The beginnings of the Monrovia Police Department as an organization came with the appointment of its first Special Police Officer by Monrovia’s City Board of Trustees in 1903. From this first appointment would follow many others, and through the years evolve into the department we know today.
In the early years, the police department was located in the old Granite Bank Building at the corner of Palm and Myrtle Avenues. A granite cornerstone from the original building is still located at the northeast corner of Library Park. It was not until 1925 that a new station house was built specifically to house the police department, which numbered about nine officers at the time.
The earliest indication of a jail in Monrovia is found in an invoice and other related papers dated March 4, 1904, from E.T. Barnum Iron Works, Detroit. These papers reveal the shipment of two “iron lattice jail cells with bunks and soil buckets and necessary hardware.” The total cost of these cells, including shipping and freight, was less than $300.
In the early 1900s, the department would see some changes that would herald the beginnings of increased professionalism and modernization. One example of this new professionalism would be the wearing of a distinctive uniform by all Monrovia police officers, which was directed by the Monrovia Board of Trustees in 1912. Another sign that times were changing was the hiring of the department’s first woman police officer, Zella L. Vining, on May 27, 1918.
In the history of the police department, records reveal that two of their officers were killed on duty. Both deaths were the result of traffic accidents. The first accident took the life of Officer Massie “Tiny” Morris, whose police vehicle was struck by a Santa Fe train as it crossed the tracks at Myrtle Avenue on October 5, 1928.
The second death of a Monrovia police officer occurred on December 16, 1938. In this incident, Officer Scott Vernon Smith, a motorcycle officer, was pursuing a traffic violator when several children ran out into the street. Officer Smith swerved to avoid the children and crashed in front of the old Lyric Theater on Foothill Blvd.
One of the oldest members of the department was Sergeant R.C. “Clint” Seem. The personnel records of the time are quite brief, but reveal that Sergeant Seem entered police service at age 42 on January 2, 1907. The final entry on the record indicates he left the department on December 1, 1943, making Sergeant Seem 78 years old at the time.
The mid-1920s was an important transitional period for the police department. It was on April 7, 1925 that the first police station was opened on East Lime Avenue. Newspaper accounts highlighted the event and described the new police station as the finest and most conveniently arranged police station in Southern California. The new station boasted a men’s jail and separate women’s jail, a very significant sign of progress for the times. Prior to this date, all women prisoners were held in custody at the home of the City Matron Mrs. J.B. Woodland, until taken downtown to Los Angeles County Jail.
During this time in the department’s history, news accounts from the Monrovia Daily News frequently made reference to “the” police car. This vehicle was acquired upon the demise of the previous patrol vehicle – a bicycle.
The mid-1920s also brought to the department a more paramilitary type organization. The department at the time was led by Monrovia’s first appointed Chief of Police, Frank L. Scott, who was appointed to the post on May 3, 1926. Scott came to the department as a relief patrolman on July 4, 1913, and rose through the ranks until his appointment as chief.
Chief Scott would lead the department through the Great Depression and war years of the 1930s and 1940s. During this period, the department continued to grow in personnel and equipment. These were truly formative years for the department. Scott’s legacy would be an organizational structure that would survive the decades essentially intact.
A review of the department’s history would not be complete without mention of a pioneer Monrovia peace officer who served with distinction during the early years of the department. Constable James Quiggle served 29 years, beginning in 1906 and lasting until his retirement in 1935. Appointed deputy constable in 1906, Quiggle also served as a night watchman for the Monrovia merchants. In 1910, he was appointed constable for the Monrovia Township. He was elected city marshal in 1914 and served until July 1, 1915, when he returned to his job as county constable. In August 1925, the Monrovia Board of Trustees drafted Quiggle to serve as acting chief of police until a successor could be appointed. He continued as marshal until May 1926 when the trustees named Frank L. Scott as the first chief of police for Monrovia. Constable James Quiggle passed away on May 8, 1955.
Grand Peterson, the second to attain the title of chief of police, was appointed on May 16, 1949. Prior to working at Monrovia, Peterson worked for the City of Salinas Police Department, Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, and the State Division of Narcotics. Chief Peterson guided the department during the majority of the 1950s. During this period, the structure and the mission of the department became increasingly clearer. The organizational structure of the department was broken down into three sections: patrol, services and detectives.
