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Descendants Savor Tour of Police Station Named for Family Patriarch

David Stephenson remembers sitting in his father’s olive squad car and fiddling with the Motorola communication device.

See the resemblance? From L-R, Charlie Stephenson, 12, Mark Stephenson and Jack Stephenson, 12 pose next to a photo of the former chief

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.”

Current Chief John Welter shows off mementos as David Stephenson, son of former chief Mark Stephenson, looks on

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.

Former Chief Mark Stephenson

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.

Forensics supervisor Jim Conley talks about evidence gathering with the Stephenson family. The bottles were gathered from a party where a homicide occurred

“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.

Police Officers No Longer Have to ‘Suck It Up’

Talking about it still brings retired Anaheim police chief Jimmie Kennedy to tears.

A drunk driver crossed the double yellow line, and smashed into a car filled with a Utah family headed to Disneyland.

The mother died instantly.

Retired police chief Jimmie Kennedy tells Deputy Chief Craig Hunter that he rarely talks about trauma he witnessed

Kennedy scooped the infant off the floorboard.

And held her as she gasped for the last time.

He recalls the scene in vivid detail.

Even now. 

Nearly 50 years later.

A 30-year-old patrol officer, Staci Dietz searched the ransacked home of an elderly woman whose car was stolen.

She and four colleagues couldn’t find her.

Until an officer moved a blanket near the bottom of a pile of overturned drawers.

Feet popped out.

The 84-year-old woman was raped and tortured, then beaten to death by a burglar.

That was January.

Six months later, Dietz raced to another horrifying scene.

A five-year-old boy told a dispatcher that Daddy killed Mommy, shot his 3-year-old brother, then killed himself.

Officer Staci Dietz talks with retired chief Kennedy and Heather Williams from CSP Victim Assistance Program

Inside the home, Dietz – who has an infant son of her own – sprinted past two dead bodies sprawled in pools of dried blood.

Where were the boys?

She found the 3-year-old on his back near trash cans on the side of the house. Shot three times. Conscious but not moving.

As she carried him to paramedics, she held him as if he was her son.

Miraculously, the boy survived.

Dietz later watched his 5-year-old brother recount the violent death of his parents as if he had just watched them on a cartoon.

“It was like a scene out of a movie,” she says.

— 

Heather Williams isn’t a psychologist or a cop, but she debriefed Dietz after both killings.

“It’s important for those involved in unimaginable crimes such as these to talk about what they saw – and how it made them feel,” said Williams, program director with CSP Victim Assistance Program and coordinator of its Crisis Response Team.

Williams and her team respond to bank robberies, homicides and other situations that cause trauma to a community.

“The research shows that dealing with the emotional impact right away is important for long-term mental health of those involved,” she says.

Williams and Dietz talk about how CSP works with officers following traumatic incidents

As a career, police officer ranks third among occupations in premature death rates. The number of cops who kill themselves each year is about double the number who are killed, according to the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress.

Mental health is a concern.

“Police work is tough: no question about it,” says Anaheim Deputy Police Chief Craig Hunter. “The Crisis Response Team is one example of how our police department is working creatively to ensure the health of our police officers.”

But it’s not  just police officers who Williams and her team aid, Hunter said.

“Major crime incidents can deal an emotional blow to an entire neighborhood and even an entire community,” he said. “Another benefit of us offering the Crisis Response Team is the impact it has helping victims, witnesses and everybody else touched by crime. It’s part of our commitment to offer a higher level of customer service.”

Williams, Dietz and Hunter


In May, Orange County Credit Union branch manager Eleanor Heng and five employees huddled in a locked vault as a masked gunman screamed: “OPEN THE DOOR!”

Heng had ushered her employees into the vault before the robber burst in at closing time.

Suddenly, Heng heard the clicking sound of the vault’s security code. 

At gunpoint, the robber forced an employee who had been in the bathroom to enter the code.

Even though nobody was injured, and the robber was arrested a few hours later, Heng and her team were shaken up.

“It was very disturbing and unsettling,” she said. “It was a big help and relief to have Heather and CSP’s Crisis Response Team there immediately afterward to talk to us about what happened.

“I don’t think any of us slept the following night,” she added, noting the teller who had the gun to her head met with Williams for multiple sessions.

It isn’t just the tragic death of the Utah mother and baby that haunts Kennedy, the former police chief. 

He recalls the wife of one of his police officers.

Days after their baby drowned, she used her husband’s gun to kill herself.

In the 1960s, there was no police chaplain, police psychologist – and certainly not a Crisis Response Team, he said.

Kennedy, 76, acknowledges that he rarely talks about the trauma he witnessed during his career.

“I saw a lot of situations where a professional debrief would have helped a lot,” Kennedy says. “I started in 1958. Back then, ‘suck it up’ really was what we had to do.”


Kennedy retired as Anaheim’s police chief in 1987 and from working altogether in 1999, four years before a madman killed two people inside an Irvine supermarket with a samurai sword.

That was the CRT’s first critical incident. 

