Creating the State Police in Colorado
By the turn of the century, Colorado was an important industrial state, with coal and hard-metal mining, the smelting of ore, and the refining of beet sugar as its primary economic concerns. Along with the industrial states of the Northeast, Colorado had more than its share of labor disputes and related violence. From 1890 to 1914 the state experienced numerous strikes, lockouts, violence, the implementation of martial law, and the use of federal troops to restore order. The violence associated with these labor disputes culminated in 1914 with the infamous Ludlow Massacre. 1
Throughout the period, local officials, such as the municipal police and county sheriffs, attempted to maintain order. More often than not, however, state militia and federal troops had to be called to control the disturbances associated with labor disputes. In addition, mine and refinery owners employed private police to guard their property and provide protection for strike breakers. Although effective in controlling the working class, the militia and private police increased worker hostility toward employers and the state government and generate middle-class sympathy for the workers by the brutality and violence used in suppressing strikes. Searching for a solution to the dilemma of maintaining order without offending the middle class, government officials and business leaders concluded that a state-controlled police force would be the best response.