History of the Lansing Police Department
The first recorded family, the August Hildebrandt family, moved into what is considered the Lansing area in 1843. The Lansing brothers soon followed in 1846. The towns of Lansing, Bernice, and Oak Glen later became joined as one in 1893. Following the incorporation of the Village of Lansing in 1893, the only law enforcement official was William Busek, who served as the Thornton Township Constable. He was elected as Constable in 1875 and served for 32 years. Constable Busek was the proprietor of a hotel on Ridge Road thus any prisoners during those days would have to be tied to a chair in a small room on the second floor of the hotel. This remained the only jail until the Village Hall was built in 1894. Records indicate that Fred Sass and Henry Devries succeeded Busak but no formal service records remain.
The first regular law officer for the Village was John Eckstein who was hired as Town Marshal from 1919 until the position was abandoned in 1931. During these years the town was patrolled by a number of motorcycle officers. They included: C. Tuffinelli, Joe Ulandowski, Fred Sass, Fred Heldt, Charles Zitek, and Thomas Strauss. The position of Chief of Police was created in 1927 and the first official Chief of Police was Fred Heldt. He remained in that position until 1930 when he was replaced by Charles Zitek. Since that time the following individuals have held the position: Thomas Strauss 1932-35, Edward VanLaningham 1935-57, John Braschler 1957-74, Dean Stanley 1974-2001, and Daniel McDevitt 2001-2009. Currently Dennis Murrin Jr., a third generation Lansing Police Officer serves as Chief of Police.
Early equipment of the department was considered primitive by today’s modern standards. Police officers would receive their assignments while patrolling their assigned areas. While patrolling, officers would have to look for a flashing light on top of one of the two special telephone poles located within town. One pole was located at the southeast corner of Ridge Rd. & Torrence Ave. and the second was in the alley on the south side of Ridge Rd. at Burnham Ave. The officer would then call the telephone company to retrieve the message. Later a two-way radio was introduced at the Village Clerk’s Office. During normal business hours calls would be dispatched from this office. If the phone was busy it would be re-routed to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office in Homewood. During off-duty hours the calls were routed directly to Chief VanLaningham’s home.
In 1951, the police station was a small one room facility attached to the clerk’s office located at Lake and Henry Streets. The police station contained 2 jail cells. Court proceedings were held upstairs under Police Magistrate Judge Clarence Reynolds. At the time the department had 3 full time officers, a juvenile officer and 4 part time officers. The uniform they wore consisted of a seven pointed “New York” cap, blue pants with a white stripe down the outer sides and blue wool shirts. In the summer months they wore plain clothes. The men worked a six day work week with the part time officers filling in on any days off. In 1957 John Braschler was appointed as Chief of Police. The department saw an increase from 5 full time officers to 12. Both a radio and records division became added to the department.
In 1964 the police department took over most of the building that housed the clerk’s office. This included adding a photo lab to process photographs from crime scenes and accidents. A Detective Bureau was added in 1971 along with a Teletype machine into the radio room.
This allowed for the first immediate exchange of information with other police departments throughout the State of Illinois. Dean Stanley became the Chief of Police in 1974 with the retirement of Chief Braschler. The station was modernized with much of the work being done by officers themselves. The next 18 months saw several new divisions added to the department. These included a Narcotics Bureau, Crime Prevention, Tactical Unit, a Research & Planning Unit and 2 officers trained as Evidence Technicians.
In 1976 a joint paramedic program was established in conjunction with the Lansing Fire Department. Early funding for the program came from donations by the public as well as local businesses. This program was a very rare and unique program which afforded the residents of Lansing with extremely quick response times for emergency medical services. Upon the initiation of the program officers volunteered to become paramedics for the department, however by 1990 this became a requirement for employment as a police officer with the Village. The ordinance changed in 2001 and the paramedic training requirement for any new employees hired was rescinded.
Upon its early inception the Police Department paramedic program was supplied with two fully equipped “ambulance units” to be deployed on the street 24 hours per day. These vehicles fulfilled a dual purpose, functioning as general patrol vehicles as well as ambulances. These vehicles progressed from station wagons, to vans, and then to Chevy Suburbans. It was in later years that both advanced and basic life support equipment was introduced in each of the department’s police vehicles with the ambulance being dispatched and brought to scenes by Lansing Fire Department personnel.
