San Diego Police — A Look Back

By Pliny Castanien

San Diego Deputy City Marshals

Page 21. The above photograph of San Diego Deputy City Marshals was taken prior to the May 16, 1889 formation of a city police force under a "Freeholder's Charter." Only two of the men shown here were still on the police department's assignment sheet for October 1889, four months after Marshal Joseph Coyne (below) was made San Diego's first Chief of Police.

Marshal Joseph Coyne

Page 21. Marshal Joseph Coyne was serving as City Marshal when appointed Chief. Records indicate he named eleven men for field officers and a city jailer, all of whom had been serving under him as deputy marshals. (Correction: As noted since the publication of this article, this is actually a photograph of police officer Thomas O'Rourke.)

George Salladay

Page 22. George Salladay, one of San Diego's first Deputy City Marshals.

George R. Cooley Sr

Page 22. A well-known early peace officer was George R. Cooley Sr.

Page 22. Deputy City Marshals prior to the newly formed San Diego Police Department included, left to right, Fred Mills, Carl Schneider, A.F. "Fatty" Rice, F. Shaw, George Dow, and George Salladay.

Von Den Berg was the first detective

Page 23. Photographed in front of the Second Street police station about 1906 is Harry Von Den Berg (large man at center) and fellow companions. Von Den Berg was the first police officer to receive the title of "detective."

Chief Gonzales

Page 23. The elderly man in the photograph to the left called himself Chief Gonzales and claimed to be San Diego's first policeman. Police records however claim that Thomas O'Rourke, who died in 1888 (a year before the official police department came into being) was the first "policeman. "

Page 24. Mounted Patrolman Fred Elliott of the San Diego Police sits on his mount in this excellent 1908 photograph. His brother, James, was also in the department. They were sons of Deputy Sheriff Andy Elliott, pioneer lawman of Imperial County.

Chief J. Keno Wilson

Page 24. Police Chief J. Keno Wilson, tenth man to head the department, proudly "stands tall" on his mount, sixth from left, in this 1915 photograph taken in front of the station at 732 Second Street. The City Jail is barely visible in the background to the left.

police department

Page 25. The entire police department posed in front of San Diego City Hall in 1901. Seated, at center, is Police Chief E. W. Bushyhead. He brought the first presses of the San Diego Union to town, sold out in 1873 and became sheriff in 1882. These men with their domed hats and walrus moustaches had the cooperation and respect of most of the 17,700 people in the city at that time.

Fifth and E Streets looking north

Page 26. The scene is Fifth and E Streets looking north. The year is 1904. Most of the vehicle traffic is horsedrawn but a few of the early runabouts are shown to the left of the on-duty policeman. The officer obviously has little to do and no need for traffic signals.

motorcycle squad

Page 26. The motorcycle squad of the San Diego Police about 1910.

Page 27. The San Diego Police partial budget for the year 1912.

San Diego police deal with rioting Wobblies

Page 27. During that same year (1912) San Diego police dealt with rioting members of the International Workers of the World or "Wobblies."

Motorcycle Officer L. Freshour

Page 28. Police Motorcycle Officer L. Freshour poses about 1915 on his Excelsor cycle, belt drive with Presto Lite lamp. Freshour joined the force in 1909.

Motorcycle Officer Oliver S. Hopkins

Page 28. Motorcycle Officer Oliver S. Hopkins stands beside his belt driven "Excelsor Auto-Cycle." He was killed in 1915 while riding this cycle. During the 1912 IWW rioting, Hopkins, then a civilian, had given a policeman aid. For this act he was later invited by Police Chief J. Keno Wilson to join the force.

Page 29. The central police station in 1913 was equipped with an "up to date" Gamewell Police Alarm System and call boxes costing $16,000. These are the main controls at police headquarters which registered when foot officers pulled a hook on a call box while making their rounds.

Police Chief J. Keno Wilson

Page 30. The San Diego Police Department in 1914. Police Chief J. Keno Wilson sits astride a horse at the far right. The elite, the detectives, sit in two touring cars, one a Model T Ford and the other a Reo. The two women in one touring car are the regular matron and her substitute. The locale is Pantoja or New Town Park. About twenty other officers are not shown as they were busy keeping the peace elsewhere in the city.

newspaper engraving   Motorcycle Officer E. E. Campbell

Page 32. Motorcycle Officer E. E. Campbell was the first San Diego policeman on record to die from duty-related causes. He was shot to death at Fifth and G Streets on August 28, 1913. In the newspaper engraving above the hearse carrying his body is shown escorted by a detachment of brother officers.

Mrs. Ida Griffith stands between Officer Paul Plaisted and Officer Pat Oviatt

Page 33. The first San Diego police matron, Mrs. Ida Griffith, stands between Officer Paul Plaisted, on her left, and Officer Pat Oviatt on the sidewalk outside the old city jail on Second Street about 1917. The building is still used today by the Navy Shore Patrol.

