David Stephenson remembers sitting in his father’s olive squad car and fiddling with the Motorola communication device.
On Friday, the memories came flooding back for the Anaheim dentist, now 73.
He visited police headquarters for the first time since the building was rechristened the “Mark A. Stephenson Police Station” nearly 20 years ago. His father was APD’s longest-serving police chief.
“This is super,” he said. “Really super.”
Stephenson brought his son, also named Mark, and two grandsons, Jack, 14, and Charlie, 12, for the tour and history lesson.
Jack and Charlie had never met their great grandfather, who died in 1992. He was 88.
“Your great grandfather was known as a very tough but very fair police chief,” current police chief John Welter told the boys. “He’s responsible in many ways for setting the high standards for which we’re known today.”
Welter shared a letter Walt Disney himself wrote to their great grandfather, dated June 29, 1955. The amusement park had yet to open.
Disney thanked Stephenson, and wrote the department’s support would “greatly contribute to whatever success Disneyland may enjoy.”
Charlie Stephenson’s reaction: “Whoa.”
Stephenson was an Anaheim Police officer for 42 years and served as chief from 1946-1969.
When he started, APD employed 11 officers. By the time he retired there were 288.
Today, there are nearly 400.
Pictures of Stephenson – and from his era – are displayed outside the chief’s office, in the briefing room and elsewhere in the department.
Sgt. Rick Martinez, the department’s public information officer, met and interviewed the former chief. He shared several anecdotes, including one about how Stephenson won support for a new jail.
“He told a newspaper reporter that we had the worst jail north of Tijuana. That quote was picked up everywhere. Folks in the city weren’t happy about the comment,” Martinez said. “But he got his jail.”
He also changed the color of the uniforms from navy blue to tan because “it was cooler during the hot summers,” Martinez said.
David Stephenson said he enjoyed spending a few hours reminiscing about his father – and sharing his contributions with his son and grandsons.
“It feels really good to be here again,” he said.