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Nelson J. Zoch

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About the Houston Police Department

The Houston Police Department is organized into four main entities: Administrative Operations; Patrol Operations; Investigative Operations and Support Operations.  The Patrol Operations has the largest number of personnel and is divided into two commands: North Patrol Command and South Patrol Command.  The Investigative Operations are also divided into two commands: Criminal Investigations Command and Special Investigations Command.  The Criminal Investigations Command organizes the detectives like many police agencies, that is, by type of crime.  Detectives in the Criminal Investigations Command of the Houston Police Department work: Auto Theft; Burglary and Theft; Homicide; Juvenile and Robbery.  Because they are seen as more sensitive areas, major police departments tend to break out certain types of investigative functions under a specialized command, or with some specialized police command oversight.  Houston Police Department has chosen this path in its Special Investigations Command which is responsible for Criminal Intelligence; Gangs; Major Offenders; Narcotics and Vice.


The City of Houston was founded by Augustus and John Kirby Allen brothers in 1836 and incorporated as a city the next year, 1837. As the city quickly grew, so did the need for a cohesive law enforcement agency. It was in 1841 that the Houston Police Department was founded. The first HPD badge issued bore the number "1."


The early part of the 20th century was a time of enormous growth for both the City of Houston and for the Houston Police Department. Due to growing traffic concerns in downtown Houston, the HPD purchased its first automobile in 1910 and created its first traffic squad during that same year. Eleven years later, in 1921, the Houston Police Department  installed the city's first traffic light. This traffic light was manually operated until 1927, when automatic traffic lights were installed.


As Houston became a larger metropolis throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the Houston Police Department found itself growing and acquiring more technology to keep up with the city's fast pace. The first homicide division was established in 1930. During that same year, the Houston Police Department purchased newer weapons to arm their officers: standard issue .44 caliber revolvers and two Thompson submachine guns. In 1939, the department proudly presented its first police academy class. The Houston Police Officers Association was created in 1945. This organization later became the Houston Police Officers Union.


Throughout the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, the Houston Police Department also experienced its own highs and lows. The first Houston Police Department bomb squad was created in 1966. The next year, 1967, saw massive riots at Texas Southern University. During the riots, one officer was killed and nearly 500 students were arrested. It was as a result of these riots that the still-active Community Relations Division was created within the Houston Police Department. In 1970, the Helicopter Patrol Division was created with three leased helicopters. That year also marked the department's first purchase of bulletproof vests for their officers. The Houston Police Department first Special Weapons and Tactical Squad (SWAT) was formed in 1975.






Nelson J. Zoch served the Houston Police Department for thirty-six years from 1968 to 2004. His service included assignments on the night shift in Radio Patrol as a street officer in the Third Ward of Houston and later as a Park Place Radio Patrol Shift Lieutenant. He also served in the Homicide Division from 1972-1977 as a Detective investigating murders and other Homicide related investigations. Nelson Zoch returned to the Homicide Division in 1980 continued a distinguished career in the Homicide Division where he served as a Murder Squad Lieutenant for over twenty-four years until his retirement in 2004.  Nelson Zoch is the author of Fallen Heroes of the Bayou City: Houston Police Department 1860-2006.


According to the book description of Fallen Heroes of the Bayou City: Houston Police Department 1860-2006, “This is a 280 page publication compiled by Retired HPD Homicide Lieutenant Nelson Zoch which describes in detail the lives and deaths of 106 Houston Officers who gave their lives in THE LINE OF DUTY. Learn about how Houston Police Officers worked and died while doing their duty as Officers, beginning with Officer C. Edward Foley being shotgunned to death at the market place in 1860 to Officer Rodney Johnson being killed by a handcuffed illegal immigrant in 2006.”

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