Police & Law Enforcement

Historic photos of those who have sworn to "serve and protect" - the first responders in dangerous situations. See more...


"His job involves putting others' needs ahead of yours." - a policeman's wife. This quote sums up the life of most policemen and women and their families. Whether federal, state, or local law enforcement, the lives of the police most often revolve around their chosen profession. This has always been the case.

Often a family tradition of serving the community, generation following after generation, the life of a cop requires a lot of dedication. Long hours, dangerous conditions - domestic disputes are often the most perilous - and, often, the mistrust of the people they are serving, is a grueling experience. While previous generations of police have been good and honorable people, wanting to protect those in their communities, the current racial and political divisions have taken their toll.

Current police officers say such things as:
"I pulled over a female the other day, and it took her a block or two to stop. When she finally did, I asked why, and she said she didn’t want to stop where there wasn’t any light, because she didn’t know what I was going to do to her. I thought, Wow, we’re the bad guys now." - a police officer in Florida

"That anxiety you feel when you encounter us? We feel it too." - a police officer in Ohio

"Before, when we stopped a car, we just walked up, said “You’re speeding,” and asked for license and registration. Now the first thing we ask is if they have a weapon in the vehicle." - an Iowa state trooper.

Times have changed, the cultural environment has changed, but the life of a police officer hasn't. It has only gotten more dangerous. From the lawmen of the Old West to the community patrols of the present, these are the photos of those have chosen to serve and protect, often at their own peril.



