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La Crosse County SO

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HISTORY OF THE SHERIFF'S DEPT

In the last segment it was mentioned that the introduction of the automobile and better roads allowed the community to prosper in the early 1900's.  Cars, trucks and busses also brought a new set of problems for law enforcement.

 

By 1905, La Crosse had one car dealership and two automobile repair shops.  It was 1910 before a record of the first gas station appears.  In 1911, the City of La Crosse decided it needed a speed limit.  6 MPH was established downtown and 15 MPH on the remaining streets.

 

Traffic problems weren't much of a concern in the rural area until the early 1920's.  At that time, La Crosse County established a series of arterial highways.  Most people simply ignored the new yellow stop signs.

 

In 1925, La Crosse County adopted its first traffic ordinances.  They established that people under 16 needed an adult along to operate a vehicle; speed limits were 30 MPH on public highways, 15 MPH within the limits of the village, 12 MPH in cemeteries, parks, near schools, hospitals, and on the grounds of the poor farm.  All vehicles over 2 tons had to have a mirror.  All vehicles were required to have brakes or a bell, horn or other signal device.  Head lamps were required after dark, but tail lamps aren't mentioned until an amendment in 1927.  The 1927 amendment also mentions that vehicles over two tons are now required to have brakes.

 

The only employees in the sheriff's department were two jailers and the undersheriff.  In order to enforce these new laws the ordinance provided for the hiring of a special deputy who would only work on traffic enforcement.  His duties were directed by the Committee For Roads and Bridges.  The first traffic officer was Ralph Bradley.  He started his duties June 1, 1925.  He was paid $125 per month and supplied with a motorcycle and the gas he needed to run it.  As of October 31 of that year, he had generated $912 in fines and cost the County $1,278.6 including the purchase of the cycle.

 

Minutes of the annual meeting indicated that some board members thought that one part-time traffic officer wasn't enough.  They also took up a proposal that this position be made full-time.  The Board was embroiled in the Sheriff Ristow controversy at the time and took no action.  In 1926 they added another part-time traffic patrolman, a S.J. Mendell.  In an attempt to make traffic enforcement more effective without increasing the budget further, they directed the Sheriff to deputize the board members, Highway Commissioner, and road maintenance personnel.

 

It wasn't until 1930 that the Board decided that they needed a full-time La Crosse County Highway Police Department.  They hired a "Captain In Charge" to run the department and authorized the two former part-time employees to become full-time.

LCSO HISTORY
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV