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History of the Fullerton Police Department

During the 1880's, badmen roamed the hills north of Fullerton, which was a part of Anaheim Township. Criminals were tempted to take refuge in the hills of Fullerton because the territory was protected only by a constable who stayed pretty close to his office in Anaheim. Many of the hills and canyons north of Fullerton were what would be called a "no man's land," and were known as dangerous territory by lawmen of that time.

When the township of Fullerton was formed in 1887, the trustees appointed A.A. Pendergrast as the towns first constable and only peace officer. It is said by the old-timers that when Pendergrast caught a lawbreaker, he would take the criminal before the town justice, Alec Wright, who would interrupt his duties as secretary of the Golden Belt Fruit Company, and hold trial. It was often necessary to swear in a jury from among the company workers. This appears to be the beginning of lawmen and 'real' justice in Fullerton.

By 1900, the population of Fullerton had reached 1,719 people.

The town had a new constable named James Gardiner, one of the most colorful and brave peace officers of his time. He died of pneumonia which was contracted while risking his life rescuing townspeople in the great flood of 1900. Gardiner was succeeded by Oliver S. Schumacher, who was the last constable prior to incorporation of the city and appointment of a marshal.

January 28, 1904, Fullerton voted to incorporate. At this election, the first contest for the office of marshal was held. W.A. Barnes was elected marshal over Charles E. Ruddock.

April 14, 1904, another election for marshal was held. The contest was close, but W.A. Barnes was once again elected marshal over Charles E. Ruddock.

Marshal Barnes tendered his resignation to the city trustees on June 30, 1904. Mr. Barnes stated that his duties kept him on watch until nearly midnight, but as he was busy looking after the roads during the day, he felt sure that the night work did not agree with him. Another problem was that the people expected him to be in town all the time while the supervision of the roadwork kept him out of town a great deal of the time. The city trustees were sorry to see his resignation, but felt that he had done a creditable job as marshal. The marshal's duties at this time were: collect all licenses, supervise all road work, and to be on duty in town from 7 a.m. till midnight.

On July 28, 1904, Charles E. Ruddock was elected by the city trustees to succeed W.A. Barnes. One of the three council members present voted against Ruddock, stating that he was not suitable for the position of marshal since he had incurred some feelings of ill-will against some of the town’s young men. However, the other two members felt that as Ruddock had twice run for the office and lost both elections by only a small margin, he was the logical choice for marshal. The Fullerton News Tribune stated its opinion of the new marshal quite clearly. "He is a good citizen, a kind neighbor, but we do not believe that he would prove a suitable man for city marshal."

Marshal Ruddock was re-elected in April 1906. It may be of interest to point out that he was the only man running for the office of marshal. At this election, the City of Fullerton also voted to go "dry" and set up its own prohibition laws. The city trustees stated that they would back the marshal 100% in ridding the city of the violators of the new liquor law.

Marshal Ruddock was elected for his third term in office on April 15, 1908. His salary at this time was $50.00 month plus fees. This salary was considered by most townspeople to be too much money for the amount of work done.

On April 13, 1910, the city finally voted in a new marshal named Roderick D. Stone.

February 21, 1912, the city trustees appointed William French as a deputy marshal and night watchman. His job was to patrol the business section of town and guard the stores from possible burglars and prowlers. When Marshal Stone resigned in November 1912, Deputy William French was appointed to take his place as the city marshal.

0n May 7, 1914, the first bank burglar alarm was installed on Farmers and Merchants National Bank of Fullerton. According to the Fullerton News Tribune, a bank burglary was attempted the night after the alarm was installed. After tunneling into the bank, the burglars were frightened away by the sound of the alarm. In their haste to flee, they left behind a quart bottle of nitroglycerine which was later removed, very gently, by the city marshal.

The first actual uniforms for policemen in Fullerton were acquired on July 30, 1914. It was felt that since Fullerton was passing from the town to the city class, the marshal and his deputy should also have the appearance and dignity of 'metropolitan' officers, complete with cap and badge.

The city council held a special meeting in 1915 to consider problems created by the automobile. The council resolved the situation by allowing Marshal French to hire an extra helper who would work Saturday and Sunday nights in an attempt to catch these "flagrant" violators of the city ordinance, and make examples of them.

