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History of Arcadia Police Department


On July 27, 1903, the citizens of Arcadia voted to become an incorporated city.  At the same election, Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, was elected President of the Board of Trustees, and Elmer Anderson was elected as City Marshal, thus undertaking the responsibility of overseeing law enforcement affairs in the community.

In April of 1909, the White Horse Saloon on North Santa Anita Avenue burned down and subsequently, the Board of Trustees allocated money to purchase fire equipment. Therefore, the City Marshal, then Charles S. Smith, was also named Fire Chief to oversee any needed fire fighting efforts.  The office of City Marshal was also responsible for collecting taxes and city fees.  Perhaps one of the more interesting tasks of the Marshal came about in 1910 when local prisoners were used for street paving.  Due to overseeing such activities, the Marshal was also named as the Street Superintendent.  Marshal Anderson, held office from 1903 until 1906 at which time O.C. Berdie was elected City Marshal.

The year 1920 arrived and the Marshal was relieved of his street superintendent duties; however, he retained the duties of Fire Chief.  It was not until July 1926, that the title of City Marshal was changed to Chief of Police and Arthur N. Coberly became the first law enforcement officer to hold the position.  Coberly led the Department from 1926 to 1930.

In its early years, Arcadia experienced its share of crime, even though it was still a rural region.  In the book, Arcadia, City of the Santa Anita (1953) by Gordon S. Eberly, he recounts an incident in September, 1925, wherein Officer Grady Pardue attempted to arrest a drunken individual.  The man pulled a gun and fired at Pardue, however Officer Pardue returned fire and killed his assailant.  Two years later, another officer-involved shooting occurred, however in this instance, the officer lost his life.  On the night of July 19, 1927, at 12:07 a.m., Albert E. Matthies, a 27-year-old police officer, was patrolling in the area of Northview and Laurel when he saw three suspicious men sitting in a car.  He stopped to investigate and started to question the men.  Without warning, an 18-year-old sitting in the back seat opened fire and Matthies was killed instantly.  The suspects fled but were later arrested and convicted of his murder.  The investigation into the incident revealed that the three murderers were in a stolen car and had intended to rob the “Wigwam Barbeque,” a restaurant located nearby on Foothill Boulevard.

In November 1930, Louis Jack Richards was appointed Police Chief.  Under his stewardship in 1931, the Police Department moved into its own facility at 50 Wheeler Street.  The building was a combination Police and Fire Station.  Prior to occupying the Wheeler Street station, office space for the police had been in the City Hall.

4/17/32 - Formal Arcadia PD group photo near Wheeler Street station.  Back row left to right:  E. "Med" Cayer, Leo Bertolina, Police Chief L. Jack Richards, Henry W. Haines, Paul Edwards.  Motorcycle officers, left to right:  Jack Stine, Gary Pardue, Donald Ott.  Standing in back:  Fire Chief Jim Nellis.

Richards was responsible for installing the first police radio system in the City.  It was a one-way system in which the station could broadcast to field units, but the units could not answer.  Collateral to the one-way radio was a beacon light system that the Station used to alert officers to calls.  Two beacons, one in Downtown Arcadia, and the other in West Arcadia, were turned on by a switch at the Wheeler Street Station and any field unit seeing the beacon light would telephone the station to receive the call for service.

A landmark occurred on August 1, 1936 when the Chief of Police was relieved of his duties as Fire Chief.  The Police and Fire Departments were officially separated, but they still shared the same quarters on Wheeler Street.

After World War II, the population of the City of Arcadia began to grow substantially.  The Police Department was also increasing in size and came under new leadership in 1947. William Cahill was appointed Chief of Police and he led the Department until his retirement in 1951.  Under Chief Cahill, the Department installed a new “state of the art” Teletype and Motorola two-way radio system.

Upon the retirement of Chief Cahill, Neil Anderson was appointed to lead the Department.  Chief Anderson saw to the planning and building of a new police facility located between the City Hall complex and the National Guard Armory.  The police structure, constructed in 1956 and occupied in early 1957, was located at 250 West Huntington Drive. 

In 1956, Chief Anderson resigned to take the position of Arcadia City Manager.  William S. Orr who served as Chief from 1956 to mid-1958 followed him.  Succeeding Bill Orr was Robert S. Seares who began his tenure in July 1958.  Bob Seares was known as a very progressive law enforcement executive.  He had started his career in 1932 with the Pasadena Police Department where he rose to the rank of Assistant Chief.  He then took the job as Chief of the San Marino Police Department and transitioned to Arcadia.  Chief Seares was the first head of the California P.O.S.T. (Peace Officers Standards and Training) Commission.  He was committed to professional development and under his leadership, all Arcadia Police officers attended formal police academies for training.  His insistence on professional skill development and service to the community began to define Arcadia’s long-term professional image.

