PD History

Our Past

The below history is taken from an article written for the City of Upland Muni-News Fall 1985 edition by then Upland Police Department Captain Howard W. Seay.

Many stories have been written about the “long arm of the law.”  However, Upland Police Department begins with the “one arm of the law.”  Upland’s first Chief of Police was a towering, husky man by the name of Jed Sawyer.  Although his right arm had been torn off while working for a local water company, the disability did not seem to affect his law enforcement duties.

Old timers say that “Jed” took care of unruly suspects by first knocking them flat on their backs with his one arm.  Then, with his knee on top of the suspect he would quickly slip on the handcuffs with little or no effort. 

Chief Sawyer began his police department duties in 1906 at a salary of $20 per month.  At first he was assisted by only a night watchman, but by 1923 the department included patrolmen Louis Kronmyer, C. H. Hawes and C. S. Lehman.

The police station at the time was located on North Second Avenue.  An ingenious communications system consisted of three red lights on high poles located in the downtown area.  When telephone calls came into the police station, they were monitored by the telephone company operator.  If the caller was in need of a policeman, she would switch on the red lights.

The patrolman, usually walking in the downtown area at night, would see the red lights and quickly return to the police station to answer the call.  This system of police communications remained in operation until police headquarters move to the new city hall in 1939 [this building served as the police station until 1989 when the Department moved to the current facility at 1499 West 13th Street].

In 1935, Ernie Mehl became Chief of Police, taking over after the death of the legendary Jed Sawyer.  Shortly after taking office, he required all of the officers to purchase regulation blue uniforms.

The only Upland Police officer to ever lose his life in the line of duty was killed in a traffic accident in 1939.  Officer Ernest Ralph Dark collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Foothill Blvd. and Padua Avenue while chasing a speeding motorist.  He died the next day in the San Antonio Community Hospital.

Ernie Mehl resigned in 1942 and one week later Eugene Mueller was appointed Chief of Police.  Better known as a colorful and flamboyant character, Chief Muller was, in fact a knowledgeable police administrator.  During his eight years in office he established a complete record-keeping system where none had existed before.  In 1950 Chief Mueller successfully ran for Sheriff of San Bernardino County.

When Mueller left office in early 1951, Captain Ralph Palmer was appointed as Upland’s new Chief of Police.  Palmer was the first person to serve in every rank within the Upland Police Department.  Chief Palmer was responsible for designing the colorful shoulder patch which Upland officers still wear today [this patch was discontinued in 2005 and a new patch was adopted].

In 1957, Lieutenant John A. Wessely was appointed Chief of Police, succeeding the retiring Ralph Palmer.  He was appointed to the Upland Police Department as a patrolman and, in the true police tradition rose to become its chief executive.

Chief Wessely inaugurated the policies of the present organization and, within a few years, shaped it into one of the most respected law enforcement organizations in the country.  One of his first tasks as a new Chief was to prepare a policy manual to act as a guideline for each member of the department.  Later, a procedural manual was developed to further standardize operations.

The necessity of good police-community relations was recognized early by Chief Wessely as being essential to community-wide support for law enforcement.  As a result, community relations programs were being conducted by his department long before others were to recognize their value and results. 

Upon the retirement of Chief Wessely in 1976, Captain Coy D. Estes was appointed as his replacement.  Chief Estes was raised in the West End area, graduating from Chaffey College and receiving his bachelor’s degree from Redlands University.  In the true tradition of law enforcement, Chief Estes came up through the ranks.  He began his career in 1963 as a patrolman and served the next 13 years in the ranks as detective, sergeant, lieutenant and captain before attaining the department’s highest position as its Chief.

Under Chief Estes, the department has expanded and refined its community relations program with the appointment of a full-time crime prevention officer.  Police equipment and techniques have been modernized to ensure that Upland citizens get the best police services available.  Today, Upland residents live in one of the safest cities in California while paying the lowest per capita costs for law enforcement in the West End.

