The year 2006 marked a milestone in the history of the Oceanside Police Department: a century of service to the community, state, and country by a select group of men and women, whose uniforms, badges, and titles may have changed over the years; but not their desire to serve their fellow citizens and make a difference.
The Oceanside Police Department’s history dates back to 1888 when Oceanside, located 39 miles north of the City of San Diego, was incorporated. With a population of 1,000, the City Marshal’s Office was established, located on the second floor of the old Bank of Oceanside at the northwest corner of what is now Coast Highway and Mission Avenue. Lawmen of this period handled many problems, including drunken cowboys, loose livestock, and countless tourists coming by train from Los Angeles and San Diego to enjoy the beach, local saloons, bath houses, and billiard halls.
As the City of Oceanside grew, so did the need for more formal law enforcement and around-the-clock protection. In 1906 the City Trustees passed Ordinance 171, which established the Department of Police. Since that date many men and women have raised their hand into the air and taken a sworn oath to serve and protect the people of Oceanside and the Great State of California. Men and women like Charles Goss, who had first served as a City Marshal for Oceanside and in 1925 was appointed as the first Chief of Police. In 1935, Harold B. Davis was one of the first officers to be trained to use new car-to-station radios, making Oceanside the fifth city in the nation to have them. Davis proved the value of this new technology when he captured a fleeing car thief traveling from Los Angeles to San Diego using the radio to notify officers in San Diego during a moving gun battle.
There was also Mary Todd, who, during the early years of the department, started as the Chief’s secretary and answered the incoming telephone calls for service. With a red light attached to a pole located atop the police station, Mary Todd would flip on the light switch, alerting patrol officers that a call awaited them at the station. Mary Todd would later become Oceanside’s first sworn female officer.
In the 1950s the department continued to grow, and early pioneers of police work like Ollie MacDonald paved the way for others by becoming the Oceanside Police Department’s first female police detective. The Department had many other firsts, like Curtis Hughes and Frank Brock, who as police officers paved the way for African Americans. Then there was John Quintro and Oscar Mayo, who established reputations of excellence in service as Oceanside’s early Latino Police Officers. Other early pioneers included Larry Faumuina and Marvin Tino, marking their place in Oceanside Police Department history as two of the first representatives of a proud Pacific Islander community who served with the Department.
In memory of these men and women and others who have equally served with distinction, it is fitting that we also recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Oceanside has suffered more than its share of setbacks and losses. The loss of City Marshal Charlie Wilson in 1889, City Marshal John Mugan in 1916, and more recently, Police Officers Tony Zeppetella and Danny Bessant in 2003 and 2006 respectively, can never be truly measured. The sacrifice made by these real-life heroes will always be a constant reminder of the dangers that await all officers as they respond to calls for service for the community they serve and love.
The location of the police station would move several times over the years, from the City Marshal’s Office on Coast Highway, to 305 N. Nevada Street, and later to 1617 Mission Avenue, before moving to its current location at 3855 Mission Avenue. The Oceanside Police Department has seen many dedicated public servants over the last 100-plus years and faced many challenges; challenges that included the unexpected high-profile murder of a young boy in the harbor, a murder that struck at the core of the Department and the community. As a cloud loomed over the City on that tragic day, the men and women of the Police Department shined in their dedication to service, bringing the subject to justice.
The Oceanside Police Department has come a long way from its early beginnings in 1906 and today serves a diverse community of almost 180,000 in Southern California. The department has grown to a size of 200-plus sworn officers, over 100 non-sworn employees, and over 100 volunteers, prepared and dedicated to handle more than 75,000 calls for service each year. With the 100th year behind them, the men and women who fill the rank and file of the Oceanside Police Department stand at the ready to continue to be a light in the dark and provide Service with Pride!
Those interested in learning more about the history of the Oceanside Police Department can do so by clicking on the link below to purchase an historic book entitled: Images of America: Oceanside Police Department, published 2006, Author: Matthew J. Lyons. All royalty proceeds are donated to the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and Wall in Washington, D.C. Purchase the book here.