When I hear the words secret service, I immediately think of the president surrounded by men in suits looking very serious.
Oklahoma City’s secret service began with an ordinance in May of 1909 proposed by the mayor, Henry M. Scales, and passed by the city council. It created a secret service department that would perform the duties of the plain clothes men of the regular police department. Their chief would report to the mayor and they would be located in the basement of city hall.
The May 15 newspaper gave the explanation for the separation of the patrol department and the plain clothes department, which would allow “the police department to be better able to cope with local conditions than ever before.”
The headline in the January 1, 1911, Daily Oklahoman declared:
“GREAT YEAR FOR POLICE SERVICE
Perhaps Greatest Improvement Has Been in Secret Service Department”
The story states, “The work done by this department is of the highest done in any of the detective departments of the cities of the west. Some of the greatest ”crooks” in the country have been apprehended by them, and they have fathomed some perplexing crimes. The department has the distinction of being one among many of the country that is on a paying basis. Not only does the department pay its own expenses but with the surplus added to the revenues of the police department pays one-half the expenses of that department.”
The secret service department operated, not without controversy, until 1911. Mayor Scales and the police chief, John Hubatka carried on a dispute over control. Hubatka filed an injunction, a lawsuit and attempted an ouster of the mayor.
The controversy ended with the election in May of 1911. The new mayor, Whit Grant, appointed a new police chief.
The July 14, 1911, newspaper, announced that William “Bill” Tilghman, the famous
Oklahoma lawman who had helped “Bat” Masterson clean up Dodge City and had served as sheriff of Lincoln County, would be the chief of police upon the appointment by the mayor. The article also states that “the secret service department will be discontinued and the police department supplemented with six detectives.”
With that action, Oklahoma City’s secret service department was merged back into the police department under the control of the police chief and with the plain clothes officers, the detectives, serving alongside the patrolmen again.
Tilghman remained chief of police until February 10, 1913, when he resigned to campaign for the office of U.S. marshal for the western district of Oklahoma.