The Murrieta Police Department’s 25th anniversary was recognized with a proclamation at the Tuesday, Aug. 15, city council meeting.
The department – one of the only municipal departments in a sea of cities that contract to the county sheriff for police coverage – was commended by the council for its role in making Murrieta one of the safest cities in the country.
Murrieta Mayor Pro Tem Jonathan Ingram, who presented the proclamation to Police Chief Sean Hadden, said he considers everybody in the department “a dear friend.”
“(This is) a great department,” Ingram said. “This is more than just officers who serve a community; you’re a family.”
Ingram noted the many of Murrieta’s police officers are themselves residents of Murrieta, and attributed this, at least in part, to the department’s success.
“You have skin in the game, and it’s amazing to see how this has evolved and what it’s turned into.” Ingram said.
The department, which was founded in July 1992 one year after Murrieta incorporated, started off with just 25 sworn officers, serving a city of about 25,000. Today, the department employs about 90 officers to patrol a city of nearly 115,000 residents.
Hadden thanked the council for the recognition.
“This does mean a lot,” he said. “It’s amazing that 25 years has gone by very fast, for those of us who have been here 25 years.”
Present at the ceremony was most of the city’s sworn officers, along with some special guests: former police chiefs Larry Dean and Mark Wright and former police Capt. Steve Porter.
Dean, the department’s first chief, reflected on the police force’s early years.
While the Murrieta Police Department’s budget is about $25 million today, Dean said he had to make do with a lot less.
“When the council asked me how much money I needed to start the department, I crunched a few numbers and said, ‘I need $6 million,’” he said. “And they said, ‘Well, we’ve got $3 million, what can you do with it?’”
Dean made it work.
“In those days, I felt kind of like a proud papa,” he said. “And now, I feel like a proud great-grandfather. I’ve watched the department over the many years and watched it grow and mature.”
He didn’t just credit himself for getting the department off the ground, though.
“There was an awful lot of people that did an awful lot of work,” he said. “We had an awful lot of support from the community, and we had an awful lot of support from the council and the city manager. And although there were challenges, it seemed to go pretty well.”
Wright, who served as chief from 2003-2011 and watched both the department and the city double in size, thanked and credited department officers for 25 years of service and success.
“I had to make sure that the very good department I inherited would remain that way,” Wright said. “And that was easy for me because the command staff that I had are the officers standing right behind me. And it’s easy when you have quality people and you let them do their jobs.
“I was very proud to be a very small part of that,” Wright said.