The San Diego Police Department serves and protects the entire county of San Diego, which is located in the southwestern tip of California. Its officers are committed to working with each other and the public to fight crime and improve the quality of life for San Diego residents, in a partnership that is made up of communities, government agencies, private groups and individuals.
They pride themselves on their value system which includes diversity, loyalty, fairness and open communication among its tenants.
This department also has a very colorful history that dates back to its beginnings in 1889, when San Diego law enforcement was handled by city marshals and constables.
Between 1845 and 1850, the county was policed by the military, but in 1850, the state senate drafted a charter to create a five-man city council that would be assisted by a full time marshal, an attorney, an assessor and a treasurer.
Today, hundreds of sworn personnel and civilians work for the San Diego Police Department in a variety of roles and units. Some of these include, but are not limited to the Air Support Unit, Armory – SWAT, Background Investigations, Canine Unit, Child Abuse, Criminal Intelligence, Domestic Violence, Gang Detail, Harbor Patrol, Homicide, Mounted Unit, Narcotics, Patrol, Traffic and so much more.
The first man to take the marshal’s job was Agustin Haraszthy. He was a frontier lawman, patrolman, detective, criminologist, jailor, process server, clerk and executioner combined. The council also built San Diego’s first jail that year. Only two bids to construct it were received, and one of them was from Haraszthy.
Because his father was president of the council, he got the contract – and ended up bankrupting the city. Four hours after Haraszthy’s first prisoner was incarcerated, the man dug his way through the cell wall with a pocket knife. The city next purchased a cage and installed its first escape-proof jail in the Old Town Plaza. In 1871, the jail was moved to the location of the present county courthouse at Front and C Streets.
The metropolitan San Diego Police Department was officially established as an entity of more than one man in 1889. Joseph Coyne was appointed its first chief of police. Although the SDPD was initially staffed with men who furnished their own horses, a modern mounted patrol unit was created in 1934, in Balboa Park. It was abolished in 1948, but was re-established in 1983 and is still active today.
Harry Vandeberg, hired in 1907, served as the department’s first detective. W. E. Hill, sworn in during1909, was their first motorcycle officer. The first traffic signal was installed in 1920 and was manually controlled by an officer who stood in the center of an intersection. The first patrol officers came in around 1942.
The first police headquarters was in City Hall, at Fifth Avenue and G Street. Several moves later, the department relocated to Dead Man's Point, which was so named due to its use as a burial place for sailors and marines during the founding of San Diego Bay. The department remained there until 1987, when it moved into its current seven-story headquarters building located at 1401 Broadway Street.
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San Diego Police Department Headquarters
1401 Broadway St.
San Diego, CA 92101-5729
Non-emergency: (619) 531-2000
Residents in 858 area code call: (858) 484-3154