During this time, other advances would take place in the department. One such change was a new form of monthly crime reporting, which enabled officers to evaluate different types of crime, and to track the recovery and loss of property. In 1954, the department would form its Mounted Posse, a working auxiliary of horseback riding officers, who aided the department in mountain rescue, fires, and other emergencies.
Another important person in the history of the Monrovia Police Department is veteran newspaper photographer Milton Bell. Although not a member of the police department, he developed a friendship with our organization that lasted many years. During the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, Milton worked for the local newspaper and also did some freelance work. He often could be found at most accident and crime scenes in Monrovia and throughout the San Gabriel Valley. In those days, the police department had limited photographic equipment, although photographs were required on all traffic collisions. Milton would often provide the department with a copy of his photographs to include with the police report.
Another reason why Milton was so beloved by patrol officers was his concern for the officers themselves. During those days, police officers were required to wear their uniform hat at all times when out of their police car. Milton knew that if he took a picture of an officer without their hat on, they would most assuredly get in trouble with their supervisor when the picture was viewed either in the newspaper or as part of an accident report. Milton always made sure that before he took a picture with a Monrovia police officer, the officer had his hat on. In fact, the story goes that one patrol officer actually gave Milton a police hat to take with him, so he always had one handy to put on an officer’s head before he took a picture.
Chief Ray Blair assumed command of the department in 1958. He was Monrovia’s first chief to have graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Academy, an executive leadership development school. Chief Blair learned many new techniques at the FBI Academy and brought back some of what he learned to Monrovia. One area of change came with the implementation of a new records keeping system that facilitated the use of library type filing cards. This new system followed the FBI model for agencies the size of Monrovia, and allowed records personnel to quickly find needed information.
Blair also implemented the FBI’s pin map crime analysis technique. This technique coupled with proactive crime prevention programs helped to identify and prosecute crime suspects. Pin maps were also used to identify areas in the community where traffic accidents were taking place and helped to focus traffic enforcement efforts to reduce collisions.
The crime prevention officer was created during this time. The first person to fill this position was Officer Patrick Hardy. Hardy worked closely with residents to provide useful information that would help them to avoid becoming the victims of crime. Property identification programs were instituted that helped community members engrave their personal property to reduce the likelihood of theft, and to help return property to owners if a theft occurred.
The School Resource Officer (SRO) was another position created during Chief Blair’s time. Gary Schram was the first officer assigned to this position. He worked closely with school officials and was located at the Monrovia High School. The SRO now was a plainclothes assignment, and was designed to bring a closer working relationship between the department, the school district and the youth of the community. Part of the duties of the SRO was to assist the high school with disciplinary problems and truancy. The SRO taught police related topics in a variety of the classes at the high school. The SRO also spends time on the elementary school campus with the younger students.
Another of Chief Blair’s major contributions to the department was the planning and building of a new police facility to replace the one built in 1925. The new police facility was erected on the site of the original police building and is used to house the police department today. The facility is located at 140 E. Lime Avenue.
The 1950s and early 1960s saw an increase in illegal street drag racing in San Gabriel Valley cities and beyond. Many accidents resulted from these events ending in serious injury and death. In response to this growing problem, many police agencies created police sponsored car clubs that encouraged teenagers to respect traffic laws and to save drag racing for authorized race tracks.
Monrovia’s police sponsored car club was started by Lieutenant Stanley Alexander in 1963, and was called the Sirchers. The car club capitalized on their members’ interest in cars and encouraged participation in a variety of events that highlighted the need for driver safety. The Sirchers, like many other police sponsored car clubs of the time, participated in the Annual Youth Safety Run sponsored by the Police Advisory Council for Car Clubs. This three day event featured a car rally that left from a Southern California city each year and traveled to Yosemite National Park. Car dealers also participated by donating the use of new cars to be used by the clubs for the event. Police agencies from throughout the area participated each year. Participants received awards for the best gas mileage and safety record in each category of vehicle.
During this same period of time, Chief Blair added the first police car dedicated to traffic enforcement and collision investigation. The car was intended to enhance the existing traffic bureau made up exclusively of police motorcycles. The car was able to be utilized during the inclement weather, unlike the motorcycles. The traffic car was referred to as the “White Ghost.”
