Portland Vigilance Police, 1923

The Portland Vigilance Police posing during Police Bureau Sunshine Division activities, 1923. In the front row from the left to right is Sergeant Carroll Tichenor, Captain Leon Jenkins, Mayor and George Baker. Can anyone identify others in the image?


City of Portland (OR) Archives, A2002-009.7.


View this image in Efiles by clicking here.

7 thoughts on “Portland Vigilance Police, 1923

  1. If you can reach the Historical Oregonian — a digital resource available free online to those with Multnomah County Public Library cards — you’ll see several articles about them. The first I found, dated April 1, 1923, has the headline, “Vigilante Police are Valuable Adjunct to Regular Force in Crime Supression: Trustworthy Citizens 100 Strong Cooperate Secretly With Peace Officers….” It comes with quite an illustration, too. Apparently a budget cut resulted in the formation of this secret force.

    A little further on the list of citations I found is one dated June 3, 1922 about the arrest of one of the Vigilantes, L.A. Hansen, for stealing a pair of binoculars from the quartermaster’s quarters on the steamship, “City of Bombay!”

  2. According to an Oregonian feature piece on the Vigilance Police from 1924 (24 Mar 1924 p. 4) and other media, Portland was a sort of pioneer in setting up this auxiliary police force. The idea was hatched by mayor Baker and Police Chief Jenkins in 1921-22 after the state legislature ordered cuts in funds allocated to local police, resulting in the loss of 40 uniformed positions in Portland. The pre-existing police reserve was used a basis for the VP, which eventually was subject to more careful recruitment and vetting after many members dropped out due to lack of interest. By early 1924, the auxiliary cops numbered no more than 100, organized into six squads led by volunteer “sergeants.” Baker and Jenkins ultimately decided to restrict membership to select members of the local business community. Tichenor, a regular force member, was in overall charge along with Baker. In addition to charitable functions as shown in the photo from today’s post, these part-time cops joined in stake-outs for burglars, enforced traffic laws with powers to arrest, backfilled the entire force when everybody was away for an annual inspection, and provided extra manpower around Rose Festival time. They may also have worked with the regular force “Red Squad” later on in the 1920s-30s.

    As of March 1924, the key PVP staff were C.H. Tichenor, police inspector in charge; citizen sergeants H.L. Depending, U. Dewitt Maxson, C.H. Robinson, Maynard Cole, Harry Tracy and Paul J. Clonnett; and secretary S.G. Denison. They are probably in the front row of today’s VP post. In 1927 businessman Norm A. Thompson was one of the volunteer squad sergeants. He is shown in a photo from the a 1927 issue of the Northwest Police Journal (see link below).

  3. Ah yes. Mayor Baker. The Mayor who joyfully posed for pictures with hooded members of the KKK and who delighted in suppressing legitimate union activities. No surprise he would establish a secret police force. No doubt their activities were strictly above board.

  4. I disagree that he joyfully posed. Some have reported that the clansmen appeared just as the picture was taken. The picture supports that.

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