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Past Chiefs

HARRY DAVIS became Chief of Police in 1927. He was previously Chief of the Porterville Fire Department and held that position for 14 years. In 1921, he resigned his position as Fire Chief and became a Deputy Sheriff under Court Smith. He followed Smith to the Visalia Police Department and succeeded him as Chief in 1927. He resigned in 1933 to work at the Tulare County Sheriff's Office.

followed Harry Davis as Chief of Police. He was hired by the Visalia Police Department in 1923 and became Chief in 1933 after Harry Davis resigned. He served from 1933 to 1935 and then resigned to join the Tulare County Sheriff's Office where he worked as a Jailer. While he was Chief of Police, the first two-way radio car was implemented. The vehicle was a 1934 Dodge with a radio range of about three miles. Prior to the introduction of the radio, communications were somewhat primitive but crudely effective because of the close perimeter of the city limits. Prior to 1935, the taller buildings in Visalia had bells located on their roofs. The officer on duty (mostly foot patrol and primarily in the downtown area) would respond to the sound of the bell by going to the nearest telephone and contacting the operator. The telephone operator would then give the officer information such as a police radio dispatcher does today.

HAROLD HICKS became Chief of Police after Basil Hudson resigned in 1935. After being discharged from the Navy, he came to the Visalia Police Department where he served a total of 17 years. He became Chief in 1935 and remained in that capacity until 1939. As Chief, he began a formal reporting system. Prior to this tenure, if a police officer made an arrest, the officer had to personally appear in court at the arraignment. With the assistance of the District Attorney, this cumbersome procedure was streamlined. Under the new system, the arresting officer could submit a report describing the circumstances of the arrest to the Magistrate.

JAMES FLUTY joined the Visalia Police Department in 1931 and served as Police Chief from 1939 to 1945. During this time, he established the ranks of Sergeant, Lieutenant and Captain, which had not existed before in the agency. He also established a Juvenile Division and began training programs for police officers, sending several officers through a police training school in Fresno.

PAUL FINLEY was appointed Chief of Police in 1945. He came to Visalia in 1915 and joined the Police Department in 1927. Chief Finley was active with youngsters and devoted much of his time to the development of softball leagues as a means of fighting juvenile delinquency. He also realized the need for an identification bureau within the department.

was named Chief of Police in 1947. He came to the Visalia Police Department on a leave of absence from the San Francisco Police Department to study and revise the records and identification sections. He was hired a few months later and joined the Police Department as Identification Sergeant and assistant to Chief Finley. Under Chief Bentzen, the department was modernized in all areas, with specific emphasis on an efficient and accurate record keeping system. The department grew from less than 15 total people in 1946 to an agency of 45 upon his retirement in 1970. In 1956, the Police Department moved to 215 South Johnson.

RAYMOND W. FORSYTH was named to succeed Frank Bentzen in 1970. After being discharged from the Army in 1958, he came to Visalia. He earned an AA Degree in Criminal Justice at the College of Sequoias, a BA Degree in Criminal Justice at California State University Fresno, a MA Degree in Counseling at Chapman University, and a PhD in Public Administration through a directed study program at Southern California University of Beverly Hills. Forsyth is also a graduate of the John F. Kennedy School of Government (in residence) Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.   He joined the Police Department in 1959 as a radio dispatcher and became a police officer within several months. In 1964, he was promoted to Patrol Sergeant and, in 1967, was promoted to Detective/Sergeant in the Juvenile Division (Youth Development Program). He was appointed to Chief of Police on September 1, 1970, the same day the police department moved to its current location, 303 South Johnson Street.  Forsyth left the police department in 1992 and became City Manager. The department had a staff of approximately 90 sworn and 30 civilian personnel at that time. Forsyth emphasized employee and management development for staff.

