See Cape Girardeau’s history in person at the River Heritage Museum. Students from Southeast Missouri State University’s Historic Preservation Program have designed and installed new exhibits on Cape Girardeau’s fire and police departments. Upcoming events at the museum include Cape’s Move and Theatre History. Visit www.caperiverheritagemuseum.com online for more information.
The Police and Fire Departments once shared a facility that is now the River Heritage Museum at the corner of Independence and Frederick streets. View a related blog/image from the Southeast Missourian.
In 1909, a new police station and jail was erected at the corner of Frederick and Independence Streets. Both police and fire departments shared the building until 1960 when the police department moved to a building that was formerly occupied by the Grace Methodist Church at the corner of Sprigg and Independence Streets. During these years, the Cape Girardeau Police Department consisted of approximately 24 men and was led by several Chiefs of Police, including Captain Fritz Schneider. In a magazine article from the July 1955 Edition of the Missouri Peace Officers Association “Law Enforcement,” Mr. Bob Rouce, State Representative for Law Enforcement described the Cape Girardeau Police Department as follows… “Two officers are graduates of the FBI Academy, Captain F. L. Schneider and Sergeant M.F. Morton. The department has three police cars and two motorcycles. It has two-way radio equipment in all vehicles except the motorcycles, which have a receiver only. Mr. William Leon McLaughlin is the commissioner over the department.” Mr. Rouse described Chief Schneider as something “as a novelty among policemen.” “At least a half a dozen times during his 18 years with the department, he has been offered the job of Chief of Police, and an equal number of times, he has answered with a polite, but firm no.” According to the article in September of 1954, an auxiliary police unit was recruited with the strength of over 60 men. According to Captain Schneider, the auxiliary policemen played a dual role as both as civil defense policeman and also as a special policeman. “Police vehicles were equipped with riot guns, as well as Thompson machine guns, and tear gas was always on hand for any emergency. Although the Cape Girardeau Police Department [is situated such that] a crime could be committed and the offender could flee to several other states in a few hours, it does enjoy a low crime rate; there has been a decline in burglary offenses and an effective patrol system has been carried out.” The basement of the new police department was also used as a jail with room for about 16 prisoners.
As the department continued to grow, it was recognized that the police facility could no longer fulfill the needs of the community and the growth of the police department. In 1973, plans were made for the department’s present headquarters at the corner of Sprigg and Merriwether Streets.
The police department moved into the present facility in the Fall of 1976 at a cost of approximately $825,000. The headquarters building, designed by local architect, Thomas Holshauser, featured a street level garage opened by remote control for bringing in prisoners and a sophisticated communications tower with dual control radio and telephone positions. In addition, the building possessed an armory, a division director’s office, and a complete photo and laboratory, prisoner processing room, locker rooms, interrogation rooms, detective offices, an indoor firing range and a federally approved jail that could hold up to 32 prisoners.