History We are very proud of our history. Below is a brief history and under the menu bar are links to some archived photos along with current LJPD photos.
Bat Masterson and Wife Emma, Courtesy of Marian and Micky Osmond
A Brief History of the
La Junta Police Department
Prepared by Vince Fraker
In February of 1903, the unknown town Marshall of a small railroad town in Southeast Colorado stepped out of his home as the first uniformed police officer in La Junta, Colorado. Since then the citizens of La Junta have seen several uniformed police officers come and go. Each one of those officers left a positive mark on this community. They all helped build a department that stands on the integrity of its officers, the dedication of its supervisors, and the forward thinking of it’s Chief of Police. The La Junta Police Department has always been a department that led the way in the field of Law Enforcement. This was highlighted by the formation of the first all volunteer reserve police officer unit. This article will cover the many leaders of the department, along with important events in its history, while also focusing on the department’s involvement in the community.
The following history has been put together from a variety of different resources. The La Junta Tribune Democrat newspapers stored at the Woodruff Municipal Library were thoroughly researched by Heather. She was instrumental in researching the department and provided a majority of the information contained below. Mike Steeves of the La Junta Police Reserve provided a unique look at the history of law enforcement in La Junta prior to 1900. I would also like to thank the La Junta Police Reserve for opening their files and allowing a look back in to the history of their organization. Every effort has been made to deliver accurate information to you the reader and give credit to those that wrote it. If you see anything that you have specific knowledge of please email the address at the bottom of the page. There are several holes in the history that I would love to fill.
The Town of La Junta:
The town of La Junta, (the junction), was founded in December 1875, and was incorporated May 15, 1881. The first mayor was Mr. J.C. Denny. In 1891, the city saw an influx of settlers and it’s population increased to 2,500. The city was a focal point for the railroad companies, farmers, and cattle barons of the period. The City of La Junta was still a part of the Old West and this can be seen by the colorful history of the first Town Marshal’s. It seems that it was not uncommon for the town Marshall’s of the day to be gunned down, arrested or removed from their office.
Tom Shay, a drunk and disrepute, was the first known marshal in 1877. The legendary Bat Masterson followed Tom in 1884. Charles Lothrop took over in 1886, followed by James Hickman in 1887; Alex Hickman in 1889; A.J. Rock in 1889; George C. Crum in late 1889 (we seem to have had a bit of on-going 'issues' with crooked marshals). George C. Taylor in 1890, Orren Gimmell in 1891 and then John Lewis in 1892. Lewis is famous for shooting Jose Isa "Mad Dog" Madril, who had attempted to break into Judge Russel's house. He fled to a restaurant in town, taking the customers hostage. When Lewis arrived, Madril fled down Anderson Arroyo pursued by Lewis. Madril then attacked Lewis with a large knife; Lewis shot him through the arm and hooked him into jail. Madril was allegedly in love with a 10-year-old girl whose parents’ refusal to consent to marriage unbalanced Madril. (Steeves)
From 1892 to 1971 there is little known about who held the office of Chief of Police. We know that in February of 1903, an unknown town Marshall appeared in a police uniform for the first time. I was recently informed by Holli Coulman, great granddaughter to David Houghton of the following:
"David H. Houghton who was born in Santa Fe. He is the son of Joab Houghton had come to Santa Fe as the Minister to Mexico and later was one of the first Chief Justices of the New Mexico Territory. David H. Houghton was named United States Marshall after serving with the mounted police in 1882. He came to Colorado in 1898 and was in the cattle business. He was elected Otero County Sheriff in 1922 and held that position until he was named La Junta Chief of Police in 1932. He held that position until he retired on April 20, 1947"
