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Dallas Police Department


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This is a small excerpt of Ian Griggs’ article where he examines the basic structure and organisation of the Dallas  Police Department in November 1963. If you have a deeper interest then I suggest to check out the DPD “Departmental Manual of Operating Procedures” at Mary Ferrell.

During a brief WFAA­ TV street interview outside the Texas School Book Depository on the afternoon of Friday 22nd November 1963, DPD Captain  J. Herbert Sawyer was asked how many police officers there were in  Dallas. He replied: “Approximately thirteen hundred”. His estimate was  very close. In November 1963 the total number of DPD employees was  1,287, comprising 1,067 police officers (not including the Police Reserve) plus 220 civilians. The first name on any list of DPD personnel was that of Jesse Curry, in  his capacity as Chief of Police. He had assumed overall control of the DPD  in 1960 and remained in that position until his retirement in 1966.

There were then five Deputy Chiefs of Police, one in command of each of the Criminal Investigation, Patrol, Traffic and Service Divisions, plus one whose responsibilities were concerned with Civil Defence and Disaster  Control.

Structure of the department.

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Headquarters and Administration: Chief of Police Curry maintained a staff of 15 police officers (including  him) as Headquarters personnel. They were supported by eight highlyqualified female civilians who were responsible for a wide range of clerical  duties.

Special Service Bureau Following these HQ and Administrative offices, was the Special Service Bureau; the first of the specialised departments. It operated under the command of Captain W. P. (‘Pat’) Gannaway  who was supported by six Lieutenants, 34 regular Detectives, 14  Patrolmen who were temporarily assigned to the Bureau, and four female civilians (one stenographer and three clerk typists).

The Patrol Division: several members of the Second Platoon of the Patrol Division have become well ­known names through their actions or otherwise during the period 22nd­24th November 1963. Five that immediately spring to mind  are: Patrolman J.D. Tippit, the man who came on duty but never  completed the shift; Patrolmen Billy L. Bass and Marvin L. Wise, the officers who initially dealt with the so­called three tramps; Patrolman  Roy S. Vaughn, who failed to notice Ruby enter the City Hall basement via the Main Street ramp and Patrolman Maurice N. (“Nick”) McDonald, the officer who sustained the scratched cheek during his  struggle to arrest Oswald in the Texas Theatre.

Traffic Control: traffic Control was under the overall command of Captain R. A. Thompson.  Each platoon consisted of either one or two Sergeants, between 11 or 15  Patrolmen (on foot), between ten and 19 three­wheel motorcycle officers  and one female civilian clerk… The foot Patrolmen were deployed at  static posts throughout the downtown area and because these were mainly at road intersections the officers were known within the DPD as  “corner men” (7H 578).

The Accident Prevention Bureau: two of its members, both normally employed as accident investigators, were Patrolmen J. C.  White and J. W. Foster. These two officers were deployed on the triple underpass during the motorcade. Another accident investigator, Patrolman Charles T. Walker, found him very closely involved in the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald and the subsequent removal of Oswald to  City Hall (7H 34­43).

Special Assignment Men: these seven individuals present something of a problem.

School Safety Officers: ten individuals are listed and named. No supervisory officer is identified  and they all performed duties from 7.30am to 4.30pm. Perhaps they were the Dallas equivalent of lollipop men! Not surprisingly, none of them is mentioned in the Warren Report or the 26 Volumes

The Solo Motorcycle and Special Enforcement Detail:  obvious names  which come to mind include motorcyclists Bobby Hargis (splattered  with blood and brain tissue as he rode slightly behind and to the left of the presidential limousine), Marrion Baker(encountered Oswald inside  the TSBD), Hollis B McLain (thought by some researchers to be  responsible for the ‘open mike’) and the ubiquitous E.D. (‘Buddy’) Brewer (one of the lead motorcyclists through Dealey Plaza and on to  Stemmons; proceeded to TSBD, was on sixth floor when three empty shells and rifle were found, claimed to have seen the paper sack ­ later  stated that his “primary job was traffic control”!)

The Service Division: this was an administrative rather than an operational Division and  perhaps for this reason it had the highest percentage of civilian employees of any of the four Divisions.

The Identification Bureau: this small bureau was under the command of Captain George M  Doughty and was made up of just one operational section.

The Fingerprint Section: the Section was concerned with the physical fingerprinting of suspects rather than actual crime scene examination. The photograph  and fingerprints of Lee Harvey Oswald were taken by members of the section about an hour before his arraignment in the early hours of Saturday 23rd November (4H 248).

