History

THE HISTORY OF OWLA
Taken from an OWLA Historical Report by Lt. Myron Warren, Retired Portland Police Bureau
On June 24, 1958, at Multnomah Falls Lodge, Oregon, the first meeting of the Oregon-Washington Lawmen’s Association was held and the first officers were elected. The first president was Sgt. Weaver W. Berkman, from the Aberdeen (WA) Police Department, and the vice-president of the newly formed organization was Capt. R.M. Pratt, from the Multnomah County (OR) Sheriff’s Office. The secretary/treasurer was E. William Whitehead, a park warden in Portland, and Harry Issel, a patrolman from The Dalles (OR) Police Department, was the sergeant at arms.
The members voted that there would be a Board of Directors, which would be composed of three Association members from Oregon and three from Washington. Those original Board members were Chief Leonard “Tiny” Wright, Camas (WA) P.D., Chief Maynard Mitchell, Bingen (WA) P.D., Capt. Nicholas Yantsin, Aberdeen (WA) P.D., Chief Charles McCarthy, Beaverton (OR) P.D., Lt. Myron Warren, Portland (OR) P.B. and Chief Carroll B. Hansen, St. Helens (OR) P.D. At that same meeting, William H. McGill was named editor and publisher for the OWLA Magazine.
The guiding principles of OWLA were also established at that first meeting, and they were a part of the printed application for every membership. The principles adopted were:

  • The advancement of law enforcement to a professional status.
  • The continued advancement of technique of supervision and investigation in the field of enforcement.
  • Fraternalism among our fellow officers with unity expressed and applied by each of us.
  • Financial assistance to the family on the death of a member – $400.00 death fund.
  • A standing legislative committee representing each state to attend each legislative session.
  • The publishing of a law enforcement magazine, with emphasis placed on educative articles and the latest techniques of law enforcement.
  • Bi-monthly meetings to discuss the latest methods of crime prevention and current criminal practices.
  • Off-months will be dedicated to social meetings.

The second meeting was held in Hoquiam, Washington, on July 22, 1958, and it was at this meeting that the format for future meetings was established. The meetings were centered around the sharing of information, at that time concerning the professional burglar. The materials, including pictures, were included in a bulletin published by the Portland Police Bureau and then sent to all agencies throughout Oregon and Washington and to principal west coast cities. OWLA’s format was patterned after the Western States Safe Burglary Investigator’s Conference, and several other information sharing organizations were to be later formed using this same format.
The first OWLA meetings were advertised as “Crime Conferences,” and a good deal of criminal itelligence was shared in round-table discussions and in the photographs and other materials that attendees brought with them to the conference. It is interesting to note that the meeting of March 24, 1959, in Chehalis, WA, included, in addition to the topic of “Auto Theft,” the topic of “Professionalism in Law Enforcement.” The speaker for the second topic was Lt. J. Bard Purcell, from the Portland Police Bureau, who would later become instrumental in professionalizing law enforcement.
Lt. Warren was elected president of OWLA for 1959-60. Serving with him were Denton Johnson, Washington CBI Bureau, Vice-President; Gordon Morgan, Portland P.B., Secretary; Jerry Volmer, Portland P.B., Treasurer; and, Bob Coyler, Portland P.B., Sergeant at Arms. It was decided during this period that OWLA would take the inititive in the promotion of law enforcement, and it was further determenined that the result of their efforts would be the establishment, by statute, of a board to set the minimum standards for education and training for police officers in the state of Oregon. Oregon was chosen as the first target state, to be followed by the state of Washington.
Lt. Purcell, who had received his Masters degree in Education, and Capt. Eugene Furgeson, head of the Portland Police Training Division, joined OWLA in order to help make the establishing of the minimum standards a reality. During one of the last Board meetings of 1959, a Training and Profesionalism Committee was established, and Capt. Furgeson, Lt. Purcell, and Lt. Warren were named to the committee. THis group of three then started the first organized effort to establish minimum standards for trainig and education within the state of Oregon. The first meeting was set for January 12, 1960, to further the cause.
The initial meeting brought an explosive response, and a short time later a second meeting was held in Eugene, Oregon hosted by Chief Art Ellsworth, who would later become the first chairman of the Advisory Board. A third meeting followed in McMinnville, Oregon, this one hosted by Sheriff W.L. “Bud” Mekkers, and attended by Senator Carl Francis, from Dayton. More than 30 high ranking law enforcement officials attended this meeting, and, in addition to discussing how support could be gained from legislators, a good deal of discussion concerned itself with who was to be represented on the board; how many from police departments; how many from sheriffs; how many were to be civilians; State Police, and the F.B.I.
Those law enforcement officials, in addition to the Professionalism Committee, who attended the early meetings and worked tirelessly to pass this legislation deserve credit. Among them were: Capt. Glenn A. Bowman, Salem P.D.; Chief Roy D. Brixey, McMinnville P.D.; Chief Floyd L. Clower, Springfield P.D.; Deputy H. James Donnelly, Douglas Co. SO; Chief H.A. (Art) Ellsworth, Eugene P.D.; Chief Thomas P. Garcia, Oakridge P.D.; Chief C. Karel Hyer, Lebanon P.D. (later to become the first Training Coordinator hired by BPST); Chief Paul . Kitzmiller, Dallas P.D.; Chief Ray Maddy, Albany P.D.; Chief Deputy Harry H. Marlowe, Lane Co. SO; and Undersheriff L.A. Suitor, Douglas Co. SO.
The result of all this effort was House Bill 1590, the Police Standards and Training Bill, and also an awareness of the part of the Board of Higher Education and the legislature that educational opportunities needed to be made available to law enforcement officers. HB 1590 was read for the first time on February 17, 1961, and was introduced by Representatives Van Hoomissen, Chappel, Elder, Fadeley, Gallagher, Howard, Lang, Layman, and Whalen; and Senators Francis, Lewis, and Straub. The bill, which created the Advisory Board on Police Standards and Training, was signed into law by Governor Mark O. Hatfield on June 1, 1961, and became effective on August 1, 1961.
After this major accomplishment, OWLA continued to grow and gain credibility as a very influential and worthwhile organization. In just under three years the group had not only been established as a resource for training and information dissemination, it had also managed to marshal the law enforcement community into a body that would be heard.
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Today, over 50 years later, OWLA remains an organization that holds as its main goals the professionalism of law enforcement and the sharing of information through training.
The membership and the Board of Directors are made up of law enforcement officers from throughout Oregon and Washington and represent city, county, state, and federal employees who are dedicated to the goals and mission of the organization.
Training conferences and information sharing sessions are held biannually – in Oregon in the spring and Washington in the fall. Training subjects are selected for their interest and timeliness, and the training committees always attempt to locate and bring in the best available instructors. The training conferences are open to current and retired law enforcement personnel only.
OWLA is supported solely from membership and conference fees. All the work that goes into making the organization operate is provided by volunteers, as there are no paid members in the organization. A Board of Directors directs the activities of the association, plans the training conferences, approves new members, accounts for the association’s finances, administers the constitution and by-laws, elects the association’s officers, solicits input from the membership and keeps the membership informed, and conducts any other business required.

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