On January 21, 1916, an article was published in the Fullerton News Tribune about the deplorable condition of the jail. The papers wrote:

"The building is about 14 X 12 feet, built of pine planks set up endways. The top has holes in it that you could throw your hat through, and the rain comes in like an old stable. In the center of this building is an iron cage about 6 X 7 feet with two iron cots in it, also a toilet at one end just between the cots and a small old iron stove in one corner, mostly under the end of one of the cots, and we could not see for our lives how it could keep from setting the place on fire if fire was in it. The two old cots had filthy mattresses on and a few pieces of covers, just rags, nothing but rags. The floor is in keeping with the rest of things. On the outside of the cages were all kinds of bottles, glass jars, and the like, so that a man could either kill himself or someone else if he wanted to. This is the filthiest jail or place we have ever witnessed where a man had to be placed."

This inspection was conducted after marshal French had placed eight men in the jail. During the night, rather than chill to death, the men knocked off some planks and stole a sack of coal from a nearby house and made a fire to warm by. The next morning, these fellows were taken before the police judge and given thirty days in the county jail on a vagrancy charge.

The mayor announced on March 9, 1916, that a new jail was to be built. This new jail was completed only eleven days later, and was said by the Fullerton News Tribune to be "...large enough to take care of all the prisoners in this section of the woods for many moons." The new jail was made of galvanized iron construction, with a cement floor, and measured 14 X 20 feet.

Charles E. Ruddock was marshal from 1904 to 1910. The attitude of the town had changed. Whereas the Fullerton News Tribune had once said,"...we do not believe that he would prove a suitable man for city marshal," they now praised him as one of Orange County's most prominent and well-loved citizens who had attained a reputation for fearlessness and ability as an officer. After his retirement from Fullerton in 1910, Ruddock was Sheriff of Orange County until 1914.

The first "motorcops" rolled on patrol on March 1, 1918. After only one week on the job, seven men, who appeared before the city recorder, brought in $65.00 for the city treasury. Three of these seven men were cited for exceeding the 30 mile an hour speed limit on a stretch of Chapman Road. The Fullerton News Tribune denounced their opinion of the violators, commenting "As if thirty miles an hour is not fast enough for any man."

However, the effectiveness of the motorcop was almost squelched before it got started. Just as the first motor officer, Office Alder, had gotten well into harness and effectively quieted the speeders, along came "Uncle Sam" to give the city a jolt. Officer Alder was drafted, effective immediately. But the Fullerton News Tribune offered this warning: "Oh, no! You speeders needn't rejoice too soon; this city is not going to be without a motorcop, but a short time after learning what a blessing one really is...Fullerton cannot afford to be without a motorcop, not for a day."

In August 1918, Fullerton elected a new marshal by the name of Vernon "Shorty" Myers. Thomas K. Gowen tells the story of how he was coming to town from West Valencia Drive when he passed Shorty Myers, the cop, parked under a tree. Gowen was going about 20 mph in a 15 mph zone. Shorty Myers started out after him. The only oiled streets in Fullerton were Commonwealth and Spadra. All the rest were dirt, mud this day. Gowen was in a Model T Ford with the top up. He turned north on Richman, thinking Myers couldn't catch him in those ruts on his motorcycle, which proved right. Gowen lost the marshal at the third turn. Gowen went up to Hillcrest Park. Gowen put down his top, took off his straw hat and put on a cap, and drove back through town right past Shorty. Shorty didn't even recognize him.

During July 1919, a new jail was completed. The building was 30 X 24 feet and located on the city hall lot. The building was made of reinforced concrete, and contained five cells, three for men, one for women, and one for juveniles. It also contained shower baths as well as all the up-to-date appliances for the comfort and convenience of "guests". There was also a room for the marshal's office and a matron's room. With all of these commodities, the jail was considered one of the handsomest of its time. Marshal "Shorty" Myers also installed a complete fingerprint system at this time for the identification of suspects.

The first, and probably last, case of "ghosts" in a Fullerton jail occurred in February 1920. A family was using the old jail building as a home and became concerned with continued tappings on the walls. Marshal Myers was called to investigate the situation, but was unable to determine the source of the noises. The marshal and his deputy then asked the "ghost" several questions that had numerical answers, e.g. number of children, all of which the "ghost" answered correctly by the number of rappings on the wall. This problem had the entire community unsettled. The next couple of nights, crowds of people from all over North Orange County gathered at the old jail to hear the "ghost" in action. Several "spiritual experts" were also called in to investigate.

