Next year will mark the 100th birthday of this nation's oldest representative police porganization, the Fraternal Order of Police. 1915, the life of a policeman was bleak. In many communities they were forced to work 12 or more hours a day, 365 days a year with little if any time off, for very little pay and no voice in their profession.
Police officers didn't like it, but there was little they could do to change their working conditions. There were no organizations available to make their voices heard; no other means to make their grievances known. They had no voice.
This soon changed thanks to the courage and wisdom of two Pittsburgh patrol officers. Pittsburgh Officers Martin Toole and Delbert Nagle knew that in order to be heard police officers must first organize. Like other labor interests, if they were to be successful in making life better for themselves and their fellow police officers they had to become a union. Officers Toole and Nagle began secret meetings with individual officers that shared their beliefs. They managed to enlist 21 others "who were willing to take a chance" and they met in secret on May 14, 1915, and held the first meeting of the Fraternal Order of Police.
In that meeting, at great risk of their jobs, these courageous officers formed Fort Pitt FOP Lodge #1. They decided on using the name "Fraternal Order" and “Lodge” instead of “Union” and “Local” because of the strong anti-union sentiment prevalent in the country at that time. Prior attempts at forming police unions in several major east coast cities at the turn of the century had been met with heavy handed government suppression. So Toole, Nagle, and the others had to come up with a plan, a name, and an organizational structure that provided cover for the true work ahead.
In 1915 “Fraternal Order” was a common terminology for any trade organization, social club, or gathering of individuals with a benevolent common interest. The founding name Fraternal Order of Police and its structure was the key to survival. Regardless of the name they chose, there was no mistaking their intentions, and what the FOP truly was. Those officers were forming a union intent on changing and improving the working conditions of Pittsburgh's police officers. A common and unified voice of the workers. As they told their city mayor, Joe Armstrong, the FOP would be the means "to bring our aggrievances before the Mayor or Council and have many things adjusted that we are unable to present in any other way...we could get many things through our legislature that our Council will not, or cannot give us." Their work with Mayor Armstrong became a relationship of respect and common purpose.
And so it began, a tradition of police officers representing police officers. The Fraternal Order of Police was given life by two courageous police officers who were determined to better their profession and the working conditions of those who choose to protect and serve our communities, our states, and our country. The FOP became the first police union in the country, and used that success to promote both the labor and fraternal sides of the organization. It was not many years after establishing the organization that Pittsburgh Mayor Armstrong was congratulating the Fraternal Order of Police for their "strong influence in the legislatures in various states,...their considerate and charitable efforts" on behalf of the officers in need and for the FOP's "efforts at increasing the public confidence toward the police to the benefit of the peace, as well as the public."
In 1917 the success of the FOP in Pittsburgh had spread to police officers in other cities and states. Just two years after the formation and success of the Pittsburgh FOP Lodge, the idea of the Fraternal Order of Police becoming a national organization of police officers was born. From our small beginning in 1915 – 1917 the Fraternal Order of Police has grown steadily. Today, the tradition that was first envisioned over 90 years ago lives on with more than 2,200 local lodges and over 330,000 members in the United States, and in Colorado over 5,300 members in 47 lodges across our state.
The Fraternal Order of Police is the largest professional police organization in the country. There are no others that even come close to the number of members nationwide; or the work we do on behalf of the profession; or the resources we offer our members. We are proud of our name, our heritage, our daily work on behalf of our profession & our members, and our tradition. The FOP is both a trade union and a Fraternal Organization, having both Labor Lodges & Fraternal Lodges. But make no mistake we are union first. As important as that fact is we are also a "full service member representation organization" involving benevolence, legal support, community involvement, and fraternalism. That has been the formula for success from the beginning.
The FOP continues to grow because we have been true to the tradition and continued to build on it. The Fraternal Order of Police leadership are all proud professionals working on behalf of law enforcement officers from all ranks and levels of government. We work hard to improve the working conditions of law enforcement officers and the safety of those they serve through education, legislation, information, community involvement, and employee representation.
The FOP lobbies Congress and regulatory agencies on behalf of all law enforcement officers, provides labor representation, promotes legal defense for officers, and offers resources such as legal research. We also sponsor many important charities and foundations such as Easter Seals, Special Olympics, Kops n Kids, Law Enforcement Families Readiness Initiative (LEFRI), Miller/Coors Respect 21, Take 25 for Child Protection, the Danny Faulkner Foundation, Homeless Veterans Outreach and the Veterans' Crisis Line to name a few. The FOP supports and is very involved in establishing memorials for fallen officers, and strongly supports programs for spouses and family members of police officers. We have been doing this longer and better than anyone else. It is who we are.
The National Organization has three offices: the Labor Services Division in Columbus, Ohio, the Steve Young Law Enforcement Legislative Advocacy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Grand Lodge "Atnip-Orms Center" National Headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary
The Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary (FOPA) is the auxiliary organization of FOP for family members of FOP members. It was formed by a group of wives of Pittsburgh police officers in 1920, and Kathryn M. Milton became its first national president, in 1941 as the Fraternal Order of Police Ladies Auxiliary. It reports over 2,000 members in 140 Auxiliaries in 25 states. In 1985, non-female members older than 18 were admitted for the first time; in 1987, the current name was adopted, dropping the term "Ladies.”
Fraternal Order of Police Associates
The Fraternal Order of Police Associates (FOPA) is a civilian affiliate organization that is made up of FOP supporters not eligible for membership. Its members include friends and family of members, businesspeople, professionals, and other citizens. It is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.