The Crime Scene Search Section: This important element played a major part in the immediate aftermath to the assassination, and its head, Lieutenant John Carl Day, became one of the best­known DPD figures. Lieut Day had just eight Detectives  under him. Several of them were to become very well­known through  their involvement in various ways. For example, Paul L. Bentley (the man with the big cigar at the Oswald arrest), Richard W (“Rusty”) Livingstone (co­author of 1993 book First Day Evidence), Willie E.  (“Pete”) Barnes (DPD Tippit murder scene photographer ­ also  administered the paraffin test to Oswald) and John B. Hicks (took Oswald’s fingerprints on the evening of 22nd November and assisted  Barnes with the paraffin test).

Headquarters Section: by far the largest part of the Service Division, the Headquarters Section  consisted of 79 police officers and 183 civilians. 

Warrant Section and Court Bailiffs:  the Service Division included the Warrant Section which was under the command of a Sergeant and had 20 uniformed officers performing what  were basically clerical duties

Property Bureau: this bureau, under the command of a Police Captain (James M. English) supported by two Patrolmen and one General Clerk, was made up of the Property Room Section and the Automobile Pound Section. Herman W. Hill was the Property Room Supervisor, and he, almost  alone, was responsible for literally thousands of case exhibits. Everything  from the Mannlicher­Carcano rifle to Lee Harvey Oswald’s socks passed  through his hands and his name and signature appear on dozens of police  property receipts (see CE 2003: 24H 332­344). If any one DPD employee performed his duties in an exemplary fashion, and maybe deserved a  gong for his performance, it was this man.

The Records Bureau/Information Desk: It comprised 49 male and female civilians employed as clerks and  stenographers of various grades and under the supervision of Captain of Police O. T. Slaughter supported by a Sergeant and two Patrolmen.

The criminal Investigation Commission: by the very nature of its purpose and responsibilities, this obviously became one of the busiest and most important elements of the Dallas Police Department on the afternoon of 22nd November 1963 and  immediately after.

The Homicide and Robbery Bureau Captain John William (“Will”) Fritz was in overall charge  of the bureau, with two assistants: Lieutenants James a Bohart and Ted P. Wells. Fritz was to retire in 1970 after 49 years as a law enforcement officer. The rest of the bureau was made up of just 18  Detectives and two temporarily assigned Patrolmen.

Juvenile Bureau: this was under the command of Captain Frank Martin, supported by three Lieutenants.

Burglary and Theft Bureau: this was the largest individual unit within the CID, having a total of 54  members.

The Auto Theft Bureau: One of them was to gain fame (or should  that be notoriety) for the part he played in the happenings on the sixth  floor of the TSBD in the hour or so after the shooting.  I refer, of course, to Detective Robert Lee Studebaker. At the time of the Kennedy assassination, this officer was on temporary assignment to the Crime Scene Search Section of the Identification Bureau. One must  ask why, after just seven weeks instruction with the Crime Scene Search  Section, a trainee like Studebaker was let loose on what could be  described as the most important crime ­scene in the history of the United  States. His task was to assist Lieutenant Day in photographing the scene.  When asked by the Warren Commission what photographic experience he had, Studebaker replied: “Just home photography.” His expertise with a  camera can be demonstrated by reference to Studebaker Exhibit C (21H 645) which is a photograph showing the semi­hidden rifle… He confirmed  that he had taken the photograph by saying: “I know it’s mine because  my knees are in the picture.” (7H 140)

Forgery Bureau: As far as the assassination is  concerned, the best­known members of this bureau were a Stenographer  Grade 5 named Mary P. Rattan and a General Clerk Grade 3 called Patsy C. Collins.

Special Assignment Officers: training and research section  This consisted of three small departments as follows:  Personnel Bureau ( this was a tiny bureau, just down the hall from the Homicide offices, and  was under the command of the ubiquitous Captain William Roy  Westbrook),  Police Reserve and Police Academy.

Below pictures from inside the DPD while Oswald was in custody. These are taken by Jim Murray – Blackstar and were scanned in by ROKC at NARA in the Richard E. Sprague collection.

With regards Oswald’s custody inside City Hall there is a group of main characters I have looked deeper in to and you can see their statements, photos and videos by clicking the buttons below or use the D.P.D. drop down menu at the top of this site.