Patrolman Harry Heise is shown on traffic duty

Page 33. By 1920 the City of San Diego had installed its first traffic signals. Patrolman Harry Heise is shown on traffic duty at the downtown intersection of Fourth and Broadway. His left hand holds the rod supporting the "Stop" and "Go" signal. The control was entirely manual.

San Diego Police Automobile Detail

Page 34. Members of the San Diego Police Automobile Detail received up to fifty dollars more a month in the 1920s for on-the-job use of their own autos. Extra pay jobs like these were eagerly sought.

San Diego Police Bicycle Squad

Page 34. Lined up on the sidewalk by the Second Street City Jail is the San Diego Police Bicycle Squad of 1917. Left to right, Charles Harris, F.J. Slattery, Herb Webster, George Churchman and Frank Connors.

San Diego Police Vice Squad

Page 35. This is the earliest known photograph of the San Diego Police Vice Squad—taken in 1925. The squad was then called "Special Detail, Morals and Liquor" and a lot of their work was enforcement of the Prohibition Law.

Traffic Squad in 1917

Page 35. The Traffic Squad in 1917 had five men. Traffic was recognized as a problem requiring a police division as early as 1909 but only one man was assigned. Traffic police were used primarily for automobile direction at downtown intersections.

Three of the emergency riders

Page 36. Before the advent of police radio -- in case of telephoned emergencies -- riders on motorcycles were dispatched from the police station. A detective sometimes was detailed to go along with a city-owned auto. Three of the emergency riders are shown here, left to right, Tom E. Remington, A. A. Winchester and F. S. Connors.

San Diego Police motor patrolmen

Page 36. Members of the San Diego Police motor patrolmen for residential districts pose in front of their cars in 1927. From the left are A.R. Mitchell, H. G. Wright, M. C. Radlback, N.S. McHorney, R. Wilsford and L.A. Lusk.

La Jolla Station

Page 37. Once there were four police sub-stations to enable officers to better serve the public. By the middle 1960s only the La Jolla Station at 1033 Prospect Street, shown in this 1927 photograph, remained.

patrol watch

Page 38. A patrol watch has its portrait taken on the sidewalk outside the San Diego Police Station on Second Street in June, 1931. In the front row, left to right, first uniformed officer, Sgt. M.R. Zimmerman; Lt. Glenn Treleaven; Walter Macy, superintendent of the Identification Bureau and Police Chief Robert Newsom. The two women are matrons. In the second row, far right, is Patrolman Jasper Davis.

San Diego Police Motorcycle Squad

Page 39. The San Diego Police Motorcycle Squad and a young friend circa 1930. From all appearances they were unusually jolly-looking for the photographer despite their grim faces when stopping motorists for a citation.

San Diego Police Identification Bureau

Page 39. In July of 1931, the personnel of the San Diego Police Identification Bureau moved outside of the Second Street station for this photograph. Seated, left, W.A. Menke, bureau superintendent and Mrs. E. W. Winters, senior general clerk. Standing, left to right, Patrolman Ralph Whitney; Harry L. Roberts, senior fingerprinter and photographer; Fred Klosterman, stenographer; Patrolman Irving Cohn and L.E. Miers, clerk.

police ambulance service   First Aid & Hospital Squad and Ambulance   Grey Goose

Pages 40-41. San Diego has offered police ambulance service off-and-on from the time motor vehicles first became dependable. This series of photographs shows some of the earliest used. In the late 1900s and early 1920s police combined the patrol wagon with the ambulance, a practice left from horse-drawn days. Opposite, below, is the "First Aid & Hospital Squad and Ambulance" in 1922. The driver on the left was a civilian. Above, a civilian driver and two officers pose with a Cadillac which was converted into an ambulance and was known as the "Grey Goose." Two ambulances in police service in 1929 are seen opposite, top.

Four police raiders

Page 42. Four police raiders are shown with a confiscated "alky" still and plant on Cottonwood Street in 1930 after one of their "dry" squad strikes. Left to right, Sgt. Tommy Osborne; Elmer Macy (head showing); Mike Shea (clowning with hose in hat); and Lt. George Sears, who became police chief in 1934.

School Traffic Patrol

Page 42. Key to the protection of children going to and from school since 1936 has been the School Traffic Patrol -- school boys and girls who serve at crossings adjacent to schools under supervision of police officers. This study of a patrol sergeant on duty was taken by a police photographer in August of 1938. The scene is much the same now, more than forty years later.

Page 43. Two of the men who became widely known during prohibition days of the 1920s and early 1930s for their enforcement as members of the San Diego Police Vice Squad (sometimes called "dry" squad) were detectives Mike Shea, left, with cleaver in hand, and Richard Chadwick. They pose here for a newspaper photograph in front of a truck loaded with confiscated "alky" tins.

morning lineup

Page 44. From 1889 on horses were the mainstay for police patrol of outlying areas, but they were replaced by autos in 1916. Mounts were again used starting in 1932 when patrol was reinstituted in Balboa Park. Here is the morning lineup in the middle 1930s.

