01 December 2007

The State Police in 1932

Over the years, there has been much criticism of the New Jersey State Police and their abilities during the Lindbergh Case. While some criticism is warranted, much of it comes from looking at the investigation with 21st Century eyes. This is unfair, because the State Police of today is a very different organization from what it was in 1932.

The bulk of Lindbergh Case investigation lasted from March 1, 1932 through to the trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann in January 1935. The 11th Annual Report provides statistical data about the State Police from July 1, 1931 to June 30, 1932. According to the 1932 Annual Report, this was the structure of the State Police at that time:

Executive and Administration Staff

Col. H. Norman Schwarzkopf – Superintendent
Major Charles Schoeffel – Deputy
Arden M. Sperling – Sergeant Major
Detective Bureau

Henry F. Wooge – Captain
Arthur T. Keaten – Lieutenant
License Bureau

Walter J. Coughlin – Lieutenant
Identification Bureau

Russell A. Snook – Lieutenant
Teletype Bureau

John E. Murnane (Trenton) – Lieutenant
Joseph Hoch (Newark) – Lieutenant
Supply Bureau

Gaston A. Conklin – Supply Sergeant
Statistical Bureau

John A. Mitchell – Sergeant
Automobile Bureau

John A. Mitchell – Sergeant
Safety Education Bureau

John V. Conover – Sergeant

William J. Carter – Troop “A” (Hammonton)
John J. Lamb – Troop “C”
William O. Nicol – Troop “B” (Morristown)
Specialist Staff

Dr. D. Leo Haggerty (Trenton) – Physician
Benjamin J. Spits (Paterson) –
Rev. Gill Robb Wilson (Trenton) – Chaplain
Fr. Joseph P. Connor
(West Orange) – Chaplain

Total number of Enlisted: 279

The current structure of the State Police has grown radically over the years. While there is still just one Colonel serving as Superintendent, there are now five Lieutenant Colonels that include a Chief of Staff and four Deputy Superintendents, fourteen majors, forty-six captains, and one hundred and ninety-two lieutenants. There organization is divided into four “branches” that are further subdivided into countless sections, bureaus and units. The State is divided into five “Troops” today that currently administer about 25 road stations.

In the 1930s, the State Police were faced with a three-fold problem, “namely the rural problem, the crime problem and the traffic problem.”

The Rural Problem
In the 1930s, New Jersey was still legitimately known as “The Garden State”. New Jersey had over seven thousand square miles that was entirely or to the greater extent dependent upon the State Police for protection. Many people were living on farms that were too far from the cities for the sheriffs and city police to protect. This is what led to the Grange pressing for the formation of the State Police eleven years earlier.

Also, “the productive activities of many of our agriculturists and horticulturists [extended] over such an expansive territory that it [was] impossible for them to protect their interests on their own. They were subjected to petty and wholesale thievery from malefactors ranging from passing automobiles to organized gangs.”

The State Police protected the farmers against “fruit thieves, flower and blossom thieves, chicken thieves, gangs of produce thieves, etc.”

The Crime Problem
A major part of the crime problem facing New Jersey at the time was due to the close proximity to New York City and Philadelphia. Both of these cities “...had its underworld and New Jersey [was] situated between the two.” Criminals would cross into New Jersey to commit “all manner of crimes” and then just as easily and quickly leave the State again.

There was also a general “crime wave” at that time, most likely due to the advent of the Great Depression, as well as the “ordinary criminal activities which always exist in more or less thickly populated territories.” The variety of crimes handled by the State Police at that time covered 100 different classifications. One of the classifications was kidnapping, of which there were 7 during the fiscal year.

The Traffic Problem
Foreign traffic was a major issue in New Jersey in the 1930s as much as it is today. The Lincoln Highway brought most of this traffic into the State. The Lincoln Highway was the first transcontinental highway in the United States. It linked Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC. This section of the Lincoln Highway is now known as Route 1.

The United States Department Commerce reported the portion of the Lincoln Highway between Philadelphia and New York as being “the most traveled highway in the country”. The opening of resorts was another cause of the traffic problem in New Jersey.

Oceanfront, bay front, river, lake, mountain and pine resorts brought “hosts of out-of-state visitors.” The opening of the new interstate bridges increased the State’s traffic problem as well.

In 1932, New Jersey had 1,535 miles of State Highways, 4,070 miles of County Highways and 11,844 miles of Township Highways – all outside city limits. These had to be patrolled by the State Police.

As stated before, the New Jersey State Police had more than 7,000 square miles of territory to cover and they averaged 279 “assigned and attached men to carry on this work. From the 279 men, personnel were assigned for the Executive Staff, the Administrative Staff, the Detective Bureau, the License Bureau, the Automobile Bureau, the Supply Bureau, the Statistical Bureau, the Safety Education Bureau, the Identification Bureau, the Teletype Bureau, the Recruit Training Staff and the Troop Executive and Administrative Staffs.”

It was reported in the Annual Report that the “actual functioning of the State Police [was] mainly carried out by the Trooper on the road. It became necessary to spread them out in small groups all over the state, far from individual official surveillance. “Liaison, guidance and personal supervision [was] extremely difficult.” Colonel Schwarzkopf had to rely on morale to hold the organization together, as well as honor, integrity and courage to encourage good conduct and to ensure that the Troopers did their job. And, according to the statistics, they did.

During Fiscal Year 1932 the State Police made 27,450 arrests resulting in 23,535 convictions with 1,874 cases pending trial. 131,774 warnings were issued during that time as well.

It must be remembered that the State Police was not (and is not) just an enforcement agency, but also a service agency. The Troopers rendered roadside assistance, for example, in 11,682 cases. They fought 73 forest fires, saving $21,940 worth of property from destruction. During this time 480 stolen cars ($207,302 value) were recovered and returned to their rightful owners. $60,116.36 worth of other stolen property was also recovered and returned. In addition, 10,291 co-operative days of service were rendered to other enforcement agencies in the State and 89 municipal police officers graduated from the New Jersey Police Academy run by the State Police at Sea Girt.

The Safety Patrol, which had been started in rural schools by the State Police in 1929, now had 177 patrols, with more requested.

The State Bureau of Identification, created in 1930, now held approximately 30,000 valuable records. 48,000 sets of fingerprints were received from 232 agencies throughout the State. 10,299 of them were identified as belonging to criminals. 43 wanted persons were identified and apprehended by fingerprints. 16,228 photographs were received and filed as well. 440 fingerprints were checked against latent fingerprint photographs taken at the scenes of crime.

The Bureau received 2,552 reports of missing persons and 2,252 reports of wanted persons were received.

All fingerprints received by the State Police had to be classified and then indexed by name and alias. They were filed according to fingerprint classification.

This basic analysis of the work performed by the New Jersey State Police during Fiscal Year 1932 is very similar to what they faced in 1933 and 1934. However, there were fewer Troopers in 1933 and 1934 due to layoffs caused by the Great Depression. In 1933 enlistment dropped 13% to 240 Troopers and that number increased by only one, to 241, in 1934. Today there are over 2,900 enlisted members of the State Police -- a 1146% increase -- with over 1,400 civilian support staff.

At least thirteen Troopers -- 5% of the entire State Police enlistment -- were assigned to the Lindbergh Case. To do that today would require over 380 Troopers to be assigned to the detail. That is more than the entire compliment of the Department of State Police in 1932.

It was against this background that the New Jersey State Police had to investigate their first major case – the Lindbergh Kidnapping – with all the world watching.