The City of La Junta has operated as a Department of Public Safety for several years. A Department of Public Safety is a combination of both Police and Fire Employees into one department. This lends to a unified command system and administrative outlook. In 1964, the Fire Chief Jack Fowler was appointed the Director of Public Safety and the Captain of the police department was Lavern Eubank. In the fall of 1971 Mr. Eubank was appointed as the Director of Public Safety, upon Mr. Fowler’s retirement. On September 1, 1971 Gilbert Sinks took the position of Chief of Police under Director Eubank. Mr. Sinks left this position in August of 1973. With Eubank taking on the responsibilities of Chief of Police until his retirement on January 15, 1982. Mr. Eubank had a 30-year career in Law Enforcement. During his tenure the Police Department acquired a photo lab, crime lab and a classroom facility. Dave Bell assumed the role of Chief of Police and the Director of Public Safety position was abolished. Mr. Bell sat as the Chief of Police until November 1983. At this point Charles ‘Chuck’ Widup took over until the spring of 2003. Mr. Widup was extremely influential to the department and saw it through a lot of tough times. Chuck’s philosophy of building a strong department with the help of the community was the cornerstone of his tenure as Police Chief. In the spring of 2003 the Director of Public Safety position was again filled by Assistant City Manager Bill Jackson. Mr. Jackson continues to hold that position. In 2003, Captain Richard Wren took on the position of Head of Operations and stayed in that capacity until his retirement in the summer of 2005. Cpt. Greg Kirkland took on the role of Chief of Police in 2005 and left shortly thereafter. In the fall of 2005, Todd Quick took over the reins and currently holds the position of Chief. Chief Quick’s philosophy of "Committed to the Community" has made several positive changes to the department in just a few short years. Chief Quick has brought the department into the 21st century with this website and other recent grant applications.
May 1982 – La Junta forms Crimestoppers. The La Junta Crimestoppers was a new idea at the time. The program had a lot of attention from the community and was influential in solving several local crimes.
December 1982 – "Sons of Silence" motorcycle gang regional president Terry L. Nolde arrested for carrying a concealed weapon.
July 1983 – La Junta receives state DUI grant in the amount of $15, 706.
January 1985 – K-9 Division is formed by Sgt. Curtis Miller and Nick, a 5-year old german shepard. The K-9 Division would continue for several years. In addition to Sgt. Miller, Officer Don Blair and Cpt. Richard Wren also served as K-9 officers. These officers and their K-9 partners' in addition to their patrol duties competed in several regional competitions and won several awards.
January 1985 – LJPD receives the First Annual Fleet Safety Award from the Colorado Intergovernmental Risk Sharing Agency.
September 1986 – Chief Charles Widup is appointed to the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
January 1989 – La Junta receives a traffic school. While not the most welcomed program to come to the community it did allow ‘offenders’ to complete traffic school in the area instead of having to drive to Pueblo for a class.
July 1989 – LJPD receives it’s first ‘Road Fangs’ designed to stop cars trying to evade apprehension. At the time these Fangs were state of the art. They consisted of two metal bands with two-inch steel spikes. The fangs weighed in excess of 20 pounds.
December 1989 – In effort improve officer safety, Chief Chuck Widup begins to research and eventually approve the use of semiautomatic pistols.
July 2002 – LJPD receives a ‘SWAT’ vehicle from a donation by the Raton Police Department, and the La Junta Police Reserve.
July 2006 – LJPD receives a Thermal Imager from a Homeland Security Grant. This will allow officers to search for missing persons and suspects at night. Since receiving the imager it has been used in several search and rescue operations in Otero and Crowley Counties.
January 2007 – LJPD applies for and receives a grant from the Colorado Department of Transportation for DUI enforcement. This grant led to the purchase of 4 Portable Breath Test machines and their software. These ‘PBT’s’ will be utilized by the patrol officers during their regular patrol duties.
October 2007 – LJPD and the Otero County Sheriffs Office recieve approval for a Mobile Command Trailer through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. This trailer will be a versatile staging area for both departments in major public events and natural disasters. It will feature communications equipment, internet access, generator and other command function equipment.
NOTE: This is a work in progress. This is not a complete history. If you would like to see something added please email Officer Vince Fraker at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be specific and provide contact information. Thank you for taking the time to learn a little more about your police department.