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.


The Police Department's first known location was in the 100 block of Church Street. It is not known precisely how many locations the department occupied over time.

In 1932-33, the department moved to City Hall. City Hall, at that time, was located in the Victorian-era Hihn mansion, which occupied the present City Hall grounds.

In 1938, the Hihn mansion was torn down and a new Spanish-style City Hall was completed. The Police Department occupied the north wing. Its facilities included a firing range in the basement and a city jail.

In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake severely damaged the north wing of City Hall, and half of the department moved to rented offices at 212 Locust Street. The new Police Building reunites all police functions under one roof, with contemporary facilities and room for future growth through the year 2015.


In the early years, the Police Department did not patrol 24 hours a day. As the city grew, so did the need for 24 hour police services.

Early communications were accomplished through the use of call boxes and a system of blue lights. Police call boxes were placed at locations throughout the city and the officer would call in periodically to see if there was a need for police services in the city.

The blue lights were placed across major intersections. The beat officer was expected to check the blue light periodically and if it was lit, to call into the station.

Radios later allowed for direct communication between the department and the patrol officer in his car. For many years, during the 1930's - 1950's, the Santa Cruz Police Department provided dispatch services for a number of police agencies. Communication between an officer on foot patrol and the office was not possible by radio until 1963, when the first handheld radios in the county were introduced. The portable radios were receivers only, and the officer still had to go to a phone to call the office.

Present day communications are handled from a modern consolidated computer-aided dispatch center which opened in 1996 in DeLaveaga Park.

Our Police Chiefs

Robet Liddell 1867-1882
S.J. Taintor 1882
Myron Sacket Paterson 1882-1884
Joseph W. Scott 1884-1886

W.W. "Will" Clark 1886-1888
Amos Lunt 1888-1889
J.E. Armstrong 1889-1890
Matt Rawle 1890-1904

W.W. "Will" Clark 1904-1906
J.E. Armstrong 1906-1910
Hugh Daugherty 1910-1912

M.C. Jones 1912-1914
Frank K. Hannah 1914-1925
E.B. Kaler 1925-1929
William Walker 1929-1930
E.B. Kaler 1930-1932
Ora Dunlop 1932-1933
Al Hunstman 1933-1956
Gino Pini 1957-1982
Jack Bassett 1982-1994
Steve Belcher 1994-2003
Howard Skerry 2003-2010
Kevin Vogel  2010-