Charles Steen, who worked for the department from 1978 to 1991, said he has spent two years interviewing and compiling the stories that make the history of the Tyler Police Department. He said he interviewed 80 officers and former officers and collected 750 photos, about 500 of which he said came from families and have not been seen by the public.
He left to work in Palestine, where he retired after 18 years, and he currently works on The University of Texas at Tyler's police force.
“Tyler was always the love of my life, and I loved working for the Tyler Police Department,” he said. “I always thought if someone would write a book on Tyler, I'd buy it no matter what the thing cost.”
Steen also wrote a book documenting the history of the Palestine Police Department, and decided if no one was going to write a book on Tyler, he would step up to the plate.
“I said, 'You know I'm going to do it to give back to the community,'” he said. “The community has a wonderful heritage. There were a lot of good men who wore uniforms.”
In total, Steen wrote 1,510 pages of history, which will be published in three volumes.
Volume 1 will cover the history from 1865 to 1965, as well as the use of motorcycles in the department.
Volume 2 will cover 1966 to 1982 as well as detectives, SWAT, K-9 units, reserve officers and dispatchers and civilians in the force. Volume 3 covers the years 1983 to 2012, as well as biographies on every police chief, city marshal and chapters on each of the department's fallen officers.
Steen said he was given the printed proofs of the book this week, and depending on how long editing takes, the book will be available between January and February. It will be available at Amazon.com and at Tyler paper.com. A digital version will not be available.
Tyler Police Chief Gary Swindle said officers have a great since of pride in their work and even when they leave the profession, they miss it.
“It's like you become a part of a big family — that's what we wanted to capture,” he said. “Really (it's like a) family album. It will live forever.”
He said it includes the names and stories of the four officers who have fallen in the line of duty in the department.
Steen said the story that will have Tylerites driving to see history is the story of Whittington's death.
He said the officer was in a high-speed chase on Old Bullard Road at speeds of more than 90 mph, when the suspect went over a bridge in the road over a creek.
“When he hit the bridge, he became airborne and sailed 60 feet through the air and hit a tree about 15 feet off the ground,” Steen said. “Unfortunately Burl died but the tree survived, and the tree is still there, and you can see where he hit the tree.”
He said the mark looks like a limb was cut off the tree, when it is actually a scar from the collision.
Steen said he was asked to shorten the book, but he refused.
“I love all the stories in there,” he said. “I said, 'I'm not cutting a single story out of this book,' and I think the public is really going to love reading (it).”
The funding to print the book was provided through donations from Brookshire's Grocery Company, the Smith County Historical Society and private donations.