Risk abounds within all police agencies and the night of February 25, 1959, was one of significance for Arcadia PD as two police officers were wounded while responding to an armed robbery call.  Officers Jack Renner and Bill Mitter were riding together when they received a call of a robbery at a market at Santa Anita and Foothill.  As they arrived on the scene and began to exit their patrol car, they came under heavy gunfire.  Both officers were wounded and their car was riddled with bullet holes.  Officers from Arcadia and surrounding agencies converged on the scene, but the suspects in the robbery and shooting escaped from the area.  Although intensive follow-up investigation was conducted, the assailants were never positively identified and no prosecution was undertaken in the case.

Officers Mitter and Renner recovered from their wounds, but they both left law enforcement a short time later.  Interestingly enough, in 1976, Jack Renner returned to serve the Police Department as a Reserve Police Officer.  He worked in that capacity for several years before retiring from active duty.

From the mid-1950’s to 1970, the Department grew significantly in size.  In 1955, the Department had a compliment of 35 sworn officers.  By 1960, the number was 50 sworn and in 1970 the agency boasted 67 sworn members.

635672383187500000Early 1960's - Chief Robert Seares (far right) standing next to a classic Arcadia PD unit

The community was growing in size, as was the Department. Chief Bob Seares recognized that developing a pool of candidates from within the Department was desirable for future recruiting.  In late 1966, Chief Seares began the implementation of the “Police Cadet” training program in Arcadia.  On November 27, 1966, David Hinig (future Chief of Arcadia PD) was fortunate enough to become the first Police Cadet for the City of Arcadia.  Subsequent to his appointment, dozens of young men and women have worked as cadets and embarked upon successful law enforcement careers as a result of their early law enforcement training.

In January of 1974, Bob Seares retired from the Department after serving 16 years as Chief of Police.  His tenure was the longest in the Department’s history.  With the departure of Chief Seares, Charles D. Mitchell was appointed to lead the agency.  He began his career in Arcadia in 1964 after serving with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.  Chief Mitchell was responsible for starting the Department’s “Special Operations Section,” a forerunner to the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) team, as well as starting a K-9 program and introducing “jail wagons” for the transportation of prisoners.  Under Chief Mitchell’s watch, a notable, event occurred on February 26, 1978, when Louise Brandsma, a woman who had served 9 years as a police clerk, was appointed as the first female patrol officer in the City of Arcadia.  Although Arcadia PD had employed “Police Women” in detective bureau operations, Louise was the first woman to work a patrol assignment.  Louise later promoted to sergeant in 1986 and held that rank until her retirement in May of 2002.  Louise opened the door for women to work patrol assignments and many women have followed in her footsteps.

Charles Mitchell continued as Chief until July of 1985 at which time he retired due to health reasons.  Chief Mitchell succumbed to cancer, his death coming only one month after he left the Department.

Captain Neal R. Johnson, a career Arcadia officer was appointed in August of 1985 to succeed Chief Mitchell.  Neal had started his career in 1955 and rose through the ranks to assume the leadership role.  Neal was responsible for initiating a volunteer program, promoting neighborhood watch, and other community anti-crime programs.  His efforts in working with Police Explorers and youth programs were well recognized, both locally and nationally.  During Chief Johnson’s tenure, the Department continued to grow, reaching a sworn strength of 78 officers.  Chief Johnson ended his service as head of the Department on December 31, 1994, however, he held the job of interim Chief until the appointment of Ronnie D. Garner on February 6, 1995.  Chief Garner had been a Deputy Chief in the City of Beverly Hills before taking the job in Arcadia.  He was the first “outside” Chief since Bob Seares in 1958.

Chief Garner was instrumental in starting the P.A.C.E. Unit (Peaceful Arcadia through Community Efforts) in late 1996.  As part of the unit, a substation was opened in the Westfield Shoppingtown Mall where officers administered the Department’s D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program and various community outreach efforts.  Chief Garner retired on September 9, 1999.

