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SLOJX Protecting the Public PROTECTING THE PUBLIC Joseph A. Carotenuti With the founding of Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa on September 1, 1772, there was little concern about safety. Certainly, Padre Junipero Serra, the founder, had more important matters to consider than the security of Padre Joseph Cavaller who became the guardian of the new spiritual settlement. The Chumash of the area were friendly and helpful. They undoubtedly remembered the bear hunt earlier in the summer and, for the first time, recognized the ability of the Spaniards to defend against the grizzly…an enemy the natives could not conquer. The military, however, insisted on stationing five soldiers to protect the padre and two natives left to begin what has evolved into the modern city. If there were infractions of religious requirements, the padres attempted to correct the neophyte (newly baptized). The religious were by government decree what today is known as in loco parentis (in the place of parents). If the infraction was for a more serious issue, the errant native was turned over to the guards. The common punishment for anyone, native or non-native, was the whip while the most serious errors could result in being exiled to a presidio to work. Eventually, an alcalde was the chief law officer. An alcalde was a unique role combining judgment and punishment in one person. In the earliest years of California, there were American alcaldes. Indeed, the one for San Luis Obispo, J. Mariano Bonilla, became the first judge of the Court of Sessions, the county predecessor (in part) of the Board of Supervisors. Even before Statehood, the California Legislature passed “An Act to provide for the incorporation of Towns” on March 27, 1850 providing for the election of three town officers including a “Marshal who shall also be the Collector of all taxes levied by the Board of Trustees.” The outpost on the central coast didn’t benefit from the legislative directives. Only the good will and honesty of the population prevented crimes. Emulating San Francisco, a local Vigilance group was formed in desperation and dispensed justice at the end of a rope. Since the sheriff was the chief county law enforcement officer with constables elected/appointed for each township, the pragmatic – and few in number – local residents undoubtedly thought another layer of protection - and expense - was unnecessary. Indeed, early municipal governance relied heavily upon the Marshal to oversee more than criminals. He virtually was the staff along with the clerk. The first mention of a Town Marshal was Jacob J. Schiefferly (1868). There were no official deputies until 1872. While the Marshal had many duties assigned by the Board of Town Trustees, none was more important than the collection of various fees, especially from businesses and dog tags. An early ordinance based part of the Marshal’s salary on a percentage of collected fees. This seems to have become a contentious issue as the Trustees are recorded as often calling for audits of the Marshal’s Account Ledger. The earliest retained ledger dates from 1884. When incorporated as a City in 1876, an ordinance creating a “Police Department” was passed by the Common Council and signed by Mayor R. M. Preston on November 1, 1877. Ordinance #31 proposed “to establish and regulate a Police Department” with the Marshal as “ex-officio” Chief of Police. With two policemen, he was required to continue his previous duties as well as keep more records. The Ordinance mandated a Register of Arrests that included the name of those arrested, the offense, complaint, and witnesses and their place of residence and a description of any property stolen along with the date of the theft and the owner’s name. The surviving log from 1886 shows various levels of commitment to accuracy. By far, “Drunk” was the most common offense with the arresting officer as the complainant and witness. Given the proliferation of saloons as well as the houses of “ill-fame”, there was little challenge in finding infractions. The usual fine for a convicted drunk was $5.00 or thirty days in jail. So prevalent was the offense that a stamp was ordered leaving the judge to write in only the date and person’s name. Indeed, there were two additional stamps to indicate if the person paid the fine or went to jail. Most often, the fine was paid directly to the judge. Some convicted defendants were invited to leave town in lieu of jail or a fine. Most chose to go elsewhere. As for incarceration, “jails” cost money. Caring for prisoners, especially clothing and feeding, was not a popular expenditure. There is a separate history of County and City jails starting with the first one in a room in the Mission to the County’s “folly” as described by a San Francisco paper to the first City jail…or to some “prison”…built at the rear of the City Hall. It’s still there as part of a business. Prisoners were expected to contribute to the community. A popular assignment was spreading lime along the banks of the Arroyo de San Luis – today’s beautiful creek. At the time, it was the community’s main sewage conduit. Unfortunately, as society progresses so does crime. Leaving the County in six hours or a sentence of “bread and water” are no longer options and the cost to protect the public is always a major budget item. Recently, we are made aware of the even more expensive toll of “white collar” crimes. Not the positive side of history, crime is certainly an enduring theme.