The history of Winter Park dates
back to 1858 when an eight-acre plot of land was purchased by David
Mizell, Jr. He called the area Lake View. For the next 29 years
the area began to grow with the introduction of a railway line through
the town. The City of Winter Park (the city was renamed
in 1881) was then officially chartered in 1887, the City was originally
developed as a winter resort for wealthy Northerners seeking refuge
from the harsh winters and a tranquil place to rest and relax.
In 1887, it was recorded that professional
burglars broke into the Ergood store (located at Morse Blvd and
Park Ave) and blew the safe. The burglars took $300 and since there
was no local police, Sheriff Mizell was contacted and he conducted
the investigation. No one was ever caught so it was decided by the
town's people to start their own local law enforcement office. This
was the start of the Winter Park Police Department. The first officer
was Alex Earl, the Town Marshall. In 1889 the first town jail was
built. The jail was a small two door, square facility that housed
only prisoners. The town police officer operated out of his own
home. This system would last through 1915.
On March 17, 1898 the first murder
occurred in Winter Park. It was reported that two men, in the Hannibal
Square section of town, were fighting. The fight ended with one
of the men being killed with a blow from an axe. The
case was solved due to citizen intervention.
In 1915, the first actual police
station was built. The police station was located at Park Ave and
Lyman Ave. The police station was attached to City Hall. The building
was constructed of stone and concrete, which lasted through 1962.
During the late 1920's, the first
patrolman and motorcycle officer were hired starting the Patrol
and Traffic divisions. These divisions have grown into the present
Traffic and Patrol Divisions with a combined total of forty-eight
1930, the Winter Park Police Department saw its first officer killed
in the line of duty. Chief John O'Steen was responding to a bank
robbery alarm when he was sideswiped by another car resulting in
a fatal car crash. Since this incident, there has been no other
line of duty deaths.
During 1949, radio equipment was
added to the police vehicles allowing a dispatcher to notify officers
of calls. Until 1957, Orange County Sheriffs Department dispatched
for all police agencies in the county. Since 1957, The Winter Park
Police Department has had their own dispatchers.
In the 1960's the Winter Park Police
Department saw several changes. The first change was the addition
of the K-9 Division. In 1962, the former police headquarters was
constructed. This building did not change until 1978, when the second
floor was added.
1975 The SWAT Team was formed. This unit is still active and has
been expanded since it's conception.
The Neighborhood and Business Watch
Programs began in 1980. These programs are designed to assist the
citizens and local businesses in crime prevention.
Also in 1980, the Winter Park Police
Department saw the start of the School Resource Officer program;
one officer was assigned to the Winter Park High School. The School
Resource Officer program has grown and now involves four schools.
Winter Park Police Department has continued to grow and change since
it's beginnings in 1887. In 2003, a new Public Safety Building had
its grand opening. This facility provides a state of the art home
for the police and fire departments.