Wilmington – Today at 9:00 a.m., the Delaware State Police honored Officer Francis Ryan at a Public Servants Memorial Sign Ceremony. The ceremony was held on Philadelphia Pike at East Holly Oak Road, Wilmington, according to Director of Public Information Sergeant Richard D. Bratz.
Bratz said Officer Francis Ryan, a member of the Delaware State Highway Police, died at the age of 31 while attempting to apprehend a speeding motorist on Philadelphia Pike on October 17, 1922. Officer Ryan’s motorcycle was struck by a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction in the area of East Holly Oak Road. He was taken to a local doctor for immediate treatment before being transported to the Delaware Hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries on November 2, 1922.
“I want to thank everyone in attendance for your willingness to take the time from your busy schedules to be here this morning. I especially want to thank the state officials and the state policemen who are here this morning to commemorate Francis Ryan’s service to the State of Delaware. My name is Lori Dougherty. I am one of four grandnieces of Francis Paul Ryan who are here with our families today. My three sisters Karen, Diane, Colleen and I are all very honored and very grateful to see our great uncle Francis Ryan’s sacrifice recognized in this manner.
While I was growing up my mother often told me the story of our paternal grandmother’s brother, Francis Ryan. How he was a policeman and was the first to ride a motorcycle on the job…As a family, we will be forever grateful to Officer Lewis and all of the other officers and state officials who have taken part in making sure Officer Francis Ryan sacrifice has not been forgotten. Again, thank you to everyone whose hard work contributed to making this day possible…”
Before the Delaware State Police was formed in 1923, the first traffic law enforcement officers were called the “Highway Traffic Police”. Started in 1919, the HTP consisted of one officer whose sole function was to patrol the Philadelphia Pike near Wilmington. In the following year the force was increased to three men and three motorcycles. From 1920 to 1923 these men served directly under the State Highway Commission. Prior to the formation of state police the areas between unincorporated districts were served by the county sheriff department.
Thoughts on the topic of forming a State Police organization for the First State had been recorded as early as 1906. Although interest existed, little, if any, positive steps were taken until the State Highway Commission was formed in 1917. As construction of paved highways was begun and registered motor vehicles began to rise, a need to regulate and maintain safety soon became apparent. On April 23, 1923, the General Assembly, at the request of the State Highway Department, enacted two laws that created the Delaware State Police. This date marks the official organization of the present law enforcement organization.
The Delaware State Police employed 75 full-time officers for every 100,000 residents in 2007, the largest number of any state police force.
Image Credits: Delaware State Police