SBPD's Origin (Pre-1905)

The Origins of the San Bernardino Police Department

By 1850, California had won independence from Mexico in the Mexican-American War and had been admitted into the union as a state. In 1851, a group of 500 Mormon men, women, and children in 150 wagons arrived in the San Bernardino valley. In February of 1852, the Mormon pioneers purchased the 35,000-acre San Bernardino Rancho from the Lugo family for $77,500. The Mormons built a stockade on the property to protect them from raiding desert Indians and named it Fort San Bernardino.

As the population increased, up to 1,200 people, so did the need for law enforcement. In 1853, Brigham Young, President of the Mormon Church, appointed Bud Rollins the first law officer in the San Bernardino settlement. By 1854, San Bernardino was thriving and the City of San Bernardino was officially incorporated. With the vast majority of San Bernardino residents being Mormon, San Bernardino was a temperance town. No drinking or gambling was allowed.

San Bernardino remained a Mormon settlement for only five years. In 1857, Brigham Young recalled the colonists to Utah and many returned. Opportunists of all kinds soon filled the vacuum that was created by so many people leaving so quickly. San Bernardino soon earned a reputation as a tough town.

In 1868, the elected office of Town Marshal was established. The Office of Town Marshal would remain the law enforcement agency in San Bernardino until the town was re-incorporated under newly established rules of city incorporation in 1905.

From 1853 to 1905, 15 men served as town marshals of San Bernardino:

  1. Bud Rollins 6. Mark Thomas 11. David Wixom
  2. Stewart Wall 7. John C. Ralphs 12. William Reeves
  3. George Mattheson 8. L. Van Dorm 13. John Henderson
  4. Frank Kerfoot 9. Joseph Bright 14. Ben Souther
  5. Charles Landers 10. Hughes Thomas 15. Walter A. Shay

1905 Charter:

After the City of San Bernardino was incorporated under the new rules of incorporation, a Mayor and a Common City Council were elected to office. H.M. Barton was elected the first Mayor of San Bernardino. He and the new council took office on May 8, 1905. One of the first orders of business for the new mayor and common council was to appoint a new police force to take office at 12 noon on May 15, 1905. Mayor Barton read a proclamation naming eight officers to the new police department:

  1. John Bell Ketring 5. Edward Poppett
  2. Robert O'Rourke 6. Benjamin Emerson
  3. John A. Henderson 7. Richard Curtis
  4. William H. Hurley 8. Robert Nish