The tradition of “courtesy and service” lives on.


The below history is taken from an article written in 1969 by an unknown author.

“Jed” Sawyer, the one-armed police chief, served Upland from 1906 until 1935

It was literally the “arm of the law” from the very beginning until 1935.  You see, Upland’s well-known and efficient chief of police was “Jed” Sawyer, whose right arm had been torn off when he was working for a water company.

A towering, husky man, one-armed “Jed” could subdue an uncooperative suspect in no time flat.  First, he would knock him down.  Then, with his knee on top of the suspect, he would slip the handcuffs on the prisoner with apparently no effort.  He became so proficient with his left hand that he could write, play cards, and drive a car.

“Jed” lived with his wife, Katherine, in one of the houses demolished to make way for the new library.  The house, which Mrs. Sawyer moved into as a bride, was made with some of the material from the old Magnolia Villa, torn down about 1906.  Mrs. Sawyer died in January 1969.

Even before Upland became incorporated in 1906, “Jed” was Marshall, having started that job in 1902.  Infringements of the law were not too numerous.  “Jed” was assisted by a night watchman, Mr. Redmon, who subdued energetic youths riding bicycles along the wooden sidewalks on 9th St. as one of the youth recalls.

One of the chief duties of police in the 20’s was to enforce the prohibition amendment.  One news story describes 350 gallons of wine being brought to the Upland Police headquarters where it was destroyed (dumped into the street).

And there were speeders in those days who were arrested for exceeding the limit of 25 miles per hour.  A Los Angeles attorney was arrested for driving 40 miles per hour on Mountain Avenue (which then was strictly rural), and Judge Crane fined him $15.

Another traffic violation was having equipment extend beyond the left hubcap; the roads were too narrow to allow for any extra width.  Motorists were told to shift luggage to the right side, and this regulation affected many drivers going to Camp Baldy.

That Louis E. Kronmeyer, traffic officer, did not hesitate to do his duty is indicated in this news item; “Louis E. Kronmeyer, 445 2nd Avenue, suffered a compound fracture of his right shoulder when he was thrown from his motorcycle while trying to curb the speed of a large party of motorcyclists passing on Foothill, enroute to Lake Arrowhead.”

Another arrest on Foothill occurred when Carmen Lehman and Frank Freeman chased a man for several hours (yes hours); the escapee had stolen some potted plants from K. G. Brown at the Upland Auto Camp.  The thief was arrested and fined $85 by Judge Crane.

There were other thefts and burglaries too.  The Pacific Electric Depot on Euclid Avenue was entered and a 300 pound safe taken, containing $100.  The safe was found on San Antonio Avenue, and a week later two ex-convicts were arrested in Los Angeles.  They were convicted as a result of tire tracks found by Upland police.

On March 31, 1925, a burglar who had entered a home was sprayed with bullets by the resident’s daughter.  Returning home after dark, she discovered the burglar, who had a flashlight and a gun.  He ordered her to put up her hands.  She obeyed but cleverly backed into a door where she knew a gun was concealed.  She shot at the burglar but he escaped.  Officers followed footprints but to no avail.

Youth also ran afoul of the law in the 20’s.  A 13 year old boy was arrested and turned over to police for stealing a total of $5 from four stores.

A 12 year old boy ran away from foster parents in Ontario.  He was found in the early morning on 14th Street.  He had lost $1.20 while culling fruit and was afraid to tell his parents.

A strange case occurred on October 24, 1924.  A sewing machine salesman who lacked a nose, was arrested when two maiden ladies living at 922 East 9th Street reported the man was threatening them.  The salesman had gained entrance to the home by promising to the teach ladies to embroider.  The suspect old Judge Crane, “I did no wrong.  I couldn’t afford to with this face of mine.”  He was fined $10.

Narcotics made the news then, too.  A trusted employee of Waterman’s Garage left a note saying, “Dope has got me.  You will find me down in the bottom of the ocean with the sharks.”  Waterman said he had no knowledge that the man ever used dope.  Later the man was located in Arizona.

