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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Vallejo Police Department from 1900 to 2008

James Kern

On January 26, 2008, the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum opened a new exhibit looking at Vallejo law enforcement, past and present. Beyond the Badge: The Vallejo Police Department from 1900 to 2008 is an intimate look at the Vallejo Police Force, using historical archives and freshly created artwork. The paintings, photographs, photo essays and rarely seen artifacts featured in the exhibit help visitors explore the human dimensions of the job, and its effects on the police officers, their families, and the community. Historic artifacts and photos from the Museum’s permanent collection, combined with numerous items on loan from the community, tell the story of the department’s early years, while new works by several local artists focus on the present day. The Vallejo Museum is located at 734 Marin Street in downtown Vallejo. The exhibit runs through June 28, 2008.

For more information about the exhibit visit

The Vallejo Police Department – The First 70 Years

Before Vallejo’s municipal Police Department was established in 1900, law enforcement was handled by a town constable and/or a night watchman. The City’s Board of Trustees adopted Resolution #180 in April 1900, establishing the first city Police Department. Three officers were hired (John P. Scully, Eugene Williams, and Richard Shay) and on April 4, 1900 William Stanford was appointed Police Chief by the Town Trustees. During the Department’s first seventy years only four men held the job of Chief of Police.

William T. Stanford: Police Chief 1900 - 1936

In a career that spanned over 35 years, William T. Stanford saw the City of Vallejo transformed from a small pioneer town with dirt roads to a thriving modern city. When he retired in 1936 Stanford was the longest serving Police Chief in the United States. During his career he served as President of the California Peace Officers Association and held numerous other professional affiliations. Stanford died in Los Angeles in 1964 at the age of 96.

Bert J. Forman: Police Chief 1936 - 1941

Vallejo’s second Police Chief was hired by the Department in 1920 and worked his way through the ranks to the position of Chief. During his tenure the Department’s vehicle fleet was greatly expanded and the Police & Fireman’s Association was established, to aid widows and children of police personnel. When the Police Department was reorganized in the early 1940s, Forman became Assistant Chief and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1954. Chief Forman died in 1974.

Earl Dierking: Police Chief 1941 – 1948

Earl Dierking joined the Vallejo Police Department in 1927. By 1935, having reached the rank of sergeant, Dierking resigned to take a position as Solano County Deputy Sheriff. He returned to Vallejo as Chief in 1941. Dierking ran the Department during the turbulent years of World War Two, when both the city and the department grew at an unprecedented rate. The Police Department, located on Marin Street in the City Hall building, underwent a major renovation under Dierking’s leadership. Improved radio equipment was purchased and the Department’s vehicle fleet was expanded to 15 radio-equipped patrol cars and 5 motorcycles.

The 1940s: A Decade of Change and Growth

During the 1940s Vallejo faced many challenges. World War Two brought drastic changes to the city. Thousands of new residents came to Vallejo to work at the Mare Island Shipyard and the Police Department grew to serve these newcomers. By 1945 the Department had forty officers and nine civilian support staff.

During the War - and in the years immediately following -the Department evolved to meet new demands. Rose Milestein was hired in 1944 as Police Matron. Her badge #126 was the first issued to a woman.

Alfred Robinson was hired in 1946 as a Special Officer (similar to today’s Police Reserves). In 1948 Robinson was given badge #176, the first awarded to an African-American. Unfortunately, Robinson was later stripped of his badge, a sad reflection of the racial prejudice common at the time.

Jack Stiltz: Police Chief 1948 – 1970

Jack Stiltz was a native Vallejoan who joined the Police Department as a patrolman in 1939, advancing to the rank of Captain within nine years. In 1947 he was the first member of the Vallejo Police Department to attend the FBI Police Academy in Washington, D.C. During Stiltz’s tenure as Chief, the Department more than doubled in size and the first K-9 units were organized. Stiltz hired the first woman officer, Beverly Birch, in 1960. A new police station was built on Amador Street while Stiltz was Chief and he also headed the Department during the controversial Police and Fire Department strike in 1969. Chief Stiltz resigned due to health reasons in 1970 and died in 1974.

Police and Fire Strike – 1969

One of the most divisive events in Vallejo’s history was the strike by Police and Fire Department personnel in July of 1969. The strike was the first joint Police and Fire strike in California history and only the second joint strike in U.S. history. Fortunately, no serious emergencies hit Vallejo during the five-day strike. Although picketing only lasted five days, issues arising from the strike still reverberate in the community nearly forty years later.