Man who knows everyone in Ojai

The following article was first seen in the Monday, May 21, 1962 edition of “THE OJAI VALLEY NEWS” on the front page in the “Who’s Who” section. The article is reprinted here with the permission of “THE OJAI VALLEY NEWS”. The author is unknown.

Man who knows everyone in Ojai

Here is a man who really needs no introduction . . .

He seems to know every body in Ojai and everybody seems to know him.

He’ll shout a greeting to you from across the street or from a car in which he happens to be driving by.

You mark him by that butch haircut, sprinkled with gray, those heavy dark-framed glasses, his penchant for knit ties, his flair for natty combinations in sports coats and slacks.

And a penchant also for kidding and a practical joke . . .

But police work for Jim Alcorn is no joke.

Here is a man with nearly 30 years of police work behind him. A cop (he doesn’t mind the word if it’s used in a friendly way) who has dealt with just about everything there is in the way of crime and criminals. A product of a tough, hard school who knows the value of discipline.

And he exacts it from his force . . .

But still he retains his sense of humor.

Jim came to Ojai from Beverly Hills to take over the job of Ojai’s chief of police May 1, 1952.

Years on the Beverly Hills department, one of them as a uniformed patrolman, three as a detective, five as a detective sergeant and the rest of the time as detective lieutenant, winding up as chief of detectives, Jim decided he’d had enough of a big town.

“I was born right in the middle of Los Angeles,” he said, “I decided I’d like to try life in a small town.”

They were giving an examination for police chief here. Jim came up an took it — along with 50 other aspirants. He came out second in the written test but ended up in first place after the oral exam.

So Ojai got the man at the top of the heap for its chief of police.

When Jim took over there was no bureau of records. There were four men on the force. Jim applied his experience to a reorganization of the department. He started a record department. The first new man he hired was A.A. Quijada — known to the whole valley as Chumo — who is still on the department and its specialist in juvenile delinquency.

The new men coming on tended to be younger. Alcorn now heads a police force of seven men whose average age is 31. In addition the force has two policewomen.

In the accent on youth Ojai’s department is following a national trend. It is also in step with national trend in another respect — scientific police training. All members of the force, including the policewomen, hold certificates from Ventura college in police administration. One, Tom Marshall, has his from Citrus College. A number of the officers have taken several courses. Policewoman Lou Reitzel took an advanced course in traffic safety. Said the chief: “We had to buy her a slide rule so she could figure the problems.”

Belonging to both the earlier era of policework: “when all you had to be was big and be able to push people around” and to the new scientific era, Jim says the modern police methods are far superior, attract better men and are much more effective.

He himself has attended law enforcement schools and is a graduate of a course in police administration and science at UCLA.

As far as crimes go, Ojai isn’t a Beverly Hills. Here, Jim says, the whole police operation is different, more personal. The city boundaries mean little. People from all over the valley think of the Ojai police department as “theirs” and call in with their troubles. And many, many a time Jim has played the role of mediator in domestic disputes — almost that of a father confessor at times.

On emergency calls from outside the city limits Jim has one strict rule: Send what personnel are needed to handle the situation. Call the sheriff or the state highway patrol and wait until they arrive. But NEVER leave Ojai unprotected.

Looking back over his years in police work, Jim thinks there’s little difference between the amount of juvenile crime then and now.

But as to juvenile delinquency — by which he means acts not serious enough to be classed as crimes — he thinks there’s a lot more nowadays. He blames two things — the easy availability of cars and liquor.

And note this, citizens. Your chief of police thinks that as motorists you are a bit careless of the rights of pedestrians in crosswalks. Also, the time is drawing near, he feels, when we are going to need traffic signals to control traffic.

Alcorn has a scrapbook fat with clippings of cases in which he played a part while on the Beverly Hills force. He was the first detective on the scene after Benny (Bugsy) Siegal, underworld overlord, was shot gangland style in a Beverly Hills mansion. He participated in the capture of one Gerald Graham Dennis, one of the most notorious burglars in modern criminal annals who stripped homes of movie stars and other famous persons of a million in jewels and furs. Acting alone, he ran to earth a bandit who held up the California bank using a child as a shield. Alcorn traced the bandit and his girl friend through a license number jotted down by