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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Thomas Reilly became Dubuque's chief of police in 1904, the year the office of city marshal was abolished. Photo courtesy. Mike Reilly
DUBUQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT. Philip Moreheiser was named Dubuque's first marshal and collector of fees and levies on April 1, 1837. By March 3,1841, with a city government and a charter, Dubuque city officials named B. F. Davis the marshal. Troublemakers were then held in a jail on the grounds of the present day WASHINGTON PARK.

City marshals aided only by a group of city watchmen and concerned citizens were often replaced with the election of new city officials. In 1856 Peter KIENE was chosen marshal, but two years later E. R. Shankland occupied the office located in the DUBUQUE CITY HALL. Philip Moreheiser returned to the force as first captain. The city was subdivided into three police districts; each was supervised by a sergeant.

This organized police force lasted until it was disbanded by the city council in 1859. This wasfollowed by an increase in all manner of crimes in Dubuque — fires,burglaries, pickpockets. During three months in the spring of 1859 there were stolen in Dubuque alone twenty-five cows. (1) Between then and 1861 Thomas Fleming was a marshal in name only. The marshal recommended an ordinance establishing a chain gang and his advice was accepted. (2) Philip Moreheiser founded a short-lived independent police group called Moreheiser and Company that served only those who could afford their services.

Beginning in 1861 the city of Dubuque again witnessed a period of rapid changeover in the marshal’s office. Jacob Swivell was appointed in 1861 and served until the appointment in 1863 of C. G. Hargus who served two years until the appointment of Allen Leathers. Philip Moreheiser returned to duty in 1867. During this term of his duty, the City Council designated the city prison to be the east end of the basement in the Dubuque City Hall.

In 1870 Edward Hardee was appointed marshal. In 1873, in addition to Hardee as marshal, Michael Sutton was named Chief of Police. The uniform to be worn by members of the police department was the subject of an ordinance passed on February 6, 1873. Specified tailors were selected in the community to make uniforms that the officers had to purchase.

John KINTZINGER was appointed marshal in 1874 while Patrick Ryder became captain of the day police. Kintzinger was replaced by George W. Finn in 1875. Henry Deckert was appointed marshal in 1877 when the police department was moved to the second floor of a building on the northeast corner of Main and Fourth Streets. Deckert remained in office until 1881, the year the police headquarters were transferred to the Dubuque City Hall. Kintzinger, the former marshal, was appointed police captain.

F. J. Zugenbuehler, appointed marshal in 1884, was replaced by Edward Moore in 1886 who was replaced in 1888 by John RAESLE. In 1888 the City of Dubuque purchased a horse-drawn police wagon that operated out of the Old Central Fire Station at Ninth and Iowa Streets.

Samuel B. Rice served as marshal from 1890 to 1894 when he too was replaced by John Raesle. The police patrol station was moved in 1894 to the northeast corner of Thirteenth and Washington Streets. Raesle returned to being captain of the police in 1896 when Edward Morgan was appointed marshal. Raesle left the department by 1898 but returned in 1899 as a patrolman. In 1901 he was once again the captain. During this time, female and juvenile detention facilities were added to the jail. Dubuque's first police matron was Miss Bridget Brennan.

In 1905 the entire Dubuque police force posed in this Adams-Farwell three-seater.

The office of City Marshall was abolished in 1904 when Thomas Reilly became the chief of police. The same year the position of police detective was created. The city's first two detectives were John Raesle and Thomas Sweeney.

Program for the first annual Policemen's Ball (1901)
Dance card for the ball.
Civil service, first applied to the department in 1907, did not affect the position of Chief of Police. James R. Pickley was appointed police chief in 1907 but was replaced by a new MAYOR in 1911 when Reilly returned to his former position. Reilly was succeeded in 1913 by John Raesle.