The ghost mystery was finally solved, however, when the marshal spied the ten-year-old daughter of the family using a bamboo stick as a small whip to create the rapping noises. The girl said that she had pulled the prank in order to secure money from the parties who desired to take pictures of the building and the family. Upon discovery of the real author of the tappings, the family left town without taking any of its belongings and was not seen again.

A policeman was appointed in June 1920 to work during the summer months guarding the city park on West Commonwealth. This action was necessary because of the extreme increase in vandalism and the lack of respect shown by patrons of the park.

A new chief of police, Arthur Eeles, took office in August 1921. He was said to be "...not given to overmuch talk." He had previously spent five years as deputy sheriff of Orange County and two years in the Army as a sniper.

The year 1923 was one of outstanding growth and prosperity for the City of installation of street lights, paved roads, better water services, and a dramatic increase in the number of telephones. The police department came under close scrutiny during this time. It was felt that the police used an undue amount of harassment and roughness in the carrying out of their duties. It was also felt that too many tickets were being given in situations in which a warning would have been sufficient. The townspeople were angry, saying that the police were making Fullerton a place to avoid because of the unnecessarily strict enforcement of the laws.

The first desk sergeant was appointed on June 4, 1924, to relieve the chief of police of some of his many office duties. A fund was also set up at this time to hire detectives whenever necessary, as well as for any other crime detection procedures needed. The chief of police was also ordered, by the city trustees, to wear a uniform while on duty.

In February 1925, Chief Arthur L. Eeles was asked to resign as chief of police in order to establish greater harmony within the police department. In March, a new chief was appointed by the name of O.W. Wilson, and was thought to be the youngest chief of police in the United States at that time. The new chief was to make $250.00 per month.

Because of accidents, the city council voted to eliminate motorcycles and put the traffic officers in cars. Each member of the police department would own and operate his own car. The department was believed to be the only motorized force in the state. Since all officers were required by this ordinance to own a car, the force increased from two cars and two motorcycles to a force of eight automobiles. Each man was also responsible for the purchase of his own red lights and siren.

These early cars were not equipped with radios. Communication between the station and the vehicles was conducted by the use of a "red light system." Red lights were located on the top of tall buildings, telephone poles, etc., so they could be seen throughout the downtown area. When the officer on duty in the police station was desirous of contacting the man on duty in a vehicle, he would switch on the red lights. When the field officer saw the red lights, he would either call or report to the station. In some instances, the station officer would have already left the station and taken the call himself. In that case, the field officer would work in the station until he received a call. He would then turn on the red lights and leave the station to handle the call, hoping the other officer would see the lights and return to the station. This was a crude communication system, but it worked rather well for the department's needs at that time.

Chief Wilson resigned in November 1925. Among his contributions to the department were the innovation of the numbering system for tracking individual cases, form indexing to record guns bought and sold, secondhand store reports, and concealed weapons permits. T.K. Winters took over as the new chief of police on December 1, 1925.

Chief Winters resigned in November 1927. He made this statement regarding the position of chief of police: "...the position of chief of police is not an easy one. It carries with it many annoying and trying situations."

During this time, it was customary that when a chief retired or resigned, all the officers of the department were required to tender their resignations and be reappointed and sworn in again under the new chief. The tenure of office automatically ended with the resignation of the chief who had installed them in office.

James M. Pearson was elected chief in December 1927. In an interview given to the Fullerton News Tribune in 1965, he related this story of the biggest prohibition haul he made while he was in office:

"One day one of the traffic boys said he could smell something funny up on the Bastanchury Ranch. Pearson dressed up in an old mackinaw and a hat and had Jack Deist with instructions to come back at sundown and pick him up. There was an old empty white house near where Valencia Mesa and Harbor Boulevard are now. It turned out that an old Frenchman with a Vandyke beard had 400 or 500 gallons of grapes in there, just stewing away. The Frenchman was throwing the pulp under the orange trees and that's where the smell was coming from. In the basement of the house, Pearson found 1,170 gallons of wine stored in five-gallon casks. It took two truckloads to haul the contraband wine to the police station and jail, which was located at that time behind the fire station on West Wilshire. After the word got around, a big crowd come down to the jail. They poured 1,170 gallons of wine down the drain behind the fire station."