Another important figure in the history of the police department is Julian Fisher, one of Monrovia’s first African American police officers. Julian grew up in Monrovia and as a young boy often worked with his father, who was a blacksmith for Lucky Baldwin. Julian was educated in the Monrovia schools and was the first African American male to graduate from the high school. He also played as a semi-professional baseball player for the Monrovia Merchants. Julian was a respected member of the police department and the community. He served in the department for thirty years and retired in the early seventies as a police sergeant. Julian passed away in 1979 at the age of 82. Julian Fisher Park, located at Almond and California Avenues, is named in his honor.
Another police officer who was well known in the community was Officer Barney Glenn. Barney served the department for many years, but is even better known for his love of baseball and his involvement as the team manager for the Monrovia Merchant’s semi-professional baseball team. Barney served in that capacity from 1940 to 1963. Barney could be seen on Sundays carefully preparing the baseball field in Recreation Park for games that would be played that day. The semi-professional league that Barney participated in provided opportunities for adult and high school age baseball players. Later, the field would be used by Monrovia’s Youth Baseball League for youth Little League games. The Barney Glenn Field in Recreation Park was dedicated in his name.
The next in line to lead the Monrovia Police Department was Chief Ray Ellis in 1971. Chief Ellis, like his predecessor before him, came up through the ranks of the department, and was also a graduate of the FBI National Academy. The years during Chief Ellis’ administration were marked by progress and rapidly changing techniques and procedures in law enforcement. It was during this period that Neighborhood Watch was first instituted in Monrovia. This program, which still continues today, is a collaborative venture between the department and community members to help keep their neighborhoods safe from crime.
It was also during this period the department put into service its mobile command post vehicle. The vehicle was a reconditioned utility van that was fitted with radio equipment, a telephone, and other equipment useful to field operations. The command post was a joint venture and was intended to be used by both police and fire during times of disaster. Because of the vehicle’s ability to transport several officers at one time, it was often used for transportation to specialized work events.
Another department venture that was initiated to benefit the youth of the community was the Wyland Way Field Bicycle Racing Track. Kiwanis International helped to fund the project, and volunteers from the police department and the local Kiwanis Club built the track. This was the beginnings of the Monrovia Bike Racing Association. The track was a place for youth to race competitively with their motocross style bicycles. Detective Tom Wellinger and Sergeant Mike Delaney supervised the design, development, construction and operation of the track for five years.
In 1972, the department started its first Law Enforcement Explorer Post. This program was part of the vocational exploring program created through Boys Scouts of America. The program was designed to provide teenage youth the opportunity to experience different vocational opportunities through various charter organizations. The post started with approximately thirty high school aged youth who volunteered to work with the department. This program provided the police department with a close connection to youth in the community, and allowed the youth to better understand the world of the police officer.
In 1979, Bill Tubbs was appointed chief of police. Chief Tubbs was also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and came up through the ranks of the department. Under the guidance of Chief Tubbs, the department explored and adopted a number of new and innovative techniques for policing the community. Tubbs believed that the backbone of the department was the patrol force and emphasized the importance of the patrol officer in keeping the community safe and free from crime.
During his administration, Tubbs organized the department’s Task Force, a four-man team of officers designed to focus on gang and street drug trafficking. This team would later be called the Special Enforcement Team.
In 1982, the police facility designed twenty years prior would undergo some major changes. The outdated dispatch office and records section were closed. They were replaced by a new, more modern communications center and records area that would serve the growing communications and records storage needs of the department. The resources to upgrade the communications center were raised in large part by a dedicated group of community members calling themselves Monrovians for a Safer Community.
In 1983, another group of dedicated community members raised $23,000 in three months to purchase two police canines and the necessary equipment and training to start the department’s first police canine program. Funds for this program were raised by members of the Gem City and Monrovia Kiwanis Clubs, Rotary, Soroptimists, Quota and the Exchange Club.
The two canine teams – a police officer paired with a canine partner – were assigned to patrol operations. Officers Rick Miglia and Pat Burson were the first two officers assigned to this new position. The canine officers drive police cars specially designed for their canine partners. The team implemented specially trained police dogs that could be used to track suspects and search buildings. Later, the capabilities of the canine teams would be enhanced with training that allowed them to search for illicit drugs.
In 1986, the City’s centennial year, the police department changed to blue uniforms. At that time, there was a statewide move to standardize the color of municipal police uniforms. Although there was never any legislation requiring it, Monrovia and most of the state’s municipal police agencies adopted the new uniform color. Prior to this time, the department’s officers wore tan uniforms with green Eisenhower style jackets.
