The History of the New Mexico State Police Motorcycle Unit
The History of the New Mexico State Police Motorcycle UnitBefore the Motor Patrol was formed, there were several different agencies involved with enforcing motor laws. Chiefly the Corporation Commission, the Motor Vehicle Bureau, the Gasoline Tax Department of the State Comptrollers office, and the State Highway Department were responsible for employing field men to enforce the laws pertaining directly to their departments.Field men for the Corporation Commission were interested in seeing that truckers and buses acting as common carriers obtained necessary permits. Field men for the Motor Vehicle Bureau were interested in seeing that all automobiles bore the correct license plates, while field men for the State Highway Department were interested in protecting roads and bridges from overloaded trucks. Since most of the revenue collected by all of these branches of government were eventually applied to the construction and maintenance of roads, the State Highway Department was directly interested in seeing that all of the laws were equally enforced.With the various sets of field men scattered over the state, it was inevitable that duplication and overlapping of duties would occur. Necessity for a group of men, who would operate under central control, instead of under supervision of several departments, soon became apparent. It was also apparent that the field men should be clothed with greater authority than that possessed by the former department’s deputies. A centrally controlled, highly mobile police organization was also needed to patrol the highways in the interest of general law enforcement.A motor patrol was to combine the duties of various departmental field men and at the same time be clothed with authority extending to branches of law enforcement and to all sections of the state.
It was decided to equip the patrolmens motorcycles rather than automobiles. The motorcycles would be 1934 Harley-Davidsons equipped with first aid kits, fire extinguisher, sirens, and a red light and a white spot light.They would be ordered from the motorcycle Harley-Davidson dealer in Albuquerque owned by future State Police Officer Kenneth Miller.
On August 15, 1933 ten men were commissioned at a graduation ceremony. Earl Irish was chosen to be the Chief Patrolman and would remain in Santa Fe. Other appointments were E.J. house, also to remain in Santa Fa, Ivan Beckner and Lacy Shortridge to be stationed in Albuquerque, M.G. Benavides and Charles Miller to Raton, Phillip Coyle and Ivan Johnson stationed in Deming. Henry Eager and Carlos Salas were stationed in Roswell. These district stations coincided with the Highway Department district offices. The salary for the Chief Patrolman was $150.00 a month and $125.00 for a patrolman. Also hired was a civilian clerk, Joe Berardinelli and two special deputies. Chief Irish, Patrolman House, the clerk and the two deputies would work out of the little office that was located in the basement of the Captiol building.
The Motor Patrol uniform consisted of brown leather boots and a Sam Browne. The hat brim was also of brown leather. Patrolmen wore forest green shirt and breeches in the winter and a tan shirt in the summer. The hat was also of a forest green material. The dress uniform was a forest green blouse and a white shirt worn with a black bow tie. The badge was of polished brass. The side arm was a .38 caliber revolver and carried in a holster with a flap. Later, all leather gear was changed to black. The men were allowed a clothing allowance of $10.00 a month.
On October 1, 1933, upon the death of Governor Seligman, new Governor Hockenhull replaced Chief Irish with E.J. House. Earl Irish stayed on as a patrolman. Chief House was selected because of his many years of law enforcement experience.
Chief House started printing a Motor patrol Bulletin that listed the Motor Patrol Officers and most of the reported stolen vehicles and other items along with wanted subjects. This not only proved to be helpful in communicating police related items among all lawmen, but also served as a good public relations tool between the Motor Patrol and the local law enforcement agencies.
In late 1933, Chief House set up a broadcasting system with KOB Radio Station in Albuquerque. Every week local law officers would wire all law matters that were to be broadcast to Chief House at the Motor Patrol Headquarters. The Motor Patrol would sent it to KOB to air twice a day, at twelve noon and at six in the evening, except on Sunday.
Information and Photos provided by the New Mexico State Police