The East Peoria Junior Police was a youth organization that operated in East Peoria for over 20 years. It was initiated by Sgt. Marvin H. “Red” Uppole of the East Peoria Police Department with the blessing and support of Chief of Police Vern E. Roberson and Mayor John W. Keyes. The group was officially organized with a Christmas party on Dec. 24, 1957, at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall on East Washington Street. The purpose of the youth organization was to instill community pride in East Peoria boys in hopes of reducing juvenile delinquency. Enrollment was open to all East Peoria boys ages 9 through 15 who passed an exam based on their knowledge of the local community. Ninety eight of the first 116 boys successfully completed the exam and were awarded a badge, ID card, cap and blue sweatshirt. A light-weight blue jacket was later added to the uniform.
The organization was supported by local merchants and an annual County Western fund-raising show held at East Peoria High School and later Bradley Fieldhouse. The fundraisers included entertainers such as Kitty Wells, Junior Wright and Ronnie McDowell. The fundraising effort was headed by Sgt. Uppole and later Sgt. Sam Pendola, also of the East Peoria Police Department.
The Junior Police held monthly meetings at the East Peoria Veterans of Foreign Wars on Herschel Street with games, movies and instruction on police work and citizenship. Excursions were provided to Chicago Cub and St. Louis Cardinal baseball games, swimming and skating parties and fishing trips to Dixon’s that always included a box lunch of Kentucky Fried Chicken. The group also aided campaigns for the blind and muscular dystrophy by canvasing East Peoria door-to-door for donations. The highlight of the year was a 10-day experience on the Mississippi River at Camp Hauberg at Port Bryon, Illinois, that included camping, swimming, archery, rifle and canoeing. In May 1976 girls were allowed membership and the age extended through 16.
Sgt. Uppole was the driving force behind the organization and was aided by Sgt. Elmer Sandifar following Uppole’ injuries in a 1960 automobile accident. Carla Buhl long-time member of the department handled the bookwork for the Junior Police. When Uppole retired in May 1975 he was replaced by Sgt. Sam Pendola. “Red” also operated East Peoria Speed Way, a slot car arcade located on West Washington Street, near Four Corners that was a favorite hangout for teens, and in 1975, made an unsuccessful bid for mayor. With Uppole’s retirement the group was shortly disbanded.
Eleven years later another youth program was organized. An Explorer Post, of the Boy Scouts of America, was sponsored by the East Peoria Police Department with then Sgt. Randy Martin as advisor. It grew out of a short-lived cooperative cadet program and operated by Illinois Central College and the East Peoria Police Department. The program continued under the tutelage of Sgt. Brad Phelps until his deployment to Kuwait in July of 2005 at which time it was discontinued because of the lack of an advisor. During this period the post members participated in National Conferences in Boston in 1988, Boulder Colorado in 1990 and South Carolina in 1992 and yearly State Conferences in Springfield. Present day Deputy Chief Rich Brodrich was a member of this post while a teen.
Compiled March 2019 by Frank Borror