A Short History of the San
Marino Police Department
When the City of San Marino was
first incorporated in 1913 it did not have its own police
department. During its early years, the only police
protection deemed necessary was a City Marshal. The first,
Norbert Murray, prided himself on never having made an
arrest. However as the City began to grow and crime made
its way into the community, two deputy City Marshals were
added in October of 1918. In 1924, then Deputy Marshal Ben
Parker was appointed the Cities first police chief. He
served until 1934.
Throughout the 1920’s, Chief
Parker and his men had continued problems with a popular and
well-known gambling den at 1090 Old Mill Road. Half the
residence was in San Marino, the other half in Pasadena. A
number of raids were conducted, however guards, an alarm
system and what police believed to be honeycombed secret
passageways prevented the San Marino police officer from
making arrests. Believing the local police did not take
these violations seriously, the District Attorneys office
took over the investigation in 1929 and conducted a raid
resulting in fifteen arrests and the confiscation of several
roulette wheels and dice tables.
In 1934, Gene Woods took the
helm having nine officers under his command. February 17,
1934 brought with it San Marino’s first home invasion
robbery. While hosting a dinner party at 2900 Monterey
Road, Joseph Keller was confronted by two bandits who stole
mink coats, diamond rings and everyone’s money. By1946 the
Department had grown to twenty men, giving the City 24-hour
protection for the first time.
In 1954 Chief Glenn McClung took
command at the same time a string of burglaries plagued the
City. Officer Albert Lemke happened upon a suspicious man
entering a rear yard with no car near by. He requested
assistance from the colorful Captain Norwine. The house was
surrounded and a suspect refused to come out peacefully.
The man eventually fled out the front door, refused officers
orders and was shot twice. The man lived and the burglaries
In 1958 Chief Joseph Miller was
appointed and held the position until 1963. He was followed
by Chief James Moore in 1963, who was noted as the longest
and most senior-sitting Chief in Los Angeles County until
his retirement in 1987.
Throughout the seventies and
eighties several noted crimes occurred in San Marino. On
July 15, 1975 the attempted kidnapping of Andrew Colace
occurred. The highly equipped and intelligent felons rented
a limousine, and attempted to force their way into the
Colace’s residence, with a ransom note to be placed on the
kitchen counter. The family was able to lock themselves in
rooms thwarting the kidnapping.
Beginning in 1987, Jack Yeske
served as San Marino’s seventh Chief of Police. Under Chief
Yeske’s tenure, the deadliest shootout in Drug Enforcement
Agency (DEA) history occurred. An undercover drug operation
taking place in Pasadena went bad, resulting in the death of
two DEA agents. A car chase ensued, ending at Monterey Road
and Old Mill Road where the suspects’ car crashed. A gun
battle erupted between the suspects and pursuing Agents,
resulting in the death of two armed drug dealers and the
arrest of a third.
Paul Butler, appointed Police
Chief in 1991, served only one year before accepting the
position of Police Chief in the city of Glendora.
In a split from past history, in
1993 the city went outside for its top gun and appointed
Frank J. Wills, a seventeen-year veteran with the Pasadena
Police Department, as the new Police Chief. Wills captivated
the community until his departure to head the West Covina
Police Department in 1998.
In July 1999, City Manager Debra
Bell appointed Arl L. Farris to head the Department.
In September 2005, Chief Farris retired from the Department
and Gary A. Isaacs, formerly the Police Captain, was named
Police Chief. Chief Isaacs retired after 27 years with
the San Marino Police Department in October 2007. John T.
Schaefer was appointed Police Chief effective October 15,