Kennedy was unaware of its existence until the January killing of Bessie Whyman, the 84-year-old woman killed in January.

Kennedy went to church with Whyman.

“They knocked on doors in the neighborhood, and organized a community meeting,” he said. “There was a great deal of anger toward the suspect. They did a splendid job informing everybody about the criminal justice process. A lot of questions were asked. Sometimes there are no answers. 

Williams with Hunter and Kennedy

“I don’t know anybody who didn’t feel a little bit better afterward.” 

Kennedy says he was pleased to see the extent to which his old police department was trying to help the community – and its officers – deal with the psychological impact of traumatic incidents. 

“When a baby dies in your arms, it’s really tough,” he says. “We know too well what happens when officers carry these things around.”

Dietz, the patrolwoman, thought she was fine following the Whyman killing.

Until she started talking about it.

“To actually be there, to find it … Bessie will stick with me forever,” she says. “We were all affected by it, her age and what took place. It’s a mental picture I will never forget.”

For a few weeks afterward, she admits feeling nervous when she was home alone.

Then, she had to go to court to testify and see the crime-scene photos.
  
“It brought back a lot of feelings,” she says. 

More feelings emerged after the murder-suicide and shooting of the 3-year-old boy.

“It’s my job. I knew what I was getting myself in to,” she says. “I want to help people, and if I have to walk through dead bodies to do it, I will.”

She visited the boy in the hospital.

“I felt I needed to do that,” she says. “It made me feel better. I wanted to take him home with me.”

Dietz said it’s hard for her to verbalize feelings. She is unsure if she would have talked to anybody if CRT wasn’t around. She’s glad they are.

“It probably helps me more than I know,” she said. “It’s got to be better than keeping it all inside.” 

Retiring Lieutenant Recalls Traffic Ticket He Didn’t Write

It was one ticket that didn’t need to be written.

Lt. Chris Sayers, who retired last week after 29 years with the Anaheim PD, has enjoyed assignments as diverse and challenging as accident investigator. D.A.R.E. officer, and motorcycle enforcement officer.

One incident involving a speeding motorist stands out for him as an example of how police officers often make a positive difference in someone’s life – usually out of the spotlight.

A motorcycle cop at the time, Sayers pulled over a woman who was speeding on Brookhurst Street. As he walked back to his motorcycle to write a citation, he heard the woman softly say: “Go ahead and write me a ticket. I’m going to kill myself anyway.”

Sayers turned around, asked her to step out of the car, and they spent 45 minutes talking on the sidewalk – he mostly listening.

The woman recently had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. She had been hurrying to return some X-rays to her doctor so she could leave town the next day to Florida with her daughter.  She was hoping to spend what little time she had with her. Now she was about to end it all over a speeding ticket.

She was afraid the ticket would get her in trouble if she failed to return the X-rays, and that her departure would be delayed.

“I know everyone thinks ‘motors’ are heartless, but this was one ticket that did not need to be written,” Sayers said.

Two months later, he got a thank you card from the woman. She was enjoying every moment she had with her daughter.

“She believed it all started with a stop for speeding,” Sayers said. “That day, I knew I had made a difference in someone’s life.” 

Chief John Welter presents Sayers with a badge at the recent retirement ceremony

Sayers also had a chance to make a difference as a D.A.R.E. officer working with kids in Anaheim schools, and as director of the Anaheim Family Justice Center, which offers services to victims of family violence. He says both provided deep personal satisfaction.

When he started on the force almost three decades ago, police work was vastly different.
“We weren’t worried about building relationships with the community or problem solving,” Sayers says. “We were too busy ‘fighting crime.’”

Times have changed.

Technology advancements since 1981 have drastically improved the way police departments share information and the accessibility of that information to the officers in the street. Forensic evidence such as DNA is locking away very violent and dangerous criminals who otherwise still may be roaming free.

And the Anaheim PD has become a huge player in the community,  collaborating with businesses and residential neighborhoods to prevent problems – and not just “fighting crime.”

Involved with planning the recent Major League Baseball All-Star game, Sayers plans to head Disneyland's security team.

Sayers soon will be heading to the Happiest Place on Earth, managing the security personnel that work inside of Disneyland. He also will continue to volunteer in his community’s youth soccer program as a board member, coach instructor and referee. 

He has lots of memories of his Anaheim PD career to draw on.

During his time in the department, Sayers crashed his motorcycle and was injured, and he mourned the deaths of Officer Bob Roulston, killed on duty, and officer Rich Harrington.

Through it all, it was the people at Anaheim PD that made a difference, he says.

“What stands out the most are the people I have had the honor and pleasure to serve with,” he says. “I am not only proud of what I did, but of where I did it with and with whom.

“These amazing people have done a great job of keeping our community safe. They have encountered many different obstacles along the way but just kept moving forward, striving to make a difference every day.

“I am as proud of my chosen profession today as I was the first day I put my uniform and badge on.”

