History Of The SCPOA

Article Index

Department History

The history of the Santa Cruz Police Department begins with the incorporation of the city in 1866. A Board of Trustees governed the new town, and S.W. Field, President of the Board, appointed the first Police Chief in 1867.

Robert Liddell was a Santa Cruz lifeguard at the time he was appointed Police Chief, and he served as the head of a one-man department until 1888. By the turn of the century, the police force had grown to three men.

As was common in most Police Departments in the early years, the chief was a politically appointed position. In 1933, the city was reorganized under a City Manager/City Council form of government, and the Police Chief became a professional staff position.


The Traffic Unit began with Frank Woodward, the first SCPD motorcycle officer in 1917. Additional motorcycles and then cars were added. In the 1940's, the police used a standard black and white car with a six-pointed police badge on the door.

In the 1950's, the cars were changed to light blue and white, and the new Santa Cruz patch replaced the badge on the door. The cars subsequently changed to navy blue and white, and then to the present all white with a blue stripe.


Initially, there was no official uniform. As the department grew in size, a uniform was developed. Over the years, the uniforms have changed from tan to dark blue. It consisted of a dark blue, military-type jacket with no shoulder patches, plus a hat and badge.

In the late 1950's, the shirts changed from dark to light blue. A shoulder patch designed by Assistant Chief Ernie Marenghi was added and placed on the left shoulder. It is still in use today. A California patch was placed on the right shoulder, but was later replaced with the Santa Cruz Police patch.

In 1991, the department returned to dark blue shirts as part of a move to a consistent statewide municipal police uniform.