This photo was rescued from an antique shop in Seaside, Oregon on January 24, 2015. No name on the back, but some good information: Age 21, Year: 1925 (so subject born ca. 1904). Address is 1814 Toberman Street in Los Angeles. I should be able to track down census or city directories to hopefully get a name.
Added Jan 26, 2015 by: Patti Hutterli
Patti Hutterli
160 favorites
A photo of Officer Peter Arens, Minneapolis Minnesota Police Officer. My grandmother’s father was a police officer early 20th century Minneapolis. He was born in 1873 and died in 1950.
People in this photo:
Bio
1873 - 1950 1873 - 1950
A photo of my Great Grandfather: Fredrick William Green, Omaha Police Officer.
People in this photo:
Bio
c. Jan 17, 1864 - c. Nov 21, 1937 1864 - 1937
Added Aug 26, 2014 by: Ronda Hewett
Ronda Hewett
95 favorites
1877 - 1912 died from lockjaw as a result of a coal mining accident at age 34.
People in this photo:
Bio
Apr 14, 1877 - Dec 7, 1912 1877 - 1912
Added Jun 18, 2014 by: Charles Foertmeyer
Charles Foertmeyer
5 favorites
Topics:
A photo of John Alexander Campbell
People in this photo:
Bio
Dec 27, 1892 - May 16, 1964 1892 - 1964
Added May 13, 2014 by: Glenda Sharry
Glenda Sharry
11 favorites
A photo of John Samonek, 1926 - 2010, in his police uniform.
People in this photo:
Bio
Mar 17, 1926 - Aug 12, 2010 1926 - 2010
Added Apr 27, 2013 by: Chris Samonek
Chris Samonek
7 favorites
Grandpa Alfred O. Swift was elected Town Marshall for Sabula, Iowa. This photo was taken in 1899.
People in this photo:
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
John Elmer Mason, NYPD in 1922, age 22
People in this photo:
Bio
March 1900 - Unknown 1900 - ?
This photo portrait of Bernard Battles was sent to my great-great-grandfather, Roscoe Dabney Chesterman, a policeman in Richmond, Virginia.Though the note is dated 1894, Mr. Battles thanks Mr. Chesterman for his help in September of 1892. Presumably, this concerned police business between the two states.
People in this photo:
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
A photo of a Policewoman and policeman practicing self-defense
Added Jan 11, 2012 by: Ancient Faces
Ancient Faces
450 favorites
A photo of Ray Cortland Young in his U.S. Secret Service uniform.
People in this photo:
Bio
Oct 12, 1894 - Nov 27, 1954 1894 - 1954
Added Jul 28, 2015 by: Barrett Young
Barrett Young
285 favorites
A photo of Willis Washington Mahan and his son Thomas Walter Mahan, taken about 1886 in Waco, Texas, where W. W. Mahan was a constable.
People in this photo:
Bio
Jul 6, 1850 - Unknown 1850 - ?
Added Feb 18, 2002 by: Thomas Tullis
Thomas Tullis
29 favorites
My great-grandfather James Herod Anderson was an officer in the San Francisco Police Department in 1906 and this photo was taken of him standing amidst the rubble of the city's Civic Center soon after the earthquake.
People in this photo:
Bio
Feb 22, 1848 - Oct 31, 1927 1848 - 1927
Added Jul 21, 2004 by: Thomas Anderson
Thomas Anderson
33 favorites
A photo of LT. WILLIAM "WILLIE" STRAUCH, asking "And how can I help?" Lt. Bill Strauch, Homicide Division, Detroit Police Department (Retired). This photo taken in 1967 at the peak of the Detroit riots. Lt. Strauch was with the entry team conducting a raid at a location where someone from above was firing at officers patrolling the street. The Thompson sub-machine gun was being used by the suspect to fire at under-armed police. The perpetrator became a casualty and the 'Tommy Gun' was "kept as evidence" by Strauch until after the riot was under control...about three years later. Lt. Strauch served DPD for twenty-five years. He was born in Oliver #1, Pennsylvania and passed in 2001. He was a U.S. Army veteran and graduated from Cass Tech High School. He raised six sons with his wife, Micky.
People in this photo:
Bio
Jan 24, 1928 - Jun 6, 2001 1928 - 2001
Added Apr 3, 2015 by: Tommy Dale
Tommy Dale
91 favorites
Sgt. Bob Mulvey & Ptl. Lou Schreiner in 1979 at the 105th Precinct near door leading to the parking lot.
People in this photo:
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Omaha Nebraska mounted police officer Born in Bellevue Ohio 1-17-1864 Died 11-21-1937
People in this photo:
Bio
Jan 17, 1864 - Nov 21, 1937 1864 - 1937
Photo of Seattle policemen wearing masks provided by the Red Cross to protect them from influenza. Seattle politicians feared that there would be mass hysteria due to the disease and so urged citizens to stay indoors and avoid congested areas. These Seattle policemen were constantly patrolling the streets during the epidemic.
Added Sep 27, 2011 by: Daniel Pinna
Daniel Pinna
6.44k+ favorites
They had women as subway guards in New York in 1917? I guess so - women porters, women guards, and women couldn't vote! Guess women could work - but then we've always worked. It would be difficult to chase a stile jumper or a mugger in that skirt. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress, Bain News Service
Added Sep 18, 2011 by: Kathy Pinna
Kathy Pinna
3.01k+ favorites
Edward McCarthy, half-length portrait of criminal and description for police identification. Description includes name, alias, physiognomical characteristics, date of arrest in Chicago, Illinois, charge, etc., on verso. (arrested on suspicion June 21 1896, sentenced 25 - 30 days, age 37, occupation P.P.?, alias Hair Lip Kelly) Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress
People in this photo:
Bio
Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Added Aug 15, 2011 by: Kathy Pinna
Kathy Pinna
28.8k+ favorites
Lenora Adeline or Adeline Lenora James. Married twice... 1. William Coker .. had one daughter Mary Coker. 2. Hiram Harris Mitchell .. had six children: Calvin James, Lenora Ella, Charles Nicholas (sheriff), Pvt. George Washington, Leona Adeline, Ada Belle.
People in this photo:
Bio
Oct 21, 1844 - Unknown 1844 - ?
Added May 23, 2007 by: Sandy Tracy
Sandy Tracy
29 favorites
Topics:
Robert Lee Gaissert is on the second row, fifth from the left. He was age 50 when this was taken.
People in this photo:
Bio
Aug 8, 1874 - Unknown 1874 - ?
Added Feb 8, 2005 by: Jean Gaissert
Jean Gaissert
30 favorites
Apparently he was in the military police. Anyone know what branch?
Added May 12, 2004 by: Jody Mckinney
Jody Mckinney
22 favorites
Mamere and Papere Laverdure Evangeliste Laverdure and Kate Ranger married Oct 29 1905.Evangeliste born june 1882 Kate born june 1885. Evangeliste son of Zepherine Laverdure and Theoiste Lavoie married Jan 10 1877 laPasse ont Evangeliste grandson of Francoie Laverdure and Sophie Dupuis Married Jan 18 1830 Bytown
Lieutenant James Herod Anderson of the San Francisco Police Department, the rank he held at his retirement.
People in this photo:
Bio
Feb 22, 1848 - Oct 31, 1927 1848 - 1927
This is a photo of Nickie C Sudekum added by Nickie Sudekum on March 12, 2021.
People in this photo:
Bio
Feb 4, 1944 - Feb 17, 2008 1944 - 2008
Added Mar 12 by: Nickie Sudekum
Nickie Sudekum
21 favorites
Topics:
This is a photo of Robert Arthur Staehle added by Matthew Staehle on November 29, 2020.
People in this photo:
Bio
May 1950 - Oct 16, 2016 1950 - 2016
Added Nov 29, 2020 by: Matthew Staehle
Matthew Staehle
41 favorites
Topics:
First Responders: Policemen and Policewomen
From traffic control (don't you wish NYC traffic today were like the 1911 photo?) to crowd control, police men and women h...
Our Everyday Heroes: Firefighters
Ancient Egypt had fire fighting machinery, ancient Rome had a fire brigade, and after the Great Fire of London (1666), fir...
Back to Top