New York State Police

The 1930s

This is a photo of a 1937 New York State Police patrol car.

At the beginning of the 1930's the New York State Police had won the fight for survival. It's reputation for integrity and professionalism was firmly established and it enjoyed widespread support among the people of the State. Attention during the decade was focused on modernizing the Division through the application of technology and through specialization. As the nation entered the Depression, the members of the Division also began establishing a reputation for compassion as they mounted major relief efforts for rural families left destitute by the economic decline.

Modern Communications Systems

The most important development of the decade was the initiation of modern communications systems. In 1931 the Division inaugurated its teletypewriter system, the forerunner of the New York Statewide Police Information System the Division operates today. The significance of this was clearly recognized by Superintendent Warner, who wrote in the 1931 Annual Report, "The most forward looking step since the organization of the New York State Troopers was the installation of a modern system of communications." The impact that the teletype network would have on interagency cooperation was likewise recognized. "The system coordinates the efforts of all police departments, State and municipal," wrote Superintendent Warner, "and unites them in one solid organization for the prevention of crime and apprehension of offenders."

In 1932 the Division initiated radio communications when it began broadcasting police information over commercial radio station WOKO in Albany. In 1933, the Division began operating its own AM radio station, WPGC, in Troop G. All stations and some patrol cars were equipped with AM radio receivers to enable them to hear the broadcasts. By the end of the decade, all Troops were covered by AM radio transmitters.

Increased Motor Vehicle Traffic

During the 1930s vehicle and traffic enforcement became an increasingly important part of the Troopers' duties. In 1937, the first Traffic Bureau was established. It was in 1937, too, that the first formal course in Vehicle and Traffic enforcement was included in the curriculum of the State Police School. Although mounted patrols would continue throughout the decade, the number of miles covered on horseback would steadily decline and, in 1935, would fall below 50,000 miles for the first time in the History of the Division.

Investigative Services

The growing system of good roads and the widespread use of cars significantly impacted criminal law enforcement efforts during the 1930s. The 1933 Annual Report noted that "crime has long since ceased to be local in nature" and that "with the present generally used means of rapid transportation...long distances may be placed between the scene of any crime and the point of possible apprehension." With the increasing mobility and sophistication of criminals, a dedicated investigation bureau that could conduct complex investigations was needed so that the uniform force could maintain patrols. A dedicated investigative bureau could also provide investigative expertise and assistance to local departments. Consequently, the Legislature authorized the creation of a Bureau of Investigation in 1935. The same legislation authorized the creation of a Crime Laboratory. In 1936, the Bureau of Investigation became the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Crime Laboratory opened in Schenectady.

Special Details

Throughout the decade, a number of special details and units were created to expand and improve the service provided by the New York State Police. In 1930, the first boat patrol was initiated on the St. Lawrence River. In 1931, the Division purchased its first airplane, a two-seat, open cockpit biplane. In 1932, the Pistol Permit Bureau was created to comply with the new legislative requirement that all pistol licenses be filed with the State Police. In 1934, the first Diving Unit was established, and a Truck and Bus Squad was created to enforce commercial vehicle laws and check for overloaded trucks.

International Events

The Division of State Police received international attention with the opening of the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. The successful policing of the Olympics under the spotlight of international attention was repeated at the 1939 World's Fair and during a visit by the King of England, also in 1939.

Public Assistance

The New York State Police greatly expanded its assistance to citizens in distress during the 1930s. In the 1930 Annual Report Major Warner noted that "during the autumn, many cases of want and suffering, owing to the economic depression in some of the rural portions of the State, came to the notice of members of this Division." The area patrolled by Troop C was particularly hard hit, and the Troop Commander ordered his men to completely canvass their patrol areas and report immediately any destitute families in urgent need of food or clothing. Troop C raised more than $1,500, plus pledges of food and clothing, to assist these families. For the next three years, the Troopers were critical to the survival of many families, because there were no established social service agencies. By 1933, however, the Annual Report stated that, while welfare work continued, the establishment of the Emergency Relief Bureau and local agencies had lessened the load on the State Police.

The Division's assistance was not limited to economic emergencies. Its role of first responder to natural disasters was enhanced by its performance in the relief of victims of the 1935 flood, the most serious flooding to hit the State since 1865. Many towns in the Southern Tier were totally isolated by flooding for five days in July. While thirty people died in the flooding, Troopers saved 470 others. This heroism was repeated during the hurricane and tidal wave that devastated Long Island in 1938.

As the decade drew to a close, the Nation's attention was focused on the spreading wars in Europe and Asia. A major concern of the Division was providing escorts and security for the largest peacetime military maneuvers in History, over 57,000 troops exercising the Plattsburgh area. There was also a dramatic increase in the number of requests for investigative assistance from the FBI and the War Department looking into espionage and subversive activities.