Police first began carrying their 'six-guns' in a holster in June 1928. These holsters were hung on a belt and shoulder trap much after the fashion of the military Sam Brown belt worn by the commissioned officers.

In March 1936, a special course for police officers was offered at Fullerton Night School. Officers from Anaheim, Fullerton, Orange, Huntington Beach and Santa Ana participated in the twelve-week course. The course taught methods of law enforcement and legal problems connected with police work. Civilians were encouraged to take the course and familiarize themselves with the technicalities facing police officers in their daily work.

In 1937, while still a rookie, Ernie Garner captured two bank bandits wanted for a robbery in Salinas. He caught them mostly by accident, though. The driver of the car went to sleep at the wheel and overturned right in front of Garner at Harbor Boulevard and Wilshire Avenue, just a block from the station. Garner's suspicions were aroused when he noticed that the two men were in "...an all-fired hurry to get out of town." He told them that they would have to come down to the station and make out an accident report for the trees and the car they had damaged in the parkway. The men wanted to settle on the spot; one of them produced a bankroll from under his shirt. Since the depression was on, people just didn't have that kind of money, so Garner took them in for questioning and broke the case.

Captain John C. Gregory was appointed chief in April of 1940. Chief Gregory was responsible for a great deal of modernization in the department. His main goals were crime and accident prevention. This was done by surveying downtown stores and business places by checking locks, night lights, locations of safes and other matters which could be easily corrected and make a burglar's work more difficult. This was very advanced thinking for the time.

Chief Gregory also equipped all cars in the department with first aid kits, fire extinguishers, cameras and steel tapes for accident investigation, and warning lights. Each car was also instructed to carry riot guns at all times. Another of Chief Gregory's concerns was that of child welfare work, especially aimed to prevent juvenile crime. His departmental modernizations included increasing the manpower of the department to twelve men and the installation of a records-keeping system patterned after the F.B.I. record-keeping system.

In 1941, the new 13,700-square-foot city hall was completed. This new building housed the police department along with all other city departments, with plenty of room to spare. Today, the police department alone occupies the entire building, and a new city hall was been built at 303 West Commonwealth.

The department appointed its first captain, Ernest Garner, in 1944. He was then appointed chief in 1951. During his first year as chief, the department increased to a total of 21 employees.

In 1957, Chief Garner announced his retirement. Because of the rapid growth of the city and all the mounting police problems, the city council decided that for the first time in the history of the City of Fullerton, an open examination would be given in order to attract a top-qualified chief of police.

The man selected to be the next chief was Wayne H. Bornhoft, a lieutenant from the Pasadena Police Department. He immediately reorganized and modernized the entire department. For the first time, promotions were made by qualifying through written and oral examinations. Tasks were divided into three divisions: Uniform, Investigation, and Services. The Juvenile Bureau was also set up at this time in order to handle all matters dealing with juveniles as well as all sex-related crimes.

The Training Bureau was set up in 1958. This bureau is in charge of scheduling training programs and issuing uniforms and equipment to new officers, as well as maintaining the police library. The bureau was later given the responsibility of all background investigations.

In 1959, the first female police officer was hired. Her name was Geraldine K. Gregory. She had served thirteen years with the Philadelphia Police Department before coming to Fullerton. At the time of her resignation in Philadelphia, she held the rank of lieutenant and was in charge of a juvenile unit made up of forty-six policewomen. At the Fullerton Police Department, she was assigned to the Investigation Division, and her principal duties involved the handling of juveniles and adult female prisoners.

The year 1959 brought about several other additions to the department. One of these was the establishment of the Fullerton Police Training Academy. This program was one of the first seven recruit schools in the state to be approved by POST, the Peace Officers Standards and Training Commission.

The addition of a modern radar unit was another much-needed improvement. This unit was initially utilized to evaluate various posted speed zones in the city to determine whether or not they were realistically established. Any speed changes felt necessary were then made.

