“Homicide Squad” From The Annals of Portland Police

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    Long before the Fox television series “Cops” broadcast episodes of The Portland Police Dept., there was the local radio program called “Homicide Squad” produced at KGW-KEX studios in The Oregonian building at 325 S.W. Alder St. Most likely the program title came from the 1931 movie starring Leo Carrillo & Noah Beery.

    The original title was called “The Homicide Squad with Captain Niles of Portland Police.” This realistic police dramatization was under the direction of Captain Harry N. Niles of the Portland Police Dept. The Captain would also narrate some episodes. Captain Niles had known the staff for many years with his association with Portland Police, Sunshine Division, collecting food and clothing for the needy and its association with the KGW Hoot Owls, who promoted it.

    These episodes were written by David Drummond. The drama began on KGW Wednesday night Nov 23, 1932 at 6:30 and ran 30 minutes with no sponsor. The first episode was called “Fast Freight 256” [More on episodes below]. By April 1933 the main characters were Mark Daniels as “Inspector Barry” and Ted Athey as “Inspector Frost”, who was kind of a dumb detective but very popular on the show. Most of the mean villians were played by Charles Gerrard.

    On May 30, 1933 “The Homicide Squad with Captain Niles of Portland Police” finished its first season with the episode “The Beast.” The Oregonian’s, “Behind The Mike” writer William Moyes wrote: “Probably never before on the radio had terror been tranmitted with such a degree of perfection. One of the most disturbing things in the world is a face in the dark looking in at the window. But that was only the Beast’s starting point. When he crept into the little girls room it was horrible — the girl crying out “is that you, father?” and the Beast making no reply, only his stealthy footsteps being audible.”

    On June 20, 1933 the program title was shortened to “Homicide Squad” and landed its first sponsor “Jenning’s Furniture Co.” at 10th & Washington Streets. By August 1933 the introduction to the program went like this: “Ladies and gentlemen, murder has been commited! The Homicide Squad swings into action (Don’t shoot–pop, pop– for Gahr’s sake!)” By April 1935 it was learned Flora Bartmess had been doing the screams and annoying a lot of listeners! By October 1933 Homicide Squad was known in ads as “The Thriller of The Air.”

    On March 2, 1934 “Homicide Squad” moved to sister station KEX Friday’s at 9:30pm. The sponsor changed to “Communities Credit, Inc.” The first episode was called “Death By Strangulation.” On March 16, 1934 slight changes were made in the presentation to make it more interesting for spectators when the program was presented over the air with a live audience in The Oregonian building. 150 people were turned away for lack of seating. Turnout for the show had been a big surprise. On October 29, 1934 New Portland Police Chief, Harry N. Niles acted as narrater on the episode and the program as dedicated to him.

    On February 24, 1936 “Homicide Squad” presented the episode “The Hangman’s Noose” and the reaction of one listener was printed in “Behind The Mike” March 1, 1936. “Dear Mike: I wish to enter my protest against that hanging that was put on as part of the Homicide Squad last Monday. It was the most gruesome disgusting thing I ever heard on the air. Are we a lot of morons that we must consider it entertainment to hear some poor unfortunate make his death speech on the gallows and then hear the sickening thud as the trap falls and his neck snaps. Let’s have no more of this kind of thing. SANE, Cottage Grove.”

    March 11, 1936 Homicide Squad ad: “A piercing scream! — A woman shrieks — “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” — and the Homicide Squad swings into action with thirty minutes of the most exiting, swift-moving drama of crime and criminals you’ve ever heard! Every broadcast is the dramatization of a true story from the annals of the Portland Police Department. Packed full of thrills from beginning to end — the Homicide Squad will keep you tense with excitement — tune to 1180 — KEX, Monday nights at 9 o’clock. HOMICIDE SQUAD.”

    On October 4, 1936 A.D. Freund of Portland wrote: “Dear Mike: Just a word of appreciation for that good old thriller Homicide Squad. I never fail to get a kick out of the shrieks, groans and gunfire, not to mention the Dick Tracy — Sherlock H. Barry. “Killer At Bay” (last Monday night) was right down my alley; gruesome, fast and nerve spattering.” On January 3, 1938 Charles Bickford played Captain McKinley. On May 23, 1938 KEX broadcast the last episode of “Homicide Squad.”


