The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office was established in 1871 when a fifth county was carved out of the territory’s original four.
Law and order in the County’s 9226 square miles have since been the primary responsibility of the 36 sheriff’s elected to office since 1871. Some held office for as long as 22 years – others for as briefly as two weeks.
Contrary to western myth popularized by Hollywood films, no elected Maricopa County Sheriff has participated in a shoot-out or been killed in the line of duty. Many sheriff’s have been deemed “colorful characters in colorful times” but none have gone down in history as legends or heroes or scoundrels accused of scandalous deeds.
In territorial days, justice was swift and certain. Though for many years the sheriff had only temporary deputies and jailers, lawbreakers were eagerly pursued by the sheriff’s posse to administer justice. In the first decade of the county’s existence, there were six lynchings and one legal execution. Handcuffs and leg irons back then were attached to river rocks or a nearby tree – either served well as an adequate jail site.
In 1913, the sheriff’s office entered into the automotive age with the purchase of a six passenger Overland Stutz.
Cars were bound to be the way of the future but many in 1913 and for some years later preferred their horses. Most deputies were excellent horsemen whose knowledge of the desert terrain made man and beast a formidable team.
Today, Maricopa County deputies use a fleet of several hundred vehicles including patrol sedans, 4X4’s, airboats, ATV’s, jet skis, motorcycles, helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and of course, horses.
In 1915, the life of a police officer was bleak. In many communities, they were forced to work 12-hour days, 365 days a year. Police officers did not like it, but there was little they could do to change their working conditions.
There were no organizations to make their voices heard; no other means to make their grievances known. This soon changed, thanks to the courage and wisdom of two Pittsburgh patrol officers. Martin Toole and Delbert Nagle knew they must first organize police officers, like other labor interests, if they were to be successful in making life better for themselves and their fellow police officers. They and 21 others “who were willing to take a chance” met on May 14, 1915, and held the first meeting of the Fraternal Order of Police. They formed Fort Pitt Lodge #1. They decided on this name due to the anti-union sentiment of the time. However, there was no mistaking their intentions. As they told their city mayor, Joe Armstrong, the FOP would be the means “to bring our grievances before the Mayor or Council and have many things adjusted that we are unable to present in any other way…we could get many things through our legislature that our Council will not, or cannot give us.”
And so it began, a tradition of police officers representing police officers. The Fraternal Order of Police was given life by two dedicated police officers determined to better their profession and those who choose to protect and serve our communities, our states, and our country. It was not long afterward that Mayor Armstrong was congratulating the Fraternal Order of Police for their “strong influence in the legislatures in various states,…their considerate and charitable efforts” on behalf of the officers in need and for the FOP’s “efforts at increasing the public confidence toward the police to the benefit of the peace, as well as the public.”
From that small beginning, the Fraternal Order of Police began growing steadily. In 1955, the idea of a National Organization of Police Officers came about. Today, the tradition that was first envisioned over 85 years ago lives on with more than 2,100 local lodges and more than 324,000 members in the United States. The Fraternal Order of Police has become the largest professional police organization in the country. The FOP continues to grow because we have been true to the tradition and continued to build on it. The Fraternal Order of Police are proud professionals working on behalf of law enforcement officers from all ranks and levels of government.
The Arizona Fraternal Order of Police represents the interests of more than 6,200 Arizona law enforcement professionals. Organized into 42 Local Lodges, we are the voice of those who dedicate their lives to protecting and serving our communities. Our members are committed to improving the working conditions of Arizona law enforcement officers and the safety of those we serve through education, legislation, community involvement and employee representation.
Sadly, across the country, many law enforcement officers will lose their lives this year while performing their duties. The Steve Young Memorial Scholarship Program, created by a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, is administered by the National Fraternal Order of Police Foundation to assist the spouses of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
No one knows the dangers and the difficulties faced by today’s police officers better than another officer, and no one knows police officers better than the Fraternal Order of Police.