Info needed on the Puerto Rico Insular Police

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Info needed on the Puerto Rico Insular Police

Post  Les-Art on Thu 27 Aug 2009, 4:06 am

Hi Guys,
Hoping someone can help with some information on the 'Puerto Rico Insular Police'.

Here is what I have found out so far;
Created by the U.S Government after the Spanish American War. So that would be around 1899 and that it seems to have been changed around 1951 to the 'Policia de Puerto Rico'.
I have details in the 'Blakeslee' book 'Police uniforms of the world' of their uniform around 1931. However some things are missed out.

Here is what I am trying to find out;
As the 'Insular Police' worked under the US Government control was the official language 'English' or still 'Spanish'.
Does anyone have details of their rank insignias ,especially the US style breast badges used during this time.

Any help is appreciated and if anyone has a clear photo of uniformed policemen of this force that they could post that would be great.

Thanks.
Best Regards,
Les

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Re: Info needed on the Puerto Rico Insular Police

Post  ChrisF202 on Thu 27 Aug 2009, 4:51 am

As the 'Insular Police' worked under the US Government control was the official language 'English' or still 'Spanish'.
Prior to 1952, speaking Spanish in public was a criminal offense as was publicly displaying the Puerto Rican flag and publicly speaking out against US colonial rule. Since 1952 and the introduction of home rule for Puerto Rico, the official languages have been both Spanish and English. Spanish is the "default" language although almost every Puerto Rican can speak English.

In short, the ranks titles, daily orders, etc would have all be in English prior to 1952.

Does anyone have details of their rank insignias ,especially the US style breast badges used during this time.
I believe the rank structure was similar to the present structure but with English ranks.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puerto_Rico_Police#Rank_Structure

Here are some pictures from the 1950 Jayaua Uprising:
http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/puertorico/pr-1950-nationalist.jpg
http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/puertorico/pr-utuado.jpg

Unfortunatly there is not much available about the 1950 October Revolution. Basically they rose up in a few small towns in the interior and took control for about 2 days before the National Guard was able to restore order. Another group tried to shoot their way into La Fortezala (the governors mansion in Old San Juan) and kidnap Governor Luis Munoz Marin (the first elected governor of Puerto Rico) but the FBI found out before hand and the attack was repulsed when the FBI, Insular Police, and the National Guard ambushed the attackers. They also tried to assassinate President Truman at the White House but one gunman and a White House Police officer (the predecessors to the modern USSS Uniformed Division) were killed in the shootout. The second gunman was sentenced to life in prison but was released under Jimmy Carter and pardoned under Clinton's amnesty for the various armed movements fighting for Puerto Rican independence.

Some other info:
- bear in mind that every city (municpio) in Puerto Rico has it's own police department, some of which date back to the 1500s in the case of the San Juan Police.
- there are also conservation officers, port authority police, a commonwealth marshal's office, and a commonwealth corrections department, etc

http://www.gobierno.pr/PoliciaPR/MisionVision/DatosHistoricos.htm
^ some historical information (in Spanish of course).

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good info ,more questions

Post  Les-Art on Thu 27 Aug 2009, 7:14 am

Hi Chris,
Thought you might know something.

This is good info for me but brings up more questions. So thinking cap on and reference material at the ready, here we go.

I have just recently obtained an old breast badge of the 'PUERTO RICO POLICE', it is the same design as shown in photos of the Police involved in the 'Ponce Massacre' 1934? which I found during a internet surf and the photo of a Policeman in the Cramer book, which is obviously older than when the book was published. The pin and catch on the back are of a design not used after 1940/1. In the centre is the full coat of arms of Puerto Rico with the lying goat/sheep with flag with an all seeing eye above. So I am trying to date it's use.
Obviously not manufactured after 1941 but since badges were kept in 'stock' by the department it could have been issued after this date, so the end use date would seem to be 1951, based on the info you just posted. I have seen similar design of badges with 'POLICIA' replacing the word 'POLICE' so presumably issued after 1952. Now the question is this, when did the 'Insular Police' start wearing breast badges ?

The 'Blakeslee' book does not mention this form of rank designation nor that the uniform shirts are unique in having darker coloured collars and cuffs than the rest of the shirt. So next question is when was the newer uniform issued ?
consisting of -
US Style Cap (round top like LAPD wears) with C/A wreath badge.
US Style Shirt, long sleeves with Darker colour collar and cuffs with collar devices(unidentified as yet).
Trousers without stripe or Riding breeches with thin stripe.
Sam Browne style gunbelt without strap and open topped pistol holster.
Uniform shoes or leather leggings (with breeches)
'Fore in Hand' Tie.
The link you gave for 1950 shows a slightly modern version of the uniform but just in keeping with changing styles through the decades.