Joseph Santoro, a captain from Monterey Park Police Department, was appointed as chief of police in October 1989. The next 13 years would see many new programs, many focusing on the youth of the community. It was Chief Santoro’s belief that the department should help the youth of the community to be successful. This ideal was reflected in a variety of programs that promoted youth and helped to identify and make resources available to help those youth who were at risk. It was this same philosophy that brought the department into a close working relationship with the Boys and Girls Club of the Foothills.
During this period, the department saw the creation of Community Activist Policing. This new philosophy of policing implemented an innovative and collaborative approach to solving community problems and improving their quality of life. Programs that came out of this new approach would earn the department several international and national recognitions, including the Webber Seavey Award presented by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Bicycle patrol officers hit the streets in Monrovia in 1991. Seen as a stealthy way to approach and apprehend street drug traffickers, the bicycle became an integral part of patrol operations. In addition, officers used police bicycles to work the Old Town area and in shopping malls to reduce crime. A side benefit to bicycle patrol has been the ability for community members to more easily approach and communicate with police officers working the assignment. Bicycle patrol officers receive special training and equipment to ride the police bikes. The bicycles are equipped with red lights and siren, and carry needed equipment in a storage container on the rear. Early on in the program, Monrovia provided state approved police bicycle training for police agencies throughout the state.
After Monrovia instituted its police bicycle patrol, AeroVironment approached the department with a proposal to test their new electric bicycle in 1994. AeroVironment is a company that specializes in highly efficient systems in the areas of electric vehicles, distributed energy supply, unmanned air vehicles and environmental measurement. The electric-assist bicycle for law enforcement, the AV Patroller, was a great success. It improved response times for bicycle officers and extended their patrol range. The AV Patroller is still being used by Monrovia officers today.
In June 1993, The Police Chaplain Corps was established with the assistance of clergy members from several of the community churches. Police chaplains helped the department forge closer ties to the community by showing a more compassionate side to law enforcement. Chaplains have been particularly helpful in family crisis situations. Over the years, the role of the police chaplain has expanded to include counseling and outreach to members of the community who need temporary food and shelter.
Later in the same year, the department moved light years ahead in its ability to store and analyze crime data with the installation of its first computerized Records Management System. This system provided the means by which data could be more effectively analyzed to solve crime, and identify and prosecute criminals. At the same time, a Computer Aided Dispatch system was also implemented that greatly improved the efficiency of dispatching police calls to officers in the field.
Monrovia’s Volunteer Citizen Patrol came on the scene in January 1997. This group of dedicated community members donates their time to provide valuable services to the community. They spend many hours each month providing patrol to areas of the community, and provide other valuable services that help patrol officers remain available to handle calls for service. Citizen Patrol Volunteers also provide crowd control during special events and traffic control during disasters and traffic collisions.
In 1998, the Monrovia Police Department became one of the first law enforcement agencies in California to place Automatic Electronic Defibrillators (AED) in police cars. Officers responding to calls for medical assistance were now able to help heart attack victims by delivering life saving shocks of electricity to overcome irregular and life threatening heart rhythms. Since its inception, the program has saved many lives.
Mobile computing came to Monrovia in 1999. The leading edge computerized system brought information from local, state and federal databases right to the officers’ police car. The new system increased dispatch efficiency and provided officers the tools needed to perform their jobs more effectively. Monrovia was the first law enforcement agency in California to provide real-time photographic imagery in a police vehicle using wireless technology.
Monrovia’s Tactical Response Team (TRT) went operational in June 2000. The team was created to handle high risk tactical situations requiring specialized training and equipment. Monrovia, like many other agencies in Los Angeles County, found that the Sheriff’s Department was unable to meet the growing requests being made by municipal law enforcement agencies. Monrovia’s tactical officers must meet high standards and compete for positions on the team. Members of the fourteen-person team receive ongoing training each month and must qualify in a variety of areas to remain on the team.
Monrovia’s current Chief of Police is Jim Hunt, a 22 year veteran of the department. Chief Hunt is a graduate of the University of La Verne and holds a Masters degree in Public Administration. He attended the California Law Enforcement Command College and the Federal Bureau of Investigations National Academy.
Monrovia’s first one hundred years has been marked by challenges and innovations, but through it all the emphasis has been on service. The Monrovia Police Department is appreciative of the many community members who have been willing to support and stand with the police department to ensure the safety of our community.