State Police Development in Illinois, 1917-1929
The purpose of this chapter is to describe the historical events involved in the attempts to create a state police force in Illinois. The focus of the discussion is on identifying the various individuals and organizations involved in the process and locating them in relationship to each other. Specific analysis of these facts, with an eye toward explaining the process, is presented in Chapter 6.
The first attempt to develop a state police in Illinois took place in 1917 with the introduction of two bills to the 50th General Assembly. Both bills died quietly, failing to generate much legislative or public support. But beginning in 1919, and lasting for the following ten years, state police legislation was introduced or proposed in every legislative session. The central figure in this process was Senator Henry M. Dunlap. A veteran of the legislature (having been elected for his first term in 1892), Dunlap was a wealthy fruit farmer from Savoy in central Illinois. Between 1919 and 1929, Dunlap served as the primary sponsor and advocate of state police legislation, and for this reason his name eventually became synonymous with the state police issue in Illinois. However, the efforts of Dunlap and others proved ineffective as none of their bills were successfully passed in the legislature. Primary opposition came from organized labor, particularly the Illinois State Federation of Labor, which at the time was under the control of John H. Walker, its president. With the help of Governor Len Small and prolabor legislators, Walker was able to prevent the passage of state police legislation.