At 12 midnight on Sunday, the Half Moon Bay Police Department will hand over its facility and operations to the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.
In these final hours before the transition, Half Moon Bay Patch takes a look back with a brief narrative of the 50-year-old department focused on its chiefs, badges, and modes of transportation. Information was supplied by , a 38-year veteran of the department.
The Half Moon Bay Police Department was established in 1961. In fact, it was one of the reasons why the town chose to officially incorporate in July of that same year.
Don Pearman was the city's first police chief, serving from 1961-1966. Chief Pearman approved the first badge, designed by a local resident (see photos). According to Reimche, chiefs liked to put their stamp on the department through changing the badge, police patch, uniform, or cars.
Pearman's patch features a white animal over a royal blue background, with the words "HMB Police" at the bottom on a red strip. A crescent-shaped moon is in the background.
According to Guy Reimche, there is no definitive knowledge behind what the patch depicts. "There's two different opinions," Reimche said. "Some people think it's a a seagull with wings, but others think it’s a dolphin with albatross wings." Another possibility, Reimche said, is a dolphin crashing through waves.
Under Chief Pearman, current Half Moon Bay Mayor Naomi Patridge served as the department's first police matron. Patridge's main responsibility was to take care of the females in custody.
Chief Fred Ceranski (1966 - 1972), the department's second chief, used the same patch as Chief Pearman.
In 1974, the department brought on its third leader, Chief John Gonzales (1974 – 1991), who used to work in Menlo Park. Gonzales retired from the department in 1991, and "had many ties to the Half Moon Bay community," Reimche said. The father of Gonzales' wife Dixie, John Carter, was the first mayor of Half Moon Bay. (Carter Park, located next to the Stone Pine Center off Main Street, is named after him).
The next few police chiefs made more aesthetic changes to the patches. Under Gonzales, police officers wore the patch trimmed with silver. The next police chief, Dennis Wick (1991-2002), brought in the patch with the gold trimming to match the gold in the uniforms.
Wick also implemented blue candy striping on the police cars, a design that originated with Reimche. That was also the same time that the slogan “Serving our community with pride” was written on the cars, according to Reimche. He and Dave Vogt came up with the slogan, Reimche said.
Chief Ike Ortiz (2002 – 2007) got rid of the striped cars changed the design of the cars significantly. "He said the cars looked like an ice cream truck...he took cars that were white and blue and made them black and white," Reimche said.
The department also used a variety of modes of transportation.
In the early '90s, the department put a Z28 Camaro car into service. "We were trying to attract new officers at that time, and ramping up explorer and reserve program," Reimche said. Though the car belonged to Reimche, he let other officers drive it. In 1986, the department got a Dodge Ram Charger to better navigate difficult terrain, their first 4x4 vehicle.
And in 1981, the department introduced a K-9 (canine) unit with Officer Bill Gnagy and his dog Duke. After Gnagy left, Sergeant Mike O'Malley and his dog Bud replaced the two. Later, Sgt. Mark Reed and his dog Ross comprised a unit (see video in media box to the right for footage of Ross). Each officer took care of the dog and housed it as well, according to Reimche. "They would take the police car home beause they would respond from home if they needed the dog," he said.
Reserve officer Herb Frost started the department's mounted horse patrol under Chief Gonzales in the mid-1970s in an effort to nab lawbreakers on the beach, according to Reimche. The program lasted for "a year and a half to two years," Reimche said. Frost trained the officers and reserve officers to ride.
"There were a high number of auto burglaries on their beaches, so with the horses, they'd walk up and they wouldn't hear you," Reimche said. "There were four horses at the time...they’d blend in with all the other people coming by on horses."
The horses weren't owned by the department. "They were all borrowed from ," Reimche said.
During the gas crisis of the early 1970s, the department purchased cars that were more gas-efficient, such as a Ford Maverick (see photo). But in the next decade, the department brought in a car that used more gas than its regular cars -- an SUV.
After Chief Ortiz's retirement, Chief Don O'Keefe was brought in. He served the city from 2007 – September 2010, and left to become the U.S. Marshal for the northern district of California. O'Keefe introduced the Police Activities League.
Experienced veteran police chief Lee Violett, former San Bruno Police Chief, was hired as an Interim Chief to replace O'Keefe. In addition to leading the force, one of Violett's key responsibilities was to work with the city to transition the police department into its next iteration. After the defeat of Measure K, the 1% sales tax increase, the council to put together a to contract out the city's law enforcement services.
Violett did so quickly, issuing the first request for competitive bids for law enforcement services in the United States. The city of Pacifica and the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office were the only two agencies to .
On April 2, 2011, the city council voted to officially enter into with the San Mateo Sheriff's Office for police services. On June 7, the . Officers were (see photos in story link) the same day with certificates of recognition from the city.
The Sheriff's Office will officially take possession on 12:01 am on Sunday, June 12. Lt. Lisa Williams will inherit the department from Interim Police Chief Lee Violett, and six Sheriff's deputies (three from Half Moon Bay and three current deputies from the Sheriff's Office) will comprise the city's patrol force. The Community Service Officer (CSO) position is also being retained, along with the records service position who will continue to serve Half Moon Bay residents. Unincorporated Coastside residents currently under the jurisdiction of the county Sheriff's Office will also be able to process requests through the Half Moon Bay substation as well.
Corrections 6/13: Guy Reimche suggested the following corrections, which have been made: Half Moon Bay Police established in 1961 (original article stated 1959); Chief Don Pearman served 1961-1966 (photo and original story listed as 1959-1966); "Voght" changed to "Vogt"; "candy" deleted in quote and "ice cream" added; "Charger" added to "Dodge Ram"; Sgt. Mark Reed and Ross added as third K-9 unit; "Friendly Acres" added to official name of "Sea Horse and Friendly Acres Ranch."