|Our History||| Print ||
Lacombe is located on Hwy 2 in Alberta, between Edmonton and Calgary. The community is named after Father Lacombe, a pioneer missionary priest who is credited by historians as "not only witnessing the transformation of a wilderness into three provinces with 1.6 million inhabitants, but played a leading and sometimes vital part in its success".
Burt Thompson in Frank McLear's pool hall (early 1900's)
RCMP Supt. Stu Rammage said Father Lacombe was "known as the great pacifier, helping to bring law and order to the West". In fact, memories of Father Lacombe is well noted in the history of the North West Mounted Police. Lacombe is also the birthplace of former Governor General Roland Michener.
The first settler in the area was a retired member of the North West Mounted Police named Ed Barnett in 1883. Barnett had just served three years with the North West Mounted Police when he left Fort MacLeod on August 17th, 1881.
Although Barnette was only 23 when he left the force he had a mountain of stories and events that he could recall. One of those events that was very much entrenched in Barnett's mind was when he escorted Chief Sitting Bull in the summer of 1878 to the American border. Barnett recalls that the last time he saw Chief Sitting Bull he was sitting on a Cayuse (American Indian Pony) stretched as high as he could get, roaring at the top of his voice and telling his people to go quietly along and give no trouble.
Barnett first established the location by what became Lacombe by building a cabin and barn, which became know as Ed Barnett's Stopping House. Barnett was given land for serving his country with the NWMP. Eventually his family and friends from Ontario moved out and the community began to grow. The Stopping House then became known as Barnett's siding.
One morning when Barnett was sitting on his doorstep he could see in the distance about 20 mounted Indians from the Bob Tail's Band. Barnett noted that they were wearing their war paint and he was concerned that they were looking for trouble.
He immediately put his four horses in the cabin, as there was a good chance the braves might take them. Barnett then went outside to meet his visitors as they lined up in front of the cabin. Several of the braves demanded food so Barnett supplied them with some tea and tobacco.
As the pow-wow went on, the horses in the cabin were making quite a noise moving around so Barnett brought it to the attention of the braves that there were enough men in the cabin to defend his position. The braves left but not totally without incident as one of them fired two rounds at Barnett's cabin.
In 1986, small stature man by the name of Bill Burrisa became the first overseer in the community now known as Lacombe. Burris had apparently been a lawman in Georgetown, Colorado before settling into the area. Some of the duties of the overseer were to serve council, secretary treasurer, and sanitary inspector and to administer the affairs of the village including policing. Eventually in 1900, with a thriving population of 100 people the community hired Roy Baine as their first constable.
One of Baines more lasting impressions of Lacombe was his first July 4th celebration. Baines had to respond to the Victoria Hotel, which was overflowing with whiskey-soaked patrons from south of the border.
The Victoria Hotel had a big street corner entrance, which most cowboys felt was an open invitation to ride their horses right into the bar and order a beer. Unfortunately on more than one occasion a horse would get its hoof lodged between the brass rail and the bar and it was always an event to dislodge the wide eyed beast.
On this occasion, Baines tried to evict the patron who wanted to make a lasting impression on the people of Lacombe. Eventually Baines had to show his authority by pulling his gun at which point the crowd threatened to hang him. Baines prudently remembered urgent business elsewhere and left. Lacombe never did celebrate another July 4th weekend.
With the establishment of the Alberta Provincial Police the town requested a detachment be built in Lacombe but still continued to have it's own constable. The Alberta Provincial Police in Lacombe fell under "B" Division which headquartered out of Red Deer, Alberta.
Cst. Joseph H. Collett was one of those members who worked in Lacombe's Detachment and later joined the Royal North West Mounted Police when they took over Alberta's policing responsibilities.
Collett with Lacombe Police Service's first police car
Upon leaving Lacombe Collett completed 34 years with the RNWMP. After his retirement he returned to Lacombe and at the age of 67 took on the roll of the Chief of Police in the community for the next 12 years. Joseph Collett retired from the town force at the age of 79.
