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John B. Layton

John B. Layton

Chief of Police (December 1964-July 1969)

John Layton a native of Washington, D.C. joined the Metropolitan Police department in 1936. He became a Detective Sergeant, then made Lieutenant in 1945 and was placed in charge of what could be called the first “Cold Case” squad. Lieutenant Layton was also a member of the 1948 Olympic Shooting team. In 1951, he was promoted to Captain and headed up the Pawn Unit and by 1956 was placed in charge of the First Precinct.


By January of 1963, he had been promoted to Deputy Chief and placed in charge of the Detective Bureau, and was promoted to Chief in November of 1964. At that time both Chief Layton’s son and his son-in-law were privates assigned to the Third Precinct.

Chief Layton inherited a department that was still enjoying a good reputation, but over the past few years despite the Police Department’s efforts, crime had increased dramatically, and Police and community relations were strained, particularly in the Black Community. In 1963, Washington D.C. led the nation in the number of murders per capita.

Chief Layton began the first Police Cadet Program and moved to improve the training being provided to recruits and sworn officers. He beefed up his Community Relations Unit, and promoted the first African American to the rank of Captain. He created the Public Information Division to better communicate with the media, and to coordinate information being given to the public.

Unfortunately through most of his tenure things grew tenser between the Black Community and the Police Department, and they exploded into a full scale riot in April of 1968, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

It was under Chief Layton that the Communications Divisions was improved, and an enhanced system of vehicle and wanted information called W.A.L.E.s was added. The Department was also assigned the telephone number 444-1111 as the direct emergency line to the Police Department. There was also a change made to the design of the patrol cars. By the end of 1967, the Police cars were adorned with a blue stripe down the side and gold shield on the driver and passenger door. This design remained until 1997.

By 1969, things were in such as state that President Richard Nixon took a personal interest in the Police Department and worked to get the authorized strength up to 5100. Shortly thereafter, Chief Layton retired after 33 years on the department and took a job as the Special Assistant to the Chief of the Office of Protocol in the State Department.