Also need to know the overall colour of the uniform, 'Blakeslee' states it was Cadet Blue, if the newer uniform is the same it would look like the collar and cuffs are Dark Blue or Black.

The rank insignias mentioned by 'Blakeslee' are similar to those worn today as far as the stripes are concerned however do you think that a US Governed force would use the South American style linked rank bars instead of the easily available US Army style ones ?

So to date the possible usage of the badge I believe I am looking at the start date being before ' Blakeslee' compiled his book in 1933, but not after 1941 when manufactured. So there you have it, any help is appreciated.

The 'Puerto Rico Policia' website looks interesting, I'll do a translation of the history part to see if anything is mentioned to help. I also found the details of the gunfight on the Blair House lawn in the attempted assasination of President Truman. These first hand accounts are always interesting.

As usual appreciate your help.
Best Regards,
Les

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Re: Info needed on the Puerto Rico Insular Police

Post  ChrisF202 on Thu 27 Aug 2009, 8:22 am

Im going to look around the web and see if I can find any pictures from around the time the Insular Police was created in 1899 and I will post the results. My guess is that they probably wore badges of some sort.

As for the South American style pin on metal bars I think that is more recent and prior to a certain point the bars looked like what US Navy officers wear on the white uniform shoulder boards. In other words they were embroidered rather then pin on. The more senior ranks also wore gold embroidered stars rather then pin on metal stars. Again, I will try and find a picture. Some of the municipal police departments do wear the more normal US style rank insignia with point up chevrons and the usual US Army style pin on insignia for Lieutenants and above.

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/135/360450637_67ce5dbdcb.jpg
^ color picture of Insular Police c. late 1940s!

http://familia.rootsweb.ancestry.com/images/Bruckman_Toro_Arnaldo_np.jpg
^ Insular Police c. 1940 - in this one the uniform appears to be gray or a light blue almost.

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Great photos

Post  Les-Art on Thu 27 Aug 2009, 9:52 am

Chris,
Thanks for the photo links, the colour one is great. I just found one on Flicker of a motorcop taken between 1949 and 1952 in colour, the detail is excellent and the collar insignias is very clear.

The collar insignia is simply 'IP' in gilt gothic lettering, on both sides of the collar.
Which follows 'Blakeslee' description. The ranks he describes are;
Chief - 3 gold stars
Assistant Chief and Adjutant - 2 stars (presume gold also)
Inspector - one star (presume Gold)
Sergeant - Three stripe chevrons with 'letter 'S' above.
Corporal - two stripe chevrons with the letter 'C' above
Lance Corporal - one stripe chevron with the letters 'L C' above
Chevrons and letters are Cadet Blue.

Judging by the other decriptions in his book I think we are probably more likely to be looking at the 1920's for a change in the uniform than the starting point of the force in 1899 ,although that info would be good also.
Might manage a page of uniformed illustrations for the history of the 'Insular Police' if we can find enough details, what do you think a joint effort ?

The breast badges shown in the photos correspond with the design I have here, so looks like it is for a Policeman rank.

Appreciate your efforts so far and getting back to me so quickly. Thanks.

Best Regards,
Les

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Re: Info needed on the Puerto Rico Insular Police

Post  ChrisF202 on Thu 27 Aug 2009, 10:17 am

Sure I would be glad to help in any way I can. I must forewarn you that you already know pretty much everything that I have found! Information on the web is hard to come by ....

Thanks for the 1930s rank insignia description. I do know that at one point, the 1 chevron rank later designated Officer assigned as Detective (when in uniform). The rank of corporal and lance corporal have since been abolished. In alot of US police forces, a detective is a position and not a rank per se.

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Found some more info

Post  Les-Art on Thu 27 Aug 2009, 11:37 am

Chris,
Did a little more surfing on the net and gleaned some more info.

The first uniform of the 'Insular Police' was the same as the US Army at the time, don't know if they mean the classic Spanish American War Dark Blue shirt and Khaki pants or the full Khaki. It was used for a decade. Under the direction of the Governnent 'bureau of Insular Affairs' , I think that is what it's title was, they were admin for all the new areas obtained from Spain.

