Police History & Tradition

Wild Bill Hickok

In 1857, when he was about 20 years old, Wild Bill Hickok claimed a 160-acre homestead track at the corner of 83rd Street and Claire Road in an area that today falls within the City of Lenexa. That next year, Hickok was elected as one of the first four constables of Monticello Township in the Kansas Territory, which later merged with the cities of Lenexa and Shawnee. In this sense, Wild Bill remains one of the most legendary law enforcement officers in Lenexa’s history, though his legend began after he moved from the area.

Founded in 1869 and incorporated in 1907, Lenexa was policed by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and City Marshalls until 1966, when our department was established. During this time, a local homicide case caught the attention of Daring Detective Magazine, which published the ‘Judas Slayer and the Murdered Mariner,’ an account of the Captain T. A. Sanders’ murder in 1930. The 1930s article, written by Morton Faber, describes the deductive abilities of local Johnson County law enforcement personnel, which brought about the apprehension and capture of William F. Skelton.

Police Unit from 1979 Chiefs Jim Ainsworth, David Gellatly and Phil Barbour lead the department until 1971, when Chief John L. Foster took charge. Chief Foster created a department culture of professional, progressive and dedicated law enforcement, encouraging staff to bring innovative methods and technology to the department and the region. Under Chief Foster’s leadership, we were the first department in the area to develop a canine unit, to acquire an armored rescue vehicle, and was among the first to develop a tactical response team. Purchased with donated officer overtime in 1977, some area leaders looked skeptically upon the idea of a police department having a 19 1/2-ton Korean War era tracked rescue vehicle. Seven years later, however, two young women stranded in floodwaters on a median at 103rd Street and Metcalf were relieved when two officers driving Lenexa’s APC rescued them after other attempts had failed throughout the preceding night.

With Chief Foster’s retirement in 1991, Chief Ellen Hanson took over and continued the cultural foundation Chief Foster had laid. Under Chief Hanson’s leadership, we expanded our use of technology, becoming one of the first departments to deploy in-car video systems and laptop computers for patrol use. In 2009, we were also the first in the metro area to purchase body cameras to be worn by patrol officers. In 2020, Chief Thomas Hongslo retired and Chief Dawn Layman was appointed.

Chief Layman has been with the department since 1993 and has easily continued the proactive tradition of service she has served under. In addition to technology and intelligent led policing, our community outreach program has become a mainstay of the department, with staff participating in fundraising and special events like the Torch Run and the Polar Bear Plunge to benefit Special Olympics, the Red Bag charity to benefit families in need, the Marine Corps Birthday Breakfast to benefit Toys for Tots, and other charitable efforts. Our staff also supports mutual aid and disaster response, with teams of officers deploying to Pass Christian, Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and to Greensburg, Kansas that had been devastated by tornadoes in 2007.

We are a proud organization and our tradition of service to the community has always been, and always will be, our number one priority.