Twelve years before the town of Lenexa was platted in 1869, a young man by the name of James Butler Hickok staked a claim on 160 acres at what is now the corner of 83rd and Clare Road. He worked as a stocktender at the nearby Reed Hotel and later was elected constable of Monticello Township. At about the same time, a census of the Shawnee Indians living in the area was being taken. One of the residents was listed as "Na-Nex-Se Blackhoof ", the widow of Chief Blackhoof, who was the second signer of the 1854 treaty that ceded 1.6 million acres of the Kansas Shawnee Indian reservation to the U.S. Government. A few miles east in Westport, Missouri, was the start of the Old Santa Fe Trail. It meandered through the southeast part of Lenexa on its way to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Life in eastern Kansas was about to change dramatically.
After his law enforcement start in Lenexa, Mr. Hickok became a scout for the Free-State Army, a sharpshooter and eventually, Wild Bill Hickok, legendary lawman of the Old West. In, 1865, shortly before Na-Nex-Se died, the Kansas and Neosho Valley Railroad was organized to take advantage of favorable new land laws. It later changed its name to Missouri River, Ft. Scott and Gulf Railroad and in 1869 purchased a right-of-way from C.A. Bradshaw with the stipulation that the railroad build a depot on the property. Mr. Bradshaw then sold 10.5 acres to Octave Chanute, a railroad civil engineer, who platted a town in 1869. Legend states that the town was first proposed to be named Bradshaw, but he modestly refused and the name "Lenexa," a derivation of the name Na-Nex-Se, was adopted.
In the early years of Lenexa's history, law enforcement in the community consisted of a City Marshall and a few volunteers. In early 1970, David M. Gellatly was appointed Chief of Police, and served in that capacity until July, 1971 when he left to take a Chief's job in Illinois. While in office, Chief Gellatly was instrumental instituting a uniformed Reserve Police Unit that remained active until the mid 1980's. For much of this early period, the Johnson County Sheriff's office handled calls for service after midnight and functions such as dispatching calls and handling all investigations.
On August 1, 1971, Mayor Norman "Dick" Gaul appointed John Foster to the position of Police Chief. He had a staff of 4 officers and one police clerk. Shortly thereafter Lenexa began dispatching their own calls and an investigations unit was established. A technical services unit was also established and has expanded today to 6 full-time positions. This unit performs many tasks that other Departments must contract out, such as installation and maintenance of radios and emergency equipment in all City vehicles.
By 1975 the staff had grown to 18 full time sworn officers and more special units were created. These included the first K-9 Unit in Johnson County, a tactical team complete with armored personnel carrier, and a part-time mounted patrol using a horse belonging to the Johnson County Park Patrol. From 1975 to 1977 patrol officers worked 12-hour shifts in a series of 3 days on and 3 days off, then 2 days on and 2 days off. They would rotate from days to evenings every 28 days. While officers enjoyed the days away from work, they began complaining of chronic fatigue and the administration responded by instituting 8 hour work shifts. In 1977 Lenexa began an experiment with the concept of Team Policing. Three separate teams were established and each team was responsible for a shift. A team detective was assigned and handled the follow-up of only reports taken by their team members. Team policing was somewhat of a fad in those times and the purpose was to create cohesive units and an atmosphere of team pride and healthy competition between those teams. A study was conducted throughout this time period and it proved that the team concept did not enhance productivity and in fact proved to erode the exchange of information and level of cooperation between teams. The team concept was abandoned in 1978 and the patrol division began to work normal 8 hour rotation which, for the most part remains in place today.
Chief Foster retired in 1991 leaving a staff of 58 sworn personnel and 38 civilians. He was followed as Chief by Ellen Hanson who began her career in 1975 as a patrol officer in Lenexa. Today the department has 90 sworn and 46 civilian employees. In addition to the K-9 and Investigations units, specialized units include: Animal Control, Directed Patrol, Traffic Safety, DARE, School Resource Unit, Crime Prevention, and Drug Enforcement. Special details that are not full time assignments include Tactical Team, Crime Resistant Community Team, and Bike Patrol. Other positions in the police department include Police Dispatchers, Public Service Officers, Police Equipment Technician, Community Policing Technician, Records Clerks, Property Clerk, and Secretaries.
Lenexa is the first agency in the KC Metro area to have a fully automated records system with laptop computers in each patrol vehicle. While this technology is a far cry from the early days of the City Marshall it is demonstrative of Lenexa's long history of excellence and of being on the cutting edge of law enforcement procedures.