This is from the Solidarity website
Puerto Rico Insular Police
Throughout “the American century,” the insular police and its methods of functioning were imported directly from U.S. federal authorities. Since its origins, the inspector of the police came from the army and its weapons were supplied by the U.S. armed forces. During its first decade, the police used U.S. military uniforms and imported the rank system of the navy, while emblems for the ranks were taken from the U.S. army.
Until 1956, the police of Puerto Rico was headed by officers of the U.S. armed forces with rank of colonel. In his analysis of the personnel who occupied the leadership of the police, Ramón Bosque-Pérez found out that the post was frequently occupied by a specialist on military intelligence.3


So no actual Police style uniform until 1919, which means that the one described by Blakeslee may be the first issue . Would still need to find out when the one with the dark coloured collar came in to use.
A little more research needed here.

I think that the blakeslee rank description is more likely to be the late 1920's, however he does describe a traffic unit patch of 'Gold Wheel with a 'T' in the center' I found a photo of the 'Ponce Massacre of 1937' and one of the cops is wearing this on his left sleeve . This was a generic patch made by a company in New York City for any department to use and it came into use around the time of the mid 1910's, can't be more specific I have photos of NYPD and LAPD wearing generic patches during this period. So it may still be a description of the 1919 first uniform.

Actually a US Badge company from your area may have made the badge I have here, Charles GreenBlatt of N.Y. , they made most of the badges used by the newly aquired US Territories at the time. I believe they were based in Nassau County, is that near you, don't think they excist now though, they did all the badges for the Nassau County Police, a quality badge maker.

Any help is appreciated, sometimes I just need a little push in the right direction to get me started.
If you come across anything else I'm interested.

Talking about detective being a position and not a rank, in some departments this is true and I have noticed an increased interest in showing this on uniforms to the general public in the US. LAPD now have three sets of stripes indicating that the wearer is actually a Detective ( a rank in LAPD) and although they show the equivilaent of Corporal ,Sergeant and master sergeant stripes their badge still says Detective on it.
LA County Sheriff's Deputies can buy at their own expense an extra panel to apply to their wallet badges the states DETECTIVE if they want as theirs is a position, the badge still says DEPUTY SHERIFF onit as well.
In NYPD the rank is also used as a pay scale for hazardous duty.

Regards,
Les

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Re: Info needed on the Puerto Rico Insular Police

Post  ChrisF202 on Thu 27 Aug 2009, 12:40 pm

This is from the Solidarity website
Puerto Rico Insular Police
Throughout “the American century,” the insular police and its methods of functioning were imported directly from U.S. federal authorities. Since its origins, the inspector of the police came from the army and its weapons were supplied by the U.S. armed forces. During its first decade, the police used U.S. military uniforms and imported the rank system of the navy, while emblems for the ranks were taken from the U.S. army.
Until 1956, the police of Puerto Rico was headed by officers of the U.S. armed forces with rank of colonel. In his analysis of the personnel who occupied the leadership of the police, Ramón Bosque-Pérez found out that the post was frequently occupied by a specialist on military intelligence.
This is something I did not know. A very interesting description, I had known that the Insular Police was created by a USMC officer but I had no idea that US Army officers ran the department as late as 1956. The Bureau of Insular Affairs was under the War Department but when the War Department and the Navy Department merged in 1947 the Bureau of Insular Affairs was transferred to the Department of the Interior where it remains today, the Department of the Interior still directly administers several US territories and provides oversight and a means of federal regulation. This would explain the heavy US Army influence in the early days. As a matter of fact, alot of US state police forces were heavily influenced and initially organized by US Army officers as well - the New Jersey State Police for instance was created by US Army Col. Norman H Schwarzkopf Sr (Stormin' Norman's daddy) who later went on to reorganize and modernize the Imperial Iranian Gendarmerie in 1942.

In regards to the army style uniforms, the Panama Canal Zone Police also followed a similar progression. When the agency was first created in 1904 they wore uniforms almost identical to the US Army and this remained the case until the 1940s. I wonder if they too were initially run by US Army officers?

Actually a US Badge company from your area may have made the badge I have here, Charles GreenBlatt of N.Y. , they made most of the badges used by the newly aquired US Territories at the time. I believe they were based in Nassau County, is that near you, don't think they excist now though, they did all the badges for the Nassau County Police, a quality badge maker.
A brief internet search did not reveal any information on this company. I am actually in Suffolk County which is the next county over from Nassau County.


PS: I plan on taking a trip to my family's vacation house in Puerto Rico in November and I am going to see if the Commonwealth Police has a museum and if so I will make a visit and see if I can find anything of value. I would be very shocked and disappointed if they did not have a museum of some sort but I can;t find any details on their website Embarassed

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Re: Info needed on the Puerto Rico Insular Police

Post  Les-Art on Thu 27 Aug 2009, 12:55 pm

Chris,
I'm not sure that 1956 is accurate on that website, it seems a little late considering what I have already found out and I think it more likely to be 1950.