By 1979 the department saw its manpower grow to 32 full time sworn officers, 46 part time officers, and several full time police dispatchers and records staff. Additionally, the department upgraded equipment to include both radios in police vehicles as well as portable radios so that the officers could communicate while away from their vehicle. The Illinois State Police Emergency Radio Network (ISPERN) was established and was placed as a second radio in police vehicles. This afforded officers the opportunity to directly communicate with officers from other towns as well as broadcast “flash” messages to alert others of in-progress activities.
The late 1980’s and early 1990’s saw major changes in the department. In 1990, the Police Department moved to its current location on 170th Street in a newly constructed building. The new police station offered much more room as well as improved facilities for prisoner processing, training and daily functions. The facility also houses a modern Telecommunications Center as well as the Municipal Court Facility.
Further improvements were initiated which included the introduction of the MDT (mobile data terminal) into police vehicles. This technology was considered “cutting edge” as it afforded officers the ability to receive information directly from the State of Illinois database regarding license plates, driver’s licenses, and officer safety alerts. Officers no longer had to rely solely on a single point to receive this information. These were considered the forerunners to the modern laptop computers now in the cars. The laptop computer began replacing the MDT’s in 1995. The department also went from officers carrying personally owned revolvers to department issued Sig Sauer P-226 9mm semi-auto pistols.
April 8, 1992 was one of the police department’s saddest days. It was on this day that the first officer in our history was murdered in the line of duty. Click here to read the full story on Officer Kenny Novak. Officer Novak served the Village of Lansing and the Police Department tirelessly over his short career. He was deeply devoted to safeguarding not only the residents of the community but also his fellow police officers and dispatchers. His passing left a deep and tragic impact on family and friends as well as the entire Lansing Police Department and Lansing community.
In April of 1993 an alert security guard at a local motel provided officers a tip on a suspicious van parked in their lot. This led to the seizure of $6.5 million in cash. The shared percentage received by the department let to several capital improvements including a new firearms training facility, FATS (firearms training simulator) and canine training/care facility. The money was also used to purchase bullet proof vests for all the officers.
In 2001 Dean Stanley retired and was replaced by Daniel S. McDevitt. Chief McDevitt had retired as a Captain with the Illinois State Police and had been serving as the Chief of Homewood PD and was also as a member of the Lansing Board of Fire and Police Commissioners. During Chief McDevitt’s tenure the department continued to progress with new updates being made to the 911Telecommunications System which included new in-car computers operating on a wireless network. In-car video systems were also added to provide video evidence on traffic stops. New equipment was added in the form of AR-15 rifles to replace outdated police shotguns in the police vehicles. Also new .40 caliber firearms were purchased to replace the 9mm pistols. The staffing of the police department grew to its highest point by 2004 when the department had 66 full time officers, 10 part time officers, 9 dispatchers and 13 non-sworn staff positions.
Following the retirement of Chief McDevitt in 2009, Dennis Murrin Jr. was appointed as Chief of Police. Under his leadership there have been several upgrades to both equipment and services. This included the total makeover of the records, dispatch and field reporting software systems. A new software vendor was introduced which allowed these three separate functions to all be integrated into a single component. New laptop computers as well as new in-car video cameras were integrated into the computers and replaced outdated equipment. Video surveillance at the police department was updated as well. Outside capital improvements including the resurfacing of the parking lot, the replacement of the original roof on the facility, and upgrading the Firearm Training Simulator and range. The department also replaced AR 15 rifles with new ones. The department also implemented a new work schedule for officers and implemented a department wide community policing initiative in which members of the department engage residents to address issues that affect them.
While much has changed throughout the history of the Lansing Police Department, the one constant that has remained is our Loyal commitment to serve the Village and the community. The police department staff takes great Pride in working with all members of the community to proactively address issues or concerns. We have a deep Devotion to establish positive relationships and serve those in need and to make our community safer.