History of the
Cook County Sheriff’s Police Department
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Although the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department can trace its roots back to May,1831, when James Kinzie became the first Sheriff of Cook County, movement towards its present form actually began in the late 1930's and early 1940's. During this period, there was a marked increase in suburban traffic and a significant lack of police patrol. It was then that the Sheriff's Department formed the Highway Deputy Sheriff's, who patrolled on motorcycles.
In 1952, the Highway Deputy Sheriff's were renamed the Cook County Police and during this era, Department officers wore what was informally known as the "Tombstone Patch." The transition to motor vehicle patrol took full effect in the 1950's and during this period the Department operated its own ambulance and towing service. The color of the squad cars changed from black and white to all white during the 1960's. To this day, Sheriff's Police drive all white vehicles.
The image of the County Police began to change in 1962 under Sheriff Richard Ogilvie. He began by changing the color of the uniform from blue to brown, and switched from the "Tombstone Patch" to a shield-styled patch which was worn on both shoulders. A "County Flag" patch was approved in the late 1970's for the right shoulder of the uniform and is still worn today.
Between 1966 and 1970, Joseph Woods served as Sheriff. During his tenure, a group of pioneering Department members drafted the first ever quadrennial report for the Cook County Sheriff's Police Department. This report noted the accomplishments under the current administration and forecasted personnel growth and other changes within the Department. The remarkable thing about this report was that its recommendations, including pay scales, equipment purchases and new communications center, were adopted by Woods' successor, Sheriff Richard Elrod.
In 1990, Michael F. Sheahan was sworn in as the 51st Sheriff of Cook County. Under his direction, a decentralization of the Department took place which now has officers assigned to District Stations in Bridgeview, Markham, Rolling Meadows and Skokie. This decentralization is the cornerstone for enhanced productivity in all areas of police operations as we continue policing efforts in the 21st Century.
Thomas J. Dart was sworn in December 2006 as the Sheriff of Cook County. As Sheriff, Dart has enacted a variety of reforms in a concerted effort to reshape the Sheriff’s Office. Under Dart’s directive, the Sheriff’s Police have initiated a variety of stings, crackdowns, and investigations of criminal activity. He has been in the forefront in breaking up dog fighting rings and presided over the arrests of prostitution rings that use the internet as their advertising arm.