Other changes were made in the area of vehicles. New vehicles included the crime scene investigation unit, a new prisoner van, and a new animal control unit. The crime scene investigation unit was equipped with all types of emergency equipment for the handling of every phase of criminal and accident investigation and for emergency rescue operations. Officers who operated this vehicle were charged with the responsibility of investigating all traffic accidents. This car was on duty 24 hours a day and the officers assigned to it were trained in the specialized duties required for this type of unit. The new prisoner van was capable of transporting as many as ten prisoners at a time with only one officer as custodian. The new animal control unit was purchased for the efficient and humane handling of all types of small animals. This service was handed over to the County Animal Control in the early 1960's under the condition that it take over the Fullerton Animal Control Unit as well as hire the two men already working with it.

Roll-call training was also initiated in 1959 as a part of the in-service training program. In this training, each officer receives daily training material and instruction on the handling of problems which develop.

In 1960, the position of administrative sergeant was approved by the city council. This position was designated to the staff of the chief of police to work directly under his supervision. His duties included investigations of reported vice operations such as gambling, prostitution and liquor law violations. He was also placed in charge of background investigations and polygraph examinations. This position was advanced to an administrative lieutenant position in September 1979. The duties were to include being responsible for intelligence, legislative changes and municipal code, as well as supervising over Community Services. The administrative investigator position and duties were reassigned to the Investigation Division, Narcotics and Vice Bureau.

The year 1960 also included the addition of two civilian positions in the department. The first of these was the "meter maid." This feminine touch to parking control was added at the request of the Downtown Business and Professional Association, which suggested parking citations issued by a woman would be easier to accept. The second civilian position added was that of the jailer. The jailer’s duties encompass the booking of prisoners, fingerprinting, photographing mugshots, feeding the prisoners, and being responsible for the general care and welfare of persons in our custody.

During this same year, Diebold Electric Files were installed in the Records Bureau. These save a lot of time and space, both of which are vital in this bureau.

The first Keeler Polygraph equipment was purchased in 1960. This machine was considered a valuable time-saving tool for the investigator. The polygraph is used in all background investigations for police department employees, as well as in questioning suspects of criminal cases.

The Photo and I.D. Lab was created in 1962. Greater efficiency was achieved in the area of investigations and records by developing mugshots and crime scene prints at the department rather than sending it out to be developed.

The Narcotics Bureau was established in 1967 in order to focus the necessary attention on increasing drug problems.

In 1971, two new bureaus were created. One of these was Community Relations, which was later changed to Community Services. Its duties include all public relations activities as well as coordinating all programs presented to the public. The second bureau formed was the Bureau of Planning and Research. This bureau was assigned to the research and analysis of law and procedures, department manuals and publications.

The establishment of a Police Explorer Scout Post was another addition in 1971. This Post is a division of the Boy Scouts of America and is open to any male or female between fourteen and eighteen years of age, who has at least a 'C' average in school, and a genuine interest in law enforcement. The Explorers are trained to aid the police department in the case of mass disasters or emergencies such as a lost person. They also participate in community events and social programs.

In 1972, the cadet program was started. This program is open to any male or female between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one who is enrolled in twelve or more college units in a field of study applicable to police work. These students work within the police department to familiarize themselves with police work and the responsibilities involved in being a police officer. The cadet program has proven to be a success, and we have hired several cadets as officers over the years.

In October 1974, a new wing was completed at the police department. The addition of this wing included remodelling, for the fourth time, the old building, and the addition of a fence, complete with security gate enclosing the parking lot. Another improvement was a new communications system. The new building's additions included a locker room, a firing range, and offices for both administration and investigation.

Chief Bornhoft announced his retirement in 1977. Martin Hairabedian, a captain from the Los Angeles Police Department, was appointed as the new chief. The new chief's goals included a greater emphasis on public service and increasing police-community involvement. He also stressed neighborhood involvement as playing a vital role in crime and burglary prevention.

One of the first programs Chief Hairabedian started was the Neighborhood Watch Program. The purpose of this program is to create an alert neighborhood by teaching residents simple crime prevention measures and to provide both general and specific information concerning crime in each neighborhood.

Chief Hairabedian was appointed a judge by the state government in 1987. Replacing him as Chief was Philip Geohring, who had risen through the ranks to become the City's top lawman. One of Chief Goehring's accomplishments was to create the Police Chaplain Program. Chief Goehring retired in 1993, and was replaced by LAPD Capt. Patrick E. McKinley.

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