    KGW debut Wednesday’s at 6:30pm on Nov 23, 1932.

    Moved to Friday’s at 9:30pm on January 13, 1933.

    Moved to Monday’s at 9:30pm on March 6, 1933.

    Moved to Tuesday’s at 9:30pm on May 2, 1933.

    Season Ended May 30, 1933.

    HOMICIDE SQUAD (new season title change June 20, 1933)

    Moved to 8:30pm on Tuesday’s on Sept 12, 1933.

    Moved to KEX on Monday at 9:15pm for (one show) on Oct 2, 1933.

    Moved back to KGW on Sunday’s at 9:30pm on Oct 8, 1933.

    Moved to KEX on Friday’s at 9:30pm on March 2, 1934.

    Moved to 9:15pm on Friday’s on March 16, 1934.

    Moved to 9:00pm on Monday’s on October 1, 1934.

    Moved to 8:30pm on Monday’s on Sept 28, 1936.

    Moved back to 9:00pm Monday’s on Oct 12, 1936.

    Ended May 23, 1938.


    11-23-32 [pilot] “Fast Freight 256” Union Pacific’s eastbound night freight out of Portland in 1921 where gangs of thugs stole cigarettes & tobacco, just after the St. Johns tunnel.

    11-30-32 “Number 9 Lester 2B” One of the most baffling murder mysteries ever to confront the Portland Police.

    12-7-32 “Tacoma Red Meets A Cop” Officer Charley Hewston in action against one of his toughest customers.

    12-14-32 “Grand Central Trunk Murder” Based on the June 1910 Portland Police case.

    12-21-32 “The Maniac” Terror caused by an escaped prisoner who prowls the fog-shrouded streets of Portland, gun in hand with a lust to kill.

    2-3-33 “The Blue Mountain Killers” Portland bloodhounds were heard during the broadcast.

    2-17-33 “The Clue of The Grinning Skull” A grave-robbing drama.

    2-24-33 “The Thirteen Steps” A condemned man is hung from the gallows when the trap door falls. Produced by Robert L. Redd.

    3-6-33 “The Great Divide”

    5-30-33 “The Beast” When a man crept into a little girl’s room. (Last episode of original series)

    6-20-33 “Death By Strangulation”

    7-11-33 “The Riot Call” A thriller.

    9-12-33 “Out of The Past” A triangle story.

    12-24-33 “A Doll For Mary” Christmas story specially written.

    4-20-34 “Death Cheats The Hangman, Part 1” One of the worst crimes in the annals of the Pacific N.W. Presented in 2 parts.

    4-27-34 “Death Cheats The Hangman, Part 2”

    6-15-34 “The Madman” The story of a maniac and a cop who was killed.

    6-22-34 “Chinatown Vengeance” Portland’s Chinatown past when hatchetmen plied their bloody trade of murder at a price.

    1-14-35 “The Perfect Alibi” Murder thriller mystery solved by scientific crime detection methods. Guest actor: Leslie Martin.

    2-24-36 “The Hangman’s Noose” Murderer heard while led to the gallows. Sounds of the hanging, down to his last gurgles.

    9-28-36 “Killer At Bay” Described as gruesome, fast and nerve spattering.


    Wonder if any tapes of these shows exist? Might make interesting fodder for CD. Many network radio shows were later issued on LP, cassette or CD, and a few ran in syndication for a few years (“Fibber McGee & Molly” comes to mind)…

    Best, M. 8)


    “Wonder if any tapes of these shows exist?”

    There is a very small chance someone might have an episode. KGW/KEX installed RCA Transcription equipment in Feb 1938 and the show end in May 1938. The wild card in this was the KGW/KEX studio fire in 1943, destroying all the transcriptions.




    Just stumbled into this. The “Homicide Squad” theme song was:

    “Agitato No. 37”

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