Local History: Our Town – Our Story, History of Law Enforcement in Beaverton

by Ann Koppy, BHSoc Historian23 Henry Mayfield 1947, Beaverton's Police Chief

Permanent organized law enforcement wasn’t a priority of early Oregon Country settlers. They knew how to take care of themselves, and besides that, establishing homes and proving up land claims came first. They did, however, want an imposing individual to protect neighbors from criminals and disorder. Mountain man, farmer, and legislator Joseph L. Meek (1810-1875) filled the bill. In the 1840s he administered the law as sheriff and first federal marshal during the days of the Oregon’s provisional and territorial government.

According to the current Washington County Sheriff’s department, the first sheriff of Twality District–renamed Washington County in 1849–was Thomas Smith, who was succeeded by Robert Poe and Westly Mulky. All served terms of one year or less. They and their successors enforced laws and locked up offenders in the county jail in Hillsboro before Beaverton had its own legal official. Built in 1853, the one-room log structure was a mere 10’ x 16’ that was replaced by a wood frame building in 1870.

Beaverton’s 1893 incorporation documents called for an unpaid mayor, treasurer, recorder, marshal, and four councilmen. Among the first marshals or constables (the words were used interchangeably) were Frank Hendricks in 1894, W.F. Desinger 1905 or earlier, and C.O. DeBere in 1908. Councilmen awarded Desinger, a carpenter by trade, the contract to build the first city jail and council chambers in June 1906, a project he promised to complete within a month.

Duties went beyond catching burglars, averting would-be kidnappings, or escorting hobos out of town. In 1912 M.K. Emmons warned owners of livestock to keep their animals off city streets and in 1913 Fred Pappel published Ordinance 31, ordering all dogs muzzled from July 1 to September 15. The same year he warned citizens to clean up tin cans and other rubbish as well as cut down overhanging branches. If work wasn’t done by property owners, it would be done for them and costs assessed. The job was by now paid, and Pappel received $40 a month ($975 in today’s currency.) The local newspaper reported Pappel’s arrest of five ruffians wanted for robbing the Oregon Electric Railway depot safe. It’s told he was waiting for a shave in a Beaverton barber shop at the time.

Councilmen appointed Elmer Stipe in 1917 to fill the position of marshal. He would be paid $1.50 per arrest. Stipe assured them city coffers would be filled with fees collected from speeders and other scofflaws. When a civic ordinance closed all public gatherings and imposed quarantine during the 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic, John Kamberger, clerk at Cady & Pegg general merchandise store, was chosen to serve as “special marshal” to enforce that decree.

The city grew as open fields gave way to residential areas and diversified businesses; improved transportation brought new people. With these developments came the need for a full-time policeman in the late 1930s, increasing to five full-time officers in the mid-1950s. Today’s multi-divisional, interagency, accredited Beaverton Police Department traces its heritage to these modest beginnings.

Interested in more local history? Visit www.historicbeaverton.org