The Louisiana State Lodge was chartered in 1954 and is comprised of 39 Lodges statewide with nearly 6,000 members — active and retired — in local law enforcement. November 1998 marked the grand opening of the State Business Office in Baton Rouge. The Louisiana State Lodge continues to grow and make its mark at both the State and National levels.
The Fraternal Order of Police is the world’s largest police organization with over 328,000 local, state, federal, and retired law enforcement members in over 2,100 Local Lodges in 49 states. The FOP has championed improving the law enforcement profession.
Before the organization’s birth in Spring 1915, policemen nationwide toiled 12 hours a day under deplorable conditions for insufferable wages. They had little to be optimistic about and change seemed unlikely.
Two veteran Pittsburgh, Penn., officers met on a downtown street corner in April. Martin Toole and Delbert Nagle supposed, “if labor could organize, shouldn’t the police also find a way? Not as a labor union, but as an organization for the ‘social welfare’ of all the police.” Hence, the Fraternal Order of Police was conceived.
Within the first week of May, Nagle drew up a petition for the United Association of Police, which stated: “We the Undersigned Do Hereby Agree to Support and Maintain the Above Entitled Association Until a Constitution is Duly Drawn and Officers Chosen.” Apart from the author, the petition bore the signatures of James McCleary, John McDermott, Battle Keys, M.T. Corcoran, Frank T. Wolinski, Philip A. McTighe, Meritt J. Murphy, and Jacob Hannes.
The members of the Fraternal Order of Police, now numbering 23, held their first meeting on the morning of May 14, 1915, in Pittsburgh’s Wabash Building.
Some members were displeased with “United Association of Police” because “that name sounded too much like a Union, and Union sounded too antagonistic.” During the debate, Nagle moved the organization be known as the “Fraternal Order of Police.” The motion carried.
Within a week, Nagle, Toole, and Larkin sought support from city Mayor Joseph G. Armstrong. At the initial encounter between a government official and a committee from the F.O.P., the members were received cordially. The Mayor was assured the Order was not a union and that, in fact, “the word strike is ruled out completely because we who are obligated to protect life and property will see that obligation fulfilled regardless of all else.”
In conclusion, the self-appointed committee related that if police organizations could span throughout the entire state, “we could get many things through our legislation that our council will not, or cannot give us.”
Mayor Armstrong, having strong pro-labor leanings said, “I don’t see a thing in the world wrong with this. You’ll have my hearty approval and full cooperation.” With this endorsement and support, the F.O.P. spread rapidly through Pittsburgh, and by mid-September membership had grown to just below 600. Subsequently, Mayor Armstrong came to be known as “The Father of the Fraternal Order of Police.”
In these early months of the Order, Nagle decided “we should have some kind of an insignia, a button... through which brother members of the future could identify each other even though they be separated by many states.” He took his idea to an artist, Mr. H.J. Garvey, whose sketch of the emblem was soon adopted as the official sign of the F.O.P. Garvey’s sketch, which was later registered with the U.S. Patent Office in 1948, symbolizes authority, vigilance, friendship, and the bond of mutuality between members, and the seal of Fort Pitt, in remembrance of the Orders origination.
By early 1917, membership in Pittsburgh grew to 1,800. During that summer, Nagle and Toole led in the expansion throughout their state. On Oct. 15-17, the first National Convention was held in Pittsburgh. At this inaugural gathering, the Grand Lodge was established and placed with the authority of issuing charters to subordinate lodges. A Constitution and Bylaws were drafted, and four members of lodges other than Fort Pitt were added as officers of this first Grand Lodge.
With both the formation of the Grand Lodge and the secure foundation established in Pennsylvania, the Order continued its expansion in the 1920s. The F.O.P. became strong in both Ohio and Indiana. By 1929, growth brought about the need of a National Organizer, which John Kuespert was elected on Aug. 15.
In the 1930s, three more states were added including West Virginia, Michigan, and Kentucky. Expansion was not the only aspect of accomplishment in the ’30s. On Aug. 29, 1933, the order passed “the most important resolution of its first quarter century.” The minutes read: “...that a committee of five be appointed to form state organizations.”
By the time the 25th anniversary of the F.O.P. took place in 1940, a Grand Lodge had come into being, approximately 200 lodges had been chartered, and 23 annual conventions held.
Though the F.O.P. struggled along with the Nation during World War II, it not only retained its existence, but “became recognized on Capitol Hill as the Organization speaking for the Nation’s Policemen.”
In the 1940s and ’50s the Order continued to expand with lodges in South Dakota, Arizona, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, North and South Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia.
Not only did the F.O.P. expand with new Lodges, but on Sept. 19, 1941 a motion that “The Grand Lodge grant a charter to the Ladies” passed unanimously. “The ladies” were those women who in accordance with their motto of “We do not let him walk alone,” desired to begin a National Ladies Auxiliary.
These years were filled with the Order’s engagements with issues such as Legislature, Civil and Human Rights, and Public Consciousness.
Throughout the national tumult of the 1960s, the F.O.P. continued expansion with lodges in Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. Although growth continued, the Order experienced some unrest from sources like the Police Review Boards and the Justice Department.
The members of the F.O.P. persisted through these hardships as likewise their brothers had endured in the past. This tenacity that has prevailed since the Order’s conception led it to the height at which it stood in 1975. The evolution that began with 23 men who 60 years earlier vowed to continue to support this organization come what may unfolded until it spanned the nation with 1,100 lodges containing 140,000 members.
As the Order continued into the late ’70s, its level of national recognition continued to increase with the opening of an office just four blocks from the White House and only 10 blocks from the Capitol Hill. The F.O.P. had truly established itself in our nation’s Capitol. The office would serve not only as a clearing house for F.O.P. concerns from all over the country, but would fulfill the need of influencing national legislation and federal programs which affect the police.
The Order’s accomplishments in Washington, D.C. were extended on Sept. 29, 1976 when President Gerald Ford signed into law H.R. 366, otherwise known as the $50,000 Survivorship Bill. This law, which was conceived 15 years earlier at the 35th Biennial National F.O.P. Conference, provides that the dependent of any police officer who dies of an injury sustained in the line of duty will receive a lump sum of $50,000.
As the F.O.P. came into a new decade, the national leadership turned to a “Return of the Fraternal Order of Police to the Membership.” In an effort to accomplish these goals regional workshops and seminars were developed throughout the country in an effort to spotlight the National F.O.P. in a non-crisis situation.
The Order continued into the eighties with many noteworthy achievements. With the coming about of a new lodge in Washington D.C., membership rose until it reached 160,000 in 1982.
Additional steps forward were taken in our nation’s Capitol when the F.O.P. leadership became active on the National Labor Advisory Council. A panel was created to open doors of communication between representatives of labor organizations and both political parties.
As the F.O.P. continued to develop as an organization, many legislative goals were also fulfilled. In 1985 the Order held firm in its support of the Bill HR-4, which regulates the manufacture, importation, and the sale of armor-piercing ammunition. It was the F.O.P.’s position that what good comes of banning the manufacture and importation if we can’t prevent the sale of the “cop killer” ammunition. The eventual passage of the Bill was called the biggest legislative victory in years for law enforcement.
As the Order approached the decade of the ’90s, the Order consisted of approximately 270,000 members. Through the hard work of the Expansion Committee, individual State Lodges, and increased exposure given the F.O.P. by the news media, this number has grown to over 328,000 members.