Texas State Police

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Badge of a TSP policeman.

The Texas State Police (TSP) was formed during the administration of Texas Governor Edmund J. Davis on July 22, 1870, to combat crime during the Reconstruction in Texas. The Texas State Police force worked primarily against racially based crimes, and included black police officers, which caused howls of protest from former slave owners. It was dissolved by order of the legislature on 1873 and was subsequently replaced by the newly reincarnated Texas Rangers.


Davis also created the Texas Special Police, the State Guard of Texas, and the "Texas Reserve Militia", which were forerunners of the Texas National Guard.

Among Texas State Police members were Captain Jack Helm of DeWitt County, Texas. He was later killed by John Wesley Hardin during the Sutton–Taylor feud. Another notable member was Leander H. McNelly of the Texas Ranger Division.

Mixed results[edit]

Despite the success of the state police, the fact that the force employed African Americans and was controlled by Governor Davis made it unpopular. Some of the state police members certainly deserved criticism. Captain Helm, for instance, was accused of murdering prisoners; he was fired, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Others committed crimes for which the charges were dropped as soon as headquarters was advised. James Davidson, the chief of the state police, embezzled $37,435 and disappeared in 1872.[1][2]

In September 1870, local citizens of Hill County, Texas refused to cooperate with the TSP in moving against the Kinch West gang; and in December 1870 Hill County citizens blocked the TSP from arresting the killers of a freedmen couple.[1]


On April 22, 1873, the law authorizing the state police was repealed. Former policeman Leander H. McNelly and at least thirty-six other state police members became Texas Rangers.

Fallen officers[edit]

Of nine members of the TSP known to have been killed in the line of duty, four members died as a result of a shootout on March 14, 1873. Two others (Privates Jim Smalley and Green Paramore) were killed by the outlaw John Wesley Hardin in 1871. Outlaw William P. Longley later claimed to have killed members of the Texas State Police in the period 1866–1869 (which was before it came into existence).


The Texas State Police was abolished in 1873. In 1935, the Texas Department of Public Safety was formed to serve as the state police force (the TDPS predecessor was the Texas Ranger Division formed by the Texas Legislature as McNelly's "Special Force of Rangers" and the "Frontier Battalion" in July 1874). Other state agencies, including the Texas Attorney General's Office, Texas Parks & Wildlife, and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission provide state police services within their areas of responsibility, and informally use the term "State Police" on their uniforms and insignia.[3] [4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The Handbook of Texas". Tshaonline.org. 1974-11-13. Retrieved 2013-11-13. 
  2. ^ Varhola, Michael (2011). Texas Confidential: Sex, Scandal, Murder, and Mayhem in the Lone Star State (First ed.). Cincinnati: Clerisy Press. p. 290. ISBN 1578604583. 
  3. ^ Press Release; State of Texas, online; accessed October 2016
  4. ^ As Game Wardens Patrol Texas Border; My Statesman .com; accessed October 2016


  • Ann Patton Baenziger, "The Texas State Police during Reconstruction: A Reexamination," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 72 (April 1969).
  • William T. Field, Jr., "The Texas State Police, 1870–1873," Texas Military History 5 (Fall 1965).

External links[edit]