October 21, 1871 | National Police Convention


“Should the convention be held it will undoubtedly lead to results practically beneficial, and a code of rules and regulations may be adopted whereby the whole detective force of the country can act in union, for the prevention and detection of crime.…”

—New Orleans Republican, April 30, 1871

Hopes were high for the first National Police Convention. Chief James McDonough of the St. Louis (MO) Police Department had spent the spring of 1871 visiting with police departments all across the country discussing potential topics for the conference and urging police leadership to attend.

The Convention drew 112 police chiefs and chiefs of detectives to St. Louis in October of 1871 and was the focus of media attention throughout the nation. The conventioneers composed the following list of items for consideration:

  1. For improving the conditions of the abandoned youth of both sexes.
  2. To provide a systematic plan for transmitting detective information throughout the country.
  3. Consideration of the question of the social evil.
  4. For a perfect system of Police telegraphing throughout the several States.
  5. The subject of photographs, and a regular system for exchange of the same.
  6. The subject of reward for extraordinary service.

On the following days, the Convention also took up the problem of organized gangs stealing from the railroads and set up a subcommittee on the forming of memorials. Governor Brown of Missouri spoke of the importance of a National Police Convention and exhorted them to “reassemble and continue to meet again and again, and the time must come when more attention will be paid to the reformation of criminals.”

Washington, DC, was chosen to host the 2nd National Police Convention in 1872, but it never happened. It took 22 years before the next National Police Convention was held in Chicago. Over three days in 1893, 51 police executives hashed out the general outlines of the organization that would eventually become the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).