History of the Police Department
The city of Victoria was founded in 1824 by Don Martin de Leon who, brought 41 families to the area to establish the town. The town consisted of 4 square leagues (with 4,428 acres per league). In 2010, the City consisted of over 35 square miles and a population projection of over 64,000.
In 1839, the City was recognized under the Texas Charter and local government began with a group similar to our current City Council. It was in this year that Thomas Barry was named as the first City Marshal. His job was to enforce the laws and collect taxes. It was also in this year that the Council acknowledged the need to have a jail. John J. Linn, the City’s first mayor, in his "Reminiscences of 50 years in Texas" wrote about the first jail constructed in 1843 or 1844, it was concluded that Victoria had attained to that degree of enlightenment that demanded a jail in which evil doers could be confined. It was constructed of hewn logs, about a foot square, and pinned together by wooden pins." Linn recalled how the first two persons placed in the jail quickly learned to remove the wooden pins, which allowed them to make their escape.
One of the first City Ordinances passed was in 1839, mandating that bars close at 10 pm The first traffic ordinance was passed in 1858. This ordinance allowed the mayor to construct earthen sidewalks and assessed a fine of $5 to $10 for "riding a horse or any vehicle upon said sidewalks."
Up until 1983, the Police Department conducted the Regional Police Academy. At that time, those attending the academy had to be sponsored by an agency. In 1983, the Victoria College assumed responsibility for the Regional Academy, opening it up to any interested party. The Police Department continues to maintain its academy license, in order to provide training to its own officers.
Through the years, the Victoria Police Department (VPD) has distinguished itself as a professional and progressive agency. The Department places emphasis on education and training of its personnel and sets high expectations of itself in the area of community service. This is exemplified through the following examples:
- Officer Torres is pictured, showing City Manager John Lee (seated) the badge that was given to Torres when he retired.
- (Pictured right ) On June 30, 1967, Foot Patrolman Joe Torres was the first Officer to retire from the Victoria Police Department, after serving for 17 years. Officer Torres is pictured, showing City Manager John Lee (seated) the badge that was given to Torres when he retired.
- In 1968, the Victoria Police Academy (PDF) was one of the first police academies in the state to receive certification from the Texas Commission of Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education. While the Victoria College currently offers basic police training at the recruit level, the Department’s Academy continues to function in the area of providing training to departmental officers on a regular basis.
- In 1968, Victoria Police Officer John F. Baylor became the first Certified Peace Officer in Texas (PDF). John has since retired from the police department.
- At about the same time, women were commissioned as police officers in the department, playing vital roles in the organization. The first woman detective was appointed in 1985, the first female sergeant was appointed in 1988, and the first female lieutenant was appointed in 1998.
- Victoria also employed the first civilian to be licensed as a TCLEOSE (Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education) instructor. (Now TCOLE)
- The emphasis on education and training is also seen by looking at the officers who have received specialized training at the DPS Law Enforcement Academy in Austin. The department also has numerous officers who have graduated from prestigious programs, such as the FBI National Academy, the Northwestern Traffic Institute, the Police Training School conducted by the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and the Law Enforcement Management Institute.
- Victoria was one of the first cities in the nation (the second in Texas) to implement the 911 emergency system, which is now a standard system across the country.
- In 1989, the Victoria Police Department became the 7th Texas Department (95th in the nation) to become a nationally accredited law enforcement agency. In 2004 the Victoria Police Department was reaccredited for the final time with CALEA and then voluntarily opted out of the program.
- In 2009, the Victoria Police Department received the award of "Recognized Law Enforcement Agency" from the Texas Police Chiefs Association Law Enforcement Recognition Program. Begun in 2007, the Recognition Program evaluates a Police Department’s compliance with over 150 Best Business Practices for Texas Law Enforcement. These Best Practices , which now number 170, cover all aspects of law enforcement operations including use of force, protection of citizen rights, vehicle pursuits, property and evidence management, and patrol and investigative operation. In 2013, 2017 and 2021, the VPD was re-recognized for continuing to comply with the Best Practices.
The following image and names from 1959 were provided by Richard Kemp, a former VPD Officer.