The History of the Delaware State Police Motorcycle Unit
Thoughts on the topic of forming a State Police organization for the First State had been recorded as early as 1906. Although interest existed, little, if any, positive steps were taken until the State Highway Commission was formed in 1917. As construction of paved highways was begun and registered motor vehicles began to rise, a need to regulate and maintain safety soon became apparent.
The first traffic law enforcement officers were given the auspicious title of “Highway Traffic Police.” Started in 1919, the H.T.P. consisted of one officer whose sole function was to patrol the Philadelphia Pike near Wilmington. In the following year the force was increased to three men and three motorcycles. From 1920 to 1923 these men served directly under the State Highway Commission. However, the winds of change were on the near horizon.
Governor William Denney addressed the General Assembly on January 3, 1923, and during his message stated “In my judgment the police force of the Highway Department is not adequate . . . I desire to suggest that a State Police force be organized . . . .” On April 23, 1923, the General Assembly, at the request of the State Highway Department, enacted two laws that created the Delaware State Police. This date marks the official organization of the present law enforcement organization.
The mode of travel during the time period, 1923 to 1930, was the motorcycle. From 1923 to 1928, State Highway Police were assigned the famous “Indian” cycle. A number of these cycles were equipped with a side car which served two purposes. The first was a place to carry either a passenger or the poor miscreant that had the misfortune to encounter the officer. The second was to provide stability and ensure a safer ride. The stalwart “Indian” later gave way once again to the Harley-Davidson. At the 1928 annual inspection, all members of the division were assigned brand new machines as a part of their personal equipment.
Information and Photos provided by Major Kevin McDerby Delaware State Police Museum. Thank you Major McDerby