Alfred D. Schnepp and his mount Black Dan

Page 44. Both patrolman and horse were nearing the end of police service when this photograph was taken of Alfred D. Schnepp and his mount Black Dan. The two retired from the force on February 1, 1946-the last to see regular mounted service. Although retired they remained together on Schnepp's ranch in Escondido until Black Dan's death. Schnepp joined the force in 1924.

Page 45. Patrolman Frank Bonnet was assigned to ride mounted patrol in San Diego's 1935 Exposition and continued until the horse detail ended in 1946. The "SDPD" markings on the blanket and harness appear in sharp detail. Bonnet became the first head of security at the San Diego Zoo upon his retirement.

Page 46. The "Boys in Blue" looked like this going into World War II. Here Traffic Sgt. T.H. Seibert is shown directing at an intersection.

Page 46. Some say Sgt. George Pringle had to retire because he was running out of room on the sleeve of his uniform coat for "hash marks." He did forty-two years on the department before leaving on June 16, 1936. He started with the force in 1894. Pringle died on July 25, 1943 and is survived today by his daughter, Mrs. Dorothy Pringle Green of Studio City, California. Pringle served at the turn of the century as a mounted policeman, riding horse patrol on various beats of the city.

ground breaking ceremonies for a new police headquarters

Page 47. The pile driver was ready and so was a special detail of motorcycle and mounted police for the ground breaking ceremonies on August 16, 1938 for a new police headquarters, city jail and courtrooms at 801 West Market Street. City Council members, City Manager Flack, and Police Chief George Sears were among the dignitaries. The "fortress" was constructed on a Public Works Administration grant and city funds for a total of $390.000. The actual work was completed by a depression labor force from the Works Progress Administration. This central station, still in use, was the fifth one occupied by the police department since 1889.

courtyard of the new police headquarters

Page 48. The general scene is the courtyard of the new police headquarters, city jail and courtrooms after they were occupied in 1939. The intersection of Pacific Highway and Market Street is visible at the left of the archway. The pictures in the montage around the edges are, reading clockwise from upper left, the police pistol range, radio room, police teletype, keypunch operator, police garage, a motorcycle sergeant using his radio mike, the record bureau and the crime laboratory. Today because of space limitations the palm tree and flowers in the center, the fountain, bench and other landscaping have been replaced by concrete.

Adam Elmer Jansen with one of the auxiliary police squads

Page 50. The World War II years brought many problems to San Diego police. In addition to maintaining street control with the influx of military and civilian defense plant workers, Civilian Defense took top priority. Here Patrol Capt. Adam Elmer Jansen is shown at the city jail door in 1944 with one of the newly created auxiliary police squads.

San Diego motorcycle squad

Page 50. Police Chief George Sears, standing far right, presents the San Diego motorcycle squad racked up in front of the new Civic Center on November 11, 1938. It was one of the largest cycle squads ever fielded by the department.

gas mask being modelled by Patrolman Ken Blucher

Page 51. San Diego police were ready for World War II with Lt. Ed Dieckman of the detective division, a retired naval intelligence veteran, named to head the subversive detail. He is shown adjusting the chin strap on an air raid warden's gas mask being modelled by Patrolman Ken Blucher.

Adam Elmer Jansen

Page 51. Adam Elmer Jansen (below) was forty-four when he became the twenty-third man to be San Diego's Chief of Police on October 16, 1947. His tenure of fourteen years, upon retirement in 1962, was the longest in the history of the force. Jansen once said he joined the police department because he wanted to become Chief of Police. On assuming the office, he put into practice all he had learned and planned during the years he was coming up through the ranks.

Police headquarters at 801 West Market Street

Page 52. Today there are three police stations in the San Diego City area -- from the Mexican border to Del Mar, northeast to Escondido and east to La Mesa. Above is the headquarters at 801 West Market Street which opened in 1939. The Northern Division station at 4275 Eastgate Mall near Scripps Hospital opened in 1971 and the Southern Division station at 663 East San Ysidro Boulevard opened in 1958. In the primary election last fail (1979) voters approved funding five more sub-stations which will eventually make a total of seven.

Pliny Castanien

Page 52. Pliny Castanien served as police reporter for The San Diego Union for almost twenty-six years. A native of Oklahoma, he attended Oklahoma State and Wichita State and is a World War II veteran. Castanien started his. career as a cub reporter for The Wichita Beacon in 1931 and was also on the editorial staffs of The Wichita Evening Eagle and The Tulsa Daily World. In the summer of 1977 he was appointed San Diego Police Department Historian by Police Chief William Kolender. In August of that year he began to research the department's history on a grant to the San Diego History Center from the Joseph W. Sefton Foundation. Castanien is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (Sigma Delta Chi), the San Diego Press Club, and North County Press Club.

Photographs used in this essay are from the files of the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego History Center's Title Insurance and Trust Collection.