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Our History

From patrolling in tan and green uniforms to a one-man detective bureau, the department began to take shape.

The Early Years

During the 1920's, the police station was located in city hall, on the west side of Alameda Avenue in the 700 block. In 1934, during the height of the depression, Sam Bierbower was appointed Chief of Police. His department boasted two patrol cars, one of which was a distinctive all white Ford Model A Touring Car. Chief Bierbower had the officers wear tan and green uniforms. 

goldendays40sIn 1935, the department got one-way radios for its cars. There was only a receiving unit in the car and the calls were dispatched from the Pomona Police Department, 10 miles away. By this time, City Hall was on the east side of Alameda Avenue in the building now referred to as the "West Wing," and it included both the Police and Fire Departments.

Harry Chester was the Chief of Police from 1937 to 1938. Little is known about Chief Chester's tenure, but it is said that he had no police experience and simply held the department together until a permanent chief could be hired.

The 1940s

Fred Williams was appointed to chief in 1938, after having started with the department in the early 1930s. He joined as a full-time officer in 1934 when there were only four officers on the force. Chief Williams introduced two-way radios in 1944, which, at the time, was a significant technological advancement.

From 1944 to 1949, Chief Milo Hawkins commanded the department, when one of the major concerns was traffic in the City. The now historic Route 66 (Foothill / Alosta corridor) was heavily traveled, especially on weekends.

The 1950s and 1960s

1954Chief Al Kenderick was promoted to chief from the rank of patrolman in 1949, and held that position until 1968. He received his training while working as a Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff and through intense personal study.

The first real growth of the department was seen under Kendrick's leadership. Chief Kenderick started a one man detective bureau in 1949. The next year brought in a teletype machine so Azusa could communicate with other police agencies.

In 1958 he instituted a Reserve Police Officer Unit to supplement manpower needs. By 1963 there were five black and white police cars, four detective cars, three motorcycles, and one jeep.

The first known Azusa Police Department Annual Report was prepared in 1956. The most notable points of that report were:

  • The department consisted of the chief, one captain, one lieutenant, five sergeants, 17 patrolmen, one policewoman, and two motor officers
  • The top salary for a police officer was $497 a month.
  • There were zero homicides, nine robberies, 28 aggravated assaults, and 155 burglaries
  • There was a total of 567 arrests that year.

The 1970s and 1980s

earlyswatIn 1968, Chief Carl Elkins was promoted from Lieutenant to Chief of Police. He led the department through the late 1960s and the 1970s which were challenging times for our society and its police forces, due to controversy over the war in Vietnam, and the social unrest over concerns such as racial equality and diversity in the workplace. The department moved in 1970 into what its most recent former headquarters at 725 N. Alameda Avenue.

Chief Lloyd Wood was a captain with the El Monte Police Department, when he was hired by the City of Azusa in 1981.

Chief Wood's major focus was on crime prevention. In working closely with the community, he created the School Resource Officer position, which placed a police officer on the Azusa High School campus on a full-time basis. He reinstated the motorcycle officer program, which had been idle for several years. He also created the department's first canine officer position, and started a Special Weapons and Tactics Team ("SWAT").

The 1990's

narcoinvestChief Byron Nelson led the department between 1990-1995. In 1990, Chief Nelson was promoted from captain to Chief of Police. Nelson changed the department's duty weapon from a revolver to its current issue weapon, the Glock .40 caliber semi-automatic handgun. He started the department's bicycle program, the Gang Detective position, D.A.R.E. baseball cards, and instituted an on going monthly training for police officers. Chief Nelson obtained project approval for the new police facility. He replaced the police car shotguns with Heckler and Koch MP-5 .40 caliber rifles. These rifles give the patrol officers parity with weaponry of the criminal element that continues to increase its fire power while committing crimes.
In 1995, John Broderick became Chief of Police. His emphasis on technology had brought significant progress in crime fighting and crime prevention in the department, beginning with a Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. Chief Broderick also implemented a new Records Data Management system, with a Mobile Data System (MDS), and a new CAD system accessible by field patrol units via laptop computers in the cars.
Chief Broderick allocated "less lethal" ammunition to all of the police department shotguns, which gave police officers another option to use in the field for dangerous situations.

The 2000's

training2King F. Davis was hired as Azusa's 10th Chief of Police in 2000.  Having spent the bulk of his career working for the United States Secret Service guarding U.S. Presidents, he brought a national prospective to the Azusa Police Department. Chief Davis focused on community policing and championed the establishment of the Service Area Commander (SAC) program to place accountability on geographic regions of the city with sworn police officers. The concept behind this program was to allow residents and businesses quick access to police officers responsible for their area, and improved responsiveness to community needs. Chief Davis also oversaw the improvement of the department's weaponry and physical fitness.
Chief Robert B. Garcia took over in July 2006. Chief Garcia was the first Hispanic police chief in the City's 108 year history. He worked his way up through the ranks, and was appointed chief after 24 years with the department. Chief Garcia continued a strong commitment to community-oriented policing principles and a pro-active approach to crime problems in the community.
Chief Garcia oversaw an intensive in-house training program which tripled the state's Peace Officer Standards On Training ("POST") minimum requirements. He was an innovator in terms of approving the wearing of alternative uniforms, scheduling practices, and technology.
Under Chief Garcia, the department was able to acquire electronic control devices, commonly referred to as "TASER's."  During his tenure, Chief Garcia placed special emphasis on formal education requirements for his staff.

The 2010's

graduationChief Sam Gonzalez is the 12th and current Chief of Police.  Chief Gonzalez is responsible for the design of the current police station, as he was the manager of the project in the late 1990's. Since taking the lead of the department in January of 2012, he has implemented new programs within the department to address the early release of criminals due to federal mandates imposed on the prison system.
Chief Gonzalez recently acquired a cooperative effort with Azusa Pacific University to place an officer on their campus. He is committed to ensuring all of the fine men and women of the Azusa Police Department abide by the department’s motto of providing, “Professional Service To A Proud Community."

"The history of the Azusa Police Department reflects far more than the accomplishments made by former Chiefs of Police. Indeed, there are many untold stories of accomplishment and sacrifice as Azusa police officers routinely confront life-threatening situations and conduct acts of heroism which frequently go unnoticed, yet accepted as "part of the job."

It is the proud professionalism of these dedicated men and women that have made, and continue to make, the Azusa Police Department the unique organization it is today." 

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