1950's - Building a Reputation
The 1950's would see the Division continue to make great strides, becoming ever more diversified with increased duties and responsibilities.
Unfortunately, the Korean conflict, beginning in 1950 and not ending until 1953, would see both enlisted and civilian members again called to duty as either reservists or National Guard members.
A tradition was begun on April 16, 1950, with the graduation of the 37th State Police Class. Tpr. John C. Doyle, Jr. #951, was presented his badge by his father, Lt. Jack Doyle #287, giving the Division its first father and son combination. This proud tradition would be repeated many times in years to come.
On May 19, 1950, one of New Jersey’s worst disasters occurred when several barges and freight cars containing ammunition exploded at the Pennsylvania Railroad piers on the Raritan River in South Amboy. The blast killed 31 people and injured 300 others, leaving South Amboy in warlike ruins.
The force of the blast was so great that it was felt 30 miles away. In fact many nearby residents thought an atomic bomb had been dropped, and claimed it rained mud and dead fish for five minutes. Keyport personnel were immediately dispatched and over 100 troopers would eventually assist at the scene.
The 1950's would see additional troopers needed as the Division’s role expanded into new areas such as enforcement of laws relating to liquefied petroleum gas, laws concerning hotel and tenement house safety, the supervision of security forces at state institutions and state capitol security.
Governor Driscoll, a strong advocate for the State Police, authorized increased strength for the Division to cover these new responsibilities, and by September 1950, authorized strength was 455 members.
The increase in personnel would only temporarily satisfy the new demands placed on the Division. Special federal and state investigations focused attention on organized crime, and the Division became more and more involved as a statewide investigatory force. The Criminal Investigation Section was expanded to include special Narcotics, Polygraph and Intelligence Squads.
In November 1951, a new era would begin with the historic opening of the New Jersey Turnpike. Some members of the Turnpike Authority had wanted to establish a new police department to patrol the roadway.
However, Governor Driscoll, fearing political patronage in the appointment of police positions, insisted troopers be utilized. The initial detachment consisted of 38 troopers. Officials would quickly realize after numerous accidents and incidents that more troopers would be needed to properly patrol the 118 mile long turnpike.
By November 1952, an additional 24 troopers were assigned to the turnpike and each year thereafter the turnpike patrol force would be increased.
Municipal Police Basic Training was reactivated in 1951 at the Sea Girt Training Center. The course had been discontinued for economic reasons in 1933 after four successful years of operation. During the intervening years, some training for municipal police had been conducted at the West Trenton Academy.
However, ongoing basic training was needed for police in New Jersey, and the six week course established at Sea Girt set the standards for other academies to emulate in the years to come.
In 1952, Colonel Russell A. Snook succeeded to the Office of the Superintendent. The Division continued to expand in growth and functions with the opening of the Garden State Parkway in 1954.
With the exceptional job troopers were doing patrolling the turnpike, there was never any doubt that troopers would also be assigned to exclusively patrol the new 173 mile super highway.
A realignment of the Division in 1954 from two regions and district operations back to troop designations was completed. The New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway details were temporarily consolidated as Troop D, Turnpike/Parkway Patrol.
The 1950's would see continued expansion and challenges facing the Division with problems caused by the ever-increasing vehicle traffic on the state’s already overburdened highways and the increase of crime in the rural areas of the state.
The drinking driver problem needed immediate attention. An initial Drunk-O-Meter training course at Rutgers University in 1954 quickly expanded to eight training site locations throughout the state to expedite the training of troopers and municipal police in the operation of the new sobriety testing machine.
In an effort to reduce the drinking driver menace from our highways, spot checks were conducted at selected locations after midnight. All vehicles were stopped and drivers checked for evidence of drinking. Thus, the first sobriety checkpoints were formulated.
A tradition within the organization came to an end in 1954. The motorcycle, which had been used as a patrol vehicle since the inception of the organization some 33 years earlier, was phased out of existence.
Col. Snook’s philosophy was that “man is the most valuable asset in police service and the profession of being the State Trooper was hazardous enough without exposing the trooper to the added risks of the greatly increased traffic in New Jersey.” Fifteen troopers had lost their lives and many more had been injured through the years while on patrol with their cycles.
In 1955, Colonel Joseph D. Rutter assumed command and organized the Division into a five troop configuration. Troops A, B, and C patrol south, north, and central Jersey, respectively, while Troop D patrols the Turnpike and Troop E patrols the Garden State Parkway. Division Headquarters is located in West Trenton and the Training Center is located in Sea Girt.
Colonel Rutter was also instrumental in reestablishing the warning system which had been eliminated in 1947. The Colonel believed troopers, armed solely with the authority to issue summonses, often hesitated to take action when observing minor offenses.
For many years, the US Navy Diving Unit stationed in Bayonne, Hudson County, provided New Jersey law enforcement with underwater recovery service at both crime and disaster scenes. In 1956, with the unit’s imminent transfer to Washington, DC, a void would be created.
The State Police stepped forward to form an underwater recovery unit, the first such State Police unit in the nation. During a three week training course conducted at the US Naval School of Ship Salvage, Bayonne, Hudson County, some 40 Division members were trained.
The most heart-rendering disaster in which the underwater recovery unit participated occurred on September 5, 1958, when two diesel locomotives and three passenger cars of the Jersey Central Railroad plunged off the open end of the south draw span into Newark Bay, Bayonne. The use of troopers in emergency and disaster situations was now established for the future.
In March of 1958, the 53rd class would be the last class to graduate in boots and breeches. The uniform which was necessary and practical for mounted and cycle patrol, would be replaced by slacks and low quarter dress shoes.