After Chief Garner’s retirement, David Hinig was offered the position of Police Chief.  He assumed leadership of the Department on September 10, 1999, and was particularly gratified to be a career-long Arcadia PD member who came up the ranks from Cadet to Chief.  Shortly after taking charge of the Department, Chief Hinig was able to have a bond issue passed to partially fund construction of a badly needed new police facility.  After two years of planning, a contract was awarded to Mallcraft Corporation of Altadena, California, to build the new structure, which was successfully completed in 2003.

Other changes occurred under Chief Hinig, including the addition of a police officer at Arcadia High School to oversee the safety and welfare of the 3,500 students on the campus.  The Y.E.S. officer (Youth and Educational Support) was highly instrumental in suppressing gang activity, promoting positive interaction with youth and maintaining a safe learning environment for students.  The effectiveness was so profound that a second Y.E.S. officer was added to interact with the nearly 2,500 students at the three middle schools.  These two positions remain in the department today and continue to be an asset to the community.

On July 1, 2005, Bob Sanderson became Chief of Police.  Chief Sanderson started with the department as an Explorer, then became a Cadet, and finally a Police Officer.  Bob has held just about every position in the department over his 25 + years of service. 

Chief Sanderson’s top priorities are the reduction of crime and the recruitment of new officers.  This will remain a continued focus in the coming years.  The Police Department will remain focused on the sharing of resources on a regional level with participation in the “Foothill Air Support Team” which is a helicopter program hosted by the Pasadena Police Department.  The Department also joined “COPLINK”, which connects the Records Management Systems and data from individual agencies within Los Angeles County.  The Department participates in the Los Angeles Interagency Metropolitan Police Apprehension Crime Task Force “LA IMPACT”.  Chief Sanderson also represents the California Police Chief’s Association on issues of radio interoperability.  Higher education is a focus of the Department’s priorities as well with University level Bachelor and Master’s Degree programs presented at the Department headquarters.  Chief Sanderson also obtained modern law enforcement technology and equipment such as Tasers, License Plate Readers on high-performance police cars, a computerized firearms training simulator and computer-aided crime analysis pattern and forecasting technology.

In addition, Chief Sanderson made it possible for a dedication ceremony, held on July 19, 2007, honoring Arcadia Police Officer Albert E. Matthies.  Officer Matthies is the only Arcadia Police Officer killed in the line of duty.  He was killed on July 19, 1927.  The dedication was held on North View and Foothill, near the spot where Officer Matthies was killed.  Chief Sanderson arranged for North View to be sub-named Officer Albert Matthies Way.

635672383186270000Officer, Albert E. Matthies was tragically killed in the line of duty on July 19, 1927.

The history of the Arcadia Police Department is one of dedication to the community and professional police service.  The motto of the Department is “Making A Difference" and those who work for the agency do so everyday by protecting quality of life and providing the highest level of service to the community.

Although the Marshals and Chiefs who have headed the Department over the years have provided vision and guidance, it is the line level men and women of the Department who deserve recognition for their willingness to go in harms way on a daily basis to protect lives and property.  It is their sacrifices that warrant attention and commendation.

Police Chiefs Serving Arcadia 1903 – Present

July 1903 – April 1906

Elmer Anderson (City Marshall)

April 1906 – April 1908

O.C. Berdie

April 1908 – December 1912

Charles S. Smith

December 1912 – May 1914

William T. Bush

May 1914 – December 1914

John R. Ott

December 1914 – April 1916

E.F. Glass

April 1916 – May 1917

William T. Bush

May 1917 – June 1924

Fred W. Treen

1922 - 1923

Myer J. Miller

June 1924 – July 1926

H.M. Topping

July 1926 – November 1930

A.E. Coberly

November 1930 – June 1934

Louis Jack Richards

June 1934 – October 1934

L.I. Hollowell

October 1934 – March 1935

Louis Jack Richards

March 1935 – August 1938

Donald G. Ott

August 1938 – June 1939

L.C. Roosevelt

June 1939 – August 1942

Donald G. Ott

August 1942 – January 1944

William S. Orr

January 1944 – 1947

Louis F. Sihler

1947 – February 1951

William Cahill

February 1951 – 1956

Neil F. Anderson

1956 – July 1958

William S. Orr

July 1958 – January 1974

Robert S. Seares

January 1974 – August 1985

Charles D. Mitchell

August 1985 – February 1995

Neil R. Johnson

February 1995 – June 2000

Ronnie R. Garner

June 2000 – June 2005

David Hinig

June 2005 – April 2011

Robert P. Sanderson

April 2011 - Present

Robert T. Guthrie

Published: October 13, 2021