I would say that the Bureau of Insular Affairs ran all the Newly aquired territories in a similar fashion and would not be surpised to find that all the former Spanish colonies were policed by the US army intitially and then various Poice forces wre created as needed.

Charles Greenblatt company possibly don't excist anymore as they are more famous for manufacturing in the 1890's - 1960's, so it is no surprise that you couldn't find them on a internet search . By the way they made the Badges for your County Police as well and probably all the towns on Long Island.

I would be interested to find here what you can find out on your vacation to Puerto Rico, I would think they would have some sort of museum.

I am just about to post a reply on your enquiry for Guam Police info, so check that thread out in a few minutes.

Best Regards,
Les

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More info

Post  Les-Art on Fri 28 Aug 2009, 10:31 pm

Hi Chris,
More surfing provided more info.

Check this out:
http://uscode.house.gov/download/pls/Title_48.txt
It is a government document relating to the change from the 'Bureau of Insular Affairs' to the 'Division of Territories and Island Posession' in 1934. Although it is a long document and doesn't deal with uniforms it is quite interesting for background info. It's worth a read but you may have to organise a coffee before you start. This also covers Guam, so maybe some info on that area of interest.

In the document it states that the 'Official' name of 'Puerto Rico' was changed from 'Porto Rico' in 1932, so this would suggest that my badge titled 'PUERTO RICO POLICE', would have been issued from 1932 and with the type of pin catch manufactured around 1940/41. I'm happy with that but still need to know when the Dark collared shirt came into use to be able to do an illustration.

Do you think it reasonable that a NEW police uniform would be ex-Army items of some type, I re-read the description in the Blakeslee book and it sounds very much like Army Regulations as detailed in the Osprey book 'US Army 1890 - 1920' except for the colour. Bakeslee states ;
'The Insular Police wear a uniform of Cadet Blue: commissioned officers having white facings.
The Cap has the Puerto Rico coat of arms enclosed in a wreath.
The coat is single breasted ,buttoned to the neck, with five gilt buttons. For officers it is without outside pockets and is trimmed with white; for men it is plain with four patch pockets. Trousers and breaches for officers have a white stripe, those for the men a black welt. The puttees, shoes, belt and holster are black leather. No supporting strap is worn over the shoulder, and the holster is of the closed type.
Officers wear the coat of arms and letters 'I.P' in gilt on the collar, men only the letters.'
Did any US Army units wear a Cadet Blue uniform at this time?

Best Regards,
Les

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Re: Info needed on the Puerto Rico Insular Police

Post  ChrisF202 on Sat 29 Aug 2009, 1:31 am

If I am correct, the US Army adopted a khaki/olive drab field uniform in 1908 thereabouts. The dress uniform was still dark blue AFAIK and not cadet blue. Maybe they chose cadet blue as a distinction from the army uniforms?

Do you think it reasonable that a NEW police uniform would be ex-Army items of some type
This is definitely possible, one of the reasons why blue uniforms became so common among US police forces is that before the 1860s and 70s many police forces did not wear a standard uniform but after the Civil War they were given access to the excess US Army stocks.

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Police illustration from 1908

Post  Sean on Mon 31 Aug 2009, 5:26 am

An officer of the PR Police, at least I think so.

http://i82.servimg.com/u/f82/12/22/09/10/08_p10.gif
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Interesting uniform

Post  Les-Art on Mon 31 Aug 2009, 6:59 am

Hi Sean,
Hope you had a good holiday.

The illustration is interesting can you remember where the info came from?
The date of 1908 would seem quite early based on the info I have already found out, that the 'Insular Police' used a US Army uniform up until 1919, although this is not to say that your illustration doesn't show a US Army uniform just not one I am familiar with. I had presumed that the Army uniform refered to would have been khaki or the older Blue one shown in the 'OGDEN' prints.

I just found a photo of 'IP' policemen escorting the assasin of of Chief of Police Riggs in 1936 and they are wearing a similar jacket to the one you illustrate, with stand up collar and patch pockets.

Also found out that 1919 was the year that the 'Porto Rico National Guard' was formed. So it would seem reasonable to change the 'IP' uniform to something less military so as to avoid confusuion.

Best Regards,
Les

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Re: Info needed on the Puerto Rico Insular Police

Post  Sean on Mon 31 Aug 2009, 3:38 pm

Hey Les,
Yes, good time away thanks, not looking forward to going back to work.
The illustration comes from a photograph from a book detailing the PR Police history, can't think of the title at the moment. Believe I saw it at the Oxford Uni library, and took some photocopies.
Blue was definitely worn early on, after the initial US Army items.

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