Vintage Riley County Police Investigation Photo

In the 1855 act which created Riley County, the Territorial Legislature authorized the territorial governor to appoint a sheriff to serve until an election could be held. Governor Reeder appointed Seth L. Child in the spring of 1855 as the first Riley County Sheriff. His jurisdiction ran from the Blue River to the crest of the Rocky Mountains. W.H. Davis was elected in the fall to a two year term of office. The duties of the sheriff included collecting taxes in the county, custody of the jail, preserving the peace, pursuing and apprehending felons or persons charged with any misdemeanor crime or misdemeanor, and executing warrants and civil papers.

The Sheriff had the power to appoint as many deputies as he felt necessary and county government could support financially. Until 1960, the sheriff’s office consisted of the sheriff, undersheriff, and the sheriff’s wife, who prepared meals for prisoners and functioned as a part-time dispatcher. At the time of consolidation the Riley County Sheriff department had one employee full-time to keep records and dispatch, four road deputies, one civil process server, four jailers and the undersheriff who was responsible for training and administration along with the elected sheriff.

The Manhattan Town Association was adopted on June 28, 1855. The City was laid out on two Indian "floats" owned by Joseph Tennery and Jarred Dawson (a float was 640 acres). These men were members of the Wyandotte Tribe, which had been moved here from their reservations in Ohio and allotted "floats" in payment for their land and improvements on the reservation they left.

The Manhattan Police Department has as its precursor the single position of town marshal, established on June 27, 1857, by the city council. James L Gardanir was the first city marshal. Gardanir resigned after four and one-half months on the job. His early resignation is understandable, since his duties included, in addition to enforcing the law; cleaning the schoolhouse, filling the empty water wells, and cleaning rubbish from the city streets. In 1857 city streets were littered with organic matter not seen there since the advent of the horseless carriage. His salary was $50.00 per year. In 1873, special officers were hired as night watchmen and to assist the marshal in his duties. As the town grew, the town marshal was provided additional personnel. At the time of consolidation the Manhattan Police Department employed 40 sworn officers supported by 16 non-sworn members. The only other local police service in the county at the time of consolidation was the Ogden Police Department. The Ogden Town Company was officially chartered by the territorial Legislature in 1857. Despite early setbacks, the town grew in population and was incorporated as a third-class city by an act of the legislature, February 7, 1859. At the time of consolidation, the Ogden Police force consisted of two full-time officers and one part-time officer. The two police departments and the sheriff's office consolidated on January 1, 1974 and created the Riley County Police Department. At that time, the Office of the Sheriff as well as all Municipal police departments were abolished. Consolidation of the three agencies required a great amount of work, as you might imagine. Housing had to be arranged, personnel evaluated and assigned/appointed, studies conducted to determine patrol districts/beats, equipment had to be acquired, policies written, etc.

To learn more about the history of Manhattan and Riley County visit the Riley County Historical Museum web site.