Through several federal grants, major revisions were made in upgrading and modernizing reporting procedures (police officers used telephone recordings rather than hand writing reports), radio communications were upgraded, and the use of microfilm assisted in storage of police files. In 1973, the Anti-Burglary Team, aimed at reducing burglaries in
Visalia, a Human Relations Bureau, and a Basic Car Team were established. 

Chief Forsyth also carried the commensurate titles and duties of Public Safety Director, Assistant City Manager, and was a member of the City Manager’s advisory staff.  He was involved in POST and in numerous programs and committees such as Command College, Leadership Institute, and Team Building Provider.  He has a lifetime teaching credential and was adjunct facility for College of the Sequoias.  He is past President of the California State Police Chiefs Association (1980) and served in an advisory capacity for the California State Attorney General’s Office.  He authored articles for POST Pace Setter Publications, California Police Chiefs, Psychology Today, and Western City Magazine.

acted as Chief of Police Operations from 1981 to 1983. He began his career in law enforcement at the Porterville Police Department in March 1963. He transferred to the Visalia Police Department in 1965. He established the Anti-Burglary Team in the mid-seventies. He and Maureen Logan co-founded Wish Upon a Star in 1982.

BRUCE McDERMOTT was named Acting Chief of Police in February 1992 when Ray Forsyth accepted the position of City Manager.  He was promoted to Police Chief in April 1992. McDermott is a native Visalian and joined the Visalia Police Department in 1973. He was promoted to the rank of Sergeant in 1980 and Lieutenant in 1984. In 1989 he was promoted to Captain. Chief McDermott's first few years were challenging with the City facing a budget crisis and the police department experiencing budget cutbacks. As a result, positions were frozen and several reorganizations took place. Nevertheless, his commitment to the department and the community resulted in VPD's first Citizens Police Academy, the DARE Golf Classic, the establishment of a Field Impact Team and Gang Suppression Unit, increased DUI enforcement and education through an OTS grant, additional parking enforcement at the County Civic Center, the establishment of a graffiti eradication program, a Chaplains Program, and new city ordinances to address curfew and skateboarding.

CHARLES HUCHEL was named Interim Chief of Police in September 1997  when Bruce McDermott resigned the position after 24 years on the force because of health problems. Huchel was the City of Fairfield Police Chief from 1974 until retirement in 1993. He had a 35-year career in law enforcement. Huchel served as Interim Chief until Jerry Barker was recruited as chief.

JERRY BARKER was named Chief in September 1998 and retired in December 2005. He was born in Woodlake, California. He attended College of the Sequoias and graduated from Golden Gate College and Huntington College in Indiana. Barker began his career in law enforcement in 1962 as a correctional officer in Soledad, California. His law enforcement career includes working with the California Department of Corrections, the Porterville Police Department, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Tulare County Sheriff's Department. He has a diverse and comprehensive background in law enforcement management, personnel administration, and investigations. He was responsible for the Department’s move toward Community Policing and Problem Solving (COPPS). Under his leadership, the city passed Measure T, the sales tax augmentation that funds additional officers and capital projects.

was named Interim Chief when Police Chief Jerry Barker retired on December 23, 2005.  Williams started with the department in 1976 and served in a variety of command positions, including Assistant Chief.  Williams announced his retirement effective December 29, 2005, but he agreed to serve as the interim Chief. His final day was May 19, 2006.

BOB CARDEN a 32-year law enforcement veteran, returned home to Tulare County to become Chief on May 15, 2006.  He retired in August of 2009. Chief Carden was the Police Chief in Marysville, WA., a rapidly growing City of 38,000 north of Seattle. Carden was raised in Exeter and served on the Visalia Police force from 1981 to 1990, leaving as Sergeant of the Patrol Division. His San Joaquin Valley law enforcement experience continued in Lemoore where he served from 1990 to 1997 including three years as Chief of the Lemoore Department. His law enforcement career began in the United States Air Force where he was a Staff Sergeant in the Patrol Division. He served briefly with the Wasco Police Department and the Tulare County Sheriff's Department before transferring to Visalia in 1981.

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