The first Chief with a long term of duty was John Giellis who held the position from 1915 until his retirement in 1939. A former employee of the Knapp-Stout bucket factory in Dubuque and then the STANDARD LUMBER COMPANY, Giellis left the lumber business in 1911. At the request of Sheriff Jim Dunn, he became a deputy sheriff and court bailiff. When James SAUL became mayor in 1914, one of this first acts was to appoint John Giellis to the office of chief of police.

Giellis immediately began reorganizing the department. In 1914 the department inherited by Giellis had forty-three men. Those on the night shift worked thirteen hours while those employed during the day worked eleven. There were no automobiles or motorcycles--just one horse-drawn patrol wagon. The officers had no police telegraph alarm system, machine guns, tear gas, sawed-off shotguns or riot guns. The Gainwell Police Telegraph, a system of eighteen call boxes placed throughout the patrol districts, was added in 1921. Foot patrols were called to the box by a red light and a ringing bell. he system served the city well in the 1960s.

By 1933 the department had thirty-nine personnel, two motorcycles, a fleet of squad cars and, according to the Telegraph Herald at the time, all the latest weapons needed to combat criminals. (3) Giellis served from 1914 to 1920 and was appointed chief under the city manager form of government when it was begun in 1920.

Upon the retirement of Chief Giellis on January 1, 1939, Detective Joseph H. Strub was appointed Chief of Police. Strub retired on February 1, 1952, and was replaced by Hugh B. Callahan who remained in the position until March 1, 1960. Thirty-year veteran Captain Percy LUCAS was appointed chief. He remained in office until September 1, 1970, when he retired and was succeeded by Assistant Chief Robert O'BRIEN.

Shoulder patch in 2010
Robert O'Brien retired late in December 1984, ending a career of fourteen years as chief of police. On May 28, 1985, John J. MAUSS, an eighteen and one-half year veteran of the department, was sworn in as the new police chief. One of the new chief's priorities was to seek accreditation for the department. This indicated that it conformed with standards established by top law enforcement departments in the nation.

The police department saw many improvements in its equipment during the early 1900s.

During the 1920s all police department vehicles, consisting of one motorcycle, two cars, and a paddy wagon were motorized. The rise of the violent gangsters in the late 1920s led Chief Geillis in 1932 to purchase the first of several machine guns. Dubuque City Hall employees were startled one afternoon in 1932 when the new firearms were tested on the third floor pistol range.

The rank of police officers at this time could be determined by the uniform. Sergeants, captains, and the police chief kept their weapons hidden while officers wore their firearms outside their coats. The former group indicated their rank by the number of stars on their collars.

The police department left its offices in the Dubuque City Hall in December 1974, for new headquarters in the Law Enforcement Center at 770 Iowa Street with state-of-the-art communications and investigative tools.

In 1986 police were given the opportunity to be equipped with the Nova XR5000 electronic control device, better known as stun guns. Powered by a nine-volt radio battery, the $80.00 gun produced 50,000 volts, but only 4 milli-amps of current. Each officer to use the weapon had eight hours of training and was instructed to closely follow a policy manual.

In 2011 the fifteenth session of the Citizen's Police Academy was offered to residents of the city. The purpose of the program was to build better understanding between citizens and the police through education. Classroom time involved presentations regarding arrest procedures, search and seizure, use of force, laws and policies, police procedures, domestic abuse cases, sexual abuse cases, drug enforcement, OWIs, officer safety and prevention programs. Requirements for participation in the program included the applicant be a resident of the city, be at least 18 years of age, and have no felony convictions or significant arrest history. The classes involved twelve three hour sessions. There was also a mandatory ride-along with a patrol officer and an optional firearms sessions. (4)



1. Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County. http://www.ebooksread.com/authors-eng/franklin-t-oldt/history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl/page-13-history-of-dubuque-county-iowa-being-a-general-survey-of-dubuque-county-histor-tdl.shtml

2. Ibid. p. 17

3. Telegraph Herald, March 19, 1933

4. "Citizens' Academy Offered," Julien's Journal, January 2011, p. 6