Sayers with daughter Kimmi


 

Captain ‘Enjoyed Every Moment’ of 30-year APD Career

No matter the assignment, Capt. Chuck O’Connor was always one of the Anaheim Police Department’s most valuable players.

Capt. O'Connor

As a young detective, his undercover work led to 105 arrests and the demise of one of the region’s biggest property theft rings. Even last week, during his final shift before retiring, O’Connor surveyed Angels Stadium to ensure nothing went wrong as the world watched.

He served as the police department’s tactical commander for Major League Baseball’s All-Star game.

It was just another successful mission in a 30-year career filled with accomplishments.

O'Connor said he enjoyed working motors

“It’s one of the greatest jobs in the world,” O’Connor says of police work. “You get the opportunity to do so many different and interesting things.”

But most of all, O’Connor, 51, says he relished the relationships.

While retiring captain relished the relationships, he enjoyed the action too.

At his retirement ceremony, Lt. Brian McElhaney called him as “the heart of the department.”

“In the end, people care most about how you treat them,” O’Connor says.

But don’t misunderstand. He loved the action.

SWAT

Riding a motorcycle. Flying on the skid of a helicopter. Repelling down the side of buildings. Those are among the many highlights.

He recalls how police officials once envisioned a full-time SWAT team.

If that had happened, “I’d probably have spent my career working there,” he says.

It’s probably a good thing it didn’t.

O’Connor eventually rose to the rank of captain, mentored dozens of officers and led a countywide effort to harden potential targets of terrorism.

Among his post-retirement plans: getting private investigators license and working with companies that specialize in homeland security and promotional preparation training. He also plans to travel and spend more time with his wife, Loretta, and daughters, Alexandria, 15, and Olivia, 8.

He joked with retiring Lt. Chris Sayers, who plans to work for Disney, about his “other” retirement plan at last week’s ceremony.

Undercover

“While Sayers has a Mickey Mouse job, I plan to handle Drew Carey’s game show hosting duties when he’s on vacation,” O’Connor joked.

Although he is the third captain to retire in seven months, O’Connor says the future is bright for APD.

“There were nine people who applied to replace me,” he says. “The Chief said all nine could do the job.”

While institutional knowledge is important, he says, “Sometimes it’s good to have a fresh set of eyes.”

To Discourage Crime at Major Events ‘Show All Your Resources’

Some big cities discourage heavy police visibility at major events.

Not Anaheim.

Guests at baseball and hockey playoff games, major concerts, mixed-martial arts competitions and week-long conventions will see officers on horseback, in motorized carts, wearing SWAT gear and walking with police dogs.

Mounted Patrol

APD believes high visibility at major events deters crime. Click on the photo to read a recent OC Register story about its crime prevention efforts.

“We bring out all our bells and whistles,” said Anaheim Police Sgt. Tim Schmidt, presenting Tuesday at the 20th annual International Problem-Oriented Policing Conference at Disneyland Hotel.

He advised about 100 police officials from around the globe “to show all your resources” at major events.  “(Bad guys) are going to show up, see it and think, ‘Man, there are lot of cops here.’

Schmidt oversees Anaheim PD’s Tourism Oriented Policing (TOP) team – one of few visitor-focused units in the nation. The TOP team is dedicated to working with hotel owners, visitors bureaus, resorts and others to minimize safety and security issues.

The team is one reason Anaheim is the FBI’s safest city to visit among 35 U.S. cities with 250,000-300,000 residents.

Providing a safe environment in an area visited by millions can be challenging, noted APD Det. Dave Wiggins. Each day, the complexion of the area changes.

In January, the medical design industry held a conference at the Anaheim Convention Center. The next week it was an arts and crafts conference. Then, the international music products industry came to town.

“Can we police all three of these groups the same way?” he asked. “Each one wants a different style.”

APD has a substation at Downtown Disney. The team meets monthly with hotel owners. It routinely shares crime information with hotels and attractions through a Crime Alert Network. Its focus is long-term.

Some cities want “to keep security out of view,” he said. “We use it as a marketing tool.”

—–

Also Tuesday, University of Wisconsin professor Herman Goldstein, credited for developing the Problem-Oriented Policing model 30 years ago, discussed the approach’s benefits with several law enforcement officials.

Goldstein Welter

Chief Welter and Problem-Oriented Policing innovator Herman Goldstein

“If you use creative measures to solve problems, more people are going to respect you,” he said.

As an example, he discussed a recent case of appliance thefts from new homes in South Carolina.

Instead of relying on traditional detective methods to apprehend the thieves, police identified the root cause; builders were installing appliances before the homes were occupied.

Police worked with builders to delay installation. The problem was solved.

A more recent example where problem-oriented techniques should be applied, he said, involves the growing issue of texting while driving.

“What’s the solution?” he asked. “Passing a statute?”

A better solution, he suggested, would be to work with cell phone technologists to develop software that disables texting while in a car.

He acknowledged that it can be challenging to overcome traditional ways of thinking in police departments.

His advice: When an officer or officers work with the community to solve problems, “publicize it and reward them.”