In the 20’s there was violence, even in the quiet town of Upland.  A hard-working laborer employed on the Stewart Ranch, was found under an orange tree at the northeast corner of 14th Street and San Antonio Avenue with two bullet holes in his head.  He had been irrigating a grove on 25th Street.  Superintendent E. W. Henry searched two days before locating the laborer on the N. G. Pehl grove.  Police took the suspect into custody.  Jealousy was said to be the motive for the killing.

Another story of violence was reported in the newspaper from April through October 1925.  The body of a well-dressed man with a head full of gold teeth was discovered under a rock pile west of San Antonio Park.  He had been hit on the head and had been dead for three months according to “Jed” Sawyer.  Later identified as Andre Bartela, he apparently had been robbed of $600 and killed.  The gruesome part of the story is that the victim’s skull was brought to court by Dr. E. H. Hull of the General Hospital.  When the suspect saw the skull, he clutched it and tearfully cried, “He was my friend.”  The suspect was sentenced to life in prison.

A strange arrest was this: In June 1924, San Antonio Canyon water (used in domestic lines) was declared unsafe.  On July 1 two men from Los Angeles were arrested for washing their feet in the stream.  On July 15 appeared a notice that people need no longer boil water, since water from the stream was not being used.

“Jed” Sawyer continued his vigilance into the 30’s.  When a police car from Los Angeles screamed through Upland, Sawyer called for an explanation and was told that the officers were on an important robbery case.  An Upland motorist, who followed the police car, later reported that on arrival in San Bernardino the officers went into a café and dined.

In the 30’s there seem to have been a high number of automobile collisions.  In one June 1932 issue of the paper, it was reported that three Upland men were hospitalized after three separate accidents.

In June, 1932 the city council ordered stop signs on Foothill and Euclid Avenue.  This was over protests of the State Division of Highways.  For days after these signs were installed, police were kept busy writing tickets for violators.  Judge Crane assessed each violator a fine of $3 who invariably protested, “I did not see the sign.”

If “Jed” Sawyer were to return today (1969), how amazed he would be to find 33 patrolmen and a total of 44 in his police department, plus 16 police reserves!


The below history is taken from an article written for the City of Upland Muni-News Fall 1987 edition by an unknown author.

New Police Station Scheduled for August ‘88

The new Upland Police facility will be located on city-owned property in the 1400 block of West 13th Street.  Wolff/Lang/Christopher Architects Inc. have presented final plans for the 28,000 square foot two-story building.

The present police department headquarters was constructed in 1939, and, at that time, served as the Upland City Hall.  All City departments shared this facility until 1969 when everyone moved except the police.  At present, the department utilizes two buildings, with 11,000 square feet.

Chief Coy Estes says, “The new facility will not have to be expanded or replaced when the City reaches build-out.  We believe that we have anticipated everything that we will need, with a little room to spare.  The price tag will be about $4,689,903.

Highlights will include an indoor shooting range which will be located in the basement.  The location will eliminate overtime use for range qualification which is currently required every three months for all officers.  The present range is located at C.I.M. Chino.

There will be a revised communication center, as the dispatch and police record functions will be automated.  Upland will join with Chino and Ontario to share criminal activity information via computers.  The police will be able to utilize all information collected on criminal activity throughout the City and, in addition, field dispatch activity information.

No jail facility will be integrated into the new station.  There will be four detention cells which will be used no more than two hours at a time.  Upland will continue to book arrestees at either West End Jail or the Foothill Law and Justice Center.

A carport structure will be used to protect police vehicles (when not in use) and their electronic equipment from the elements.

Larry Wolff, president, Wolff/Lang/Christopher, said the ground floor will be 18,000 square feet, with a second floor measuring 8,000 square feet, and a basement of 2,800 square feet.  The basic exterior design is concrete block with three layers of color.


460 N. Euclid Avenue
Upland, CA 91786
(909) 931-4100

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