John Williams being elected Kokomo's first Town Marshal. In April 1901, the law enforcement arm of Kokomo's government formally changed to a "Metropolitan Police Department." This police department consisted of six men whose equipment consisted of only side arms and uniforms.
Around 1915, the Department purchased a Haynes Chassis with a rear compartment for the first police patrol wagon and then purchased a Harley Davidson motorcycle to complement a fleet of four bicycles. Throughout its history, the Department has evolved through many changes from using horses or traditional walking beats, to using bicycles and the trolley cars, followed by the use of automobiles to even a re-implementation of the bicycle and foot patrol in service to a contemporary policing strategy and philosophy known as "Community Policing."
Kokomo's present day police force has a staff of 100 sworn officers, both men and women, as well as a complimentary staff of dedicated civilian support staff. The Department has adopted as its official motto, the expression, "PRIDE IN COMMITMENT - EXCELLENCE IN SERVICE."
Over the years, the Department has gone through many changes. In 1901, it was governed by a three-person police commission and the Mayor. In 1951, the formal overseeing governing system for the Department was changed to that of the Board of Public Works and the Mayor. Modern and more complex service needs have resulted in greater specialization within the Department in areas such as Uniform Patrol, Criminal and Special Investigations,Training, Traffic Enforcement, Juvenile Issues, Professional Standards, Crime Prevention, and Code Enforcement.
There have been many milestones in the history of the Department as evidenced in the motorization of the Department after World War I, to the installation of modern radio communications, the specialization of Department functions, and the continuing quest for professionalizaton exemplified in current times by the Department's voluntary participation in a professional accreditation process for law enforcement agencies.
A historical glimpse of the Kokomo Police Department may seem notably incomplete without the mention of some infamous crimes and the people who were involved in them.
Perhaps one of the most noteworthy crimes of all time occurred in the area of what we know today as Jefferson and Indiana Streets. Back in October 1881, the Mayor of Kokomo was shot by a sheriff posse while the Mayor allegedly attempted to break into the Springmill Flour Co. This caused a lot of excitement in the community.
On the night of April 3, 1882, a mob took a man from the old jail and hung him from the old Main Street Bridge. The man was accused of assaulting a child.
In 1863, a mob took a man from the jail and hung him on the courthouse square. The man was allegedly involved with two other men in horse stealing and the shooting of two local men.
In 1879, Michael Gillooley was going to be hanged by Sheriff David Freeman for the shooting of Kokomo Police Officer Thomas Lannon, who was shot and killed by Gillooley at the railroad depot in the north part of the city. Officer Lannon had arrested Gillooley earlier in the month for visiting a house of ill repute.
As the years went on, other notable crimes occurred, such as that involving the Al Brady gang, which had held up a bank in Goodland, Indiana, and shot and killed an Indiana State Police Officer and left for dead a Cass County Sheriff Deputy. The local Department was involved in the massive man hunt of these desperados. A few months later, Brady was killed in a shootout in Bangor, Maine, with local, state and federal officers. A gun in Brady's possession, when slain, belonged to Indiana State Police Officer Paul Minneman.
Other notorious local gangsters that the law enforcement community tangled with include John Pullen, Willard Carson, John Dillinger, Ralph Cummings, Homer Hale, Ralph Lobaugh, Stanley Canfield, William Day, Oscar Welty and many more who imprinted their names on the historical ledger of local crime.
The Kokomo Police Department employees continue to serve the City of Kokomo,meet the challenges of a modern law enforcement agency, and keep Kokomo a safe place to live.