During the 1950's, nightshifts in the town meant that a local taxi usually picked up the lone constable, as there were no police cars. The constable and the cab driver would drive around town keeping each other company. One of those nights, Bill Healing who operated a taxi, remembers an incident involving a member by the name of Archie Dorsey.
Dorsey was very new to the policing world when he had the unfortunate task of bumping into Smoky Jamison. Smoky use to drive his tractor to town and park it behind the Mainline Motors garage then would walk down to the Adelphi Hotel where he would take on a snoot full of whisky.
One night Dorsey confronted an obviously drunk Smoky behind Mainline Motors. Dorsey told Smoky not to get on the tractor but Smoky did anyways. Suddenly, Smoky pulled a shotgun that had been hidden on the tractor and fired a couple of shots into the air. Between the shots being fired and Smoky revving the old tractor, Dorsey couldn't get out of there fast enough. Dorsey was on the force a week before he took early retirement.
Not having a portable radio back then was overcome by the technology of the day. When the members were out on patrol there was a location in town that he would pay a little more attention to. It was a 25-foot telegraph pole on the street side of the Lacombe Hotel and mounted high at the top of the pole was a red light.
When people in town needed the assistance of the police they would ring up the local Alberta Government Telephone operator who would then switch on the red light to summon the member on patrol. When the member saw the light on, he would phone the switchboard and take the information. The member would then use the taxi or his own car to get him to the complaint. Chief Collett even went as far as installing a siren on his own car in 1954 to keep up to the demands with the increase of traffic in town.
Apparently because of the close working relationship between the police and AGT, it wasn't uncommon for a member to run off with a switchboard operator.
Early cell block in Lacombe
Lacombe members have seen their share of high-risk incidents. One cold and frosty night in the middle of winter, the Lacombe Rockets hockey club had packed the arena with 3500 screaming fans. At the same time a lone constable was bundled up in his winter attire and conducted property checks while on foot patrol.
As checks were being conducted the member suddenly came across what appeared to be a felon inside the Creamery. Cautiously the lone constable observed through the frost windows the would-be theft working on the store safe with an axe. Immediately the member returned to the jammed pack arena and summoned Cst. Shaw who was keeping an eye on the enthusiastic crowd.
Shaw responded to the Creamery and upon seeing the individual inside, drew his own Colt 45 revolver. Shaw had been originally issued with a .38 Special but the barrel was bent and he was scared to fire it.
Unable to find out how the culprit got inside, Shaw decided to use the front door. Shaw positioned himself and with his shoulder, opened the door surprising the felon. Shaw made his appearance and the culprit still had his arm deep in the safe. Surprised by the officers the culprit removed his arm and charged the member. Shaw raised his weapon and fired in the direction of the advancing felon who promptly turned tail and ran. Shaw then let go with a volley of round missing the suspect altogether and hitting the stainless steel vat, which contained numerous gallons of cream.
It was later learned that Shaw's first round had met its mark and within hours a 36 year old suspect was captured while enroute to Edmonton with a bullet wound to his ankle. Steven Bartosh of no fixed address ultimately received 18 months in Fort Saskatchewan and the Lacombe Police Department received local praise from the town paper.
Constable with early 1960's police vehicle
Through many changes in the provincial policing landscape during the past century the members of the Lacombe Police Service still pride themselves in getting the job done right. They did not always have the best equipment, sufficient human resource or even the proper training but they always rose above their limitations and earned the respect of the community through their perseverance and determination.
From its pride and sometimes colorful past, the Lacombe Police Service has evolved into a modern force serving a community of over 12,000 residents. Today, the service consists of 15 sworn members, 11 full and part-time civilian support staff, as well as a number of community volunteers.
The service houses the regional 911-call center, which dispatches police, fire and ambulance to the region of some 25,000 people. From the rotating red light to modern communications: from cab rides to a modern fleet of police vehicles, the Lacombe Police Service prides itself on blending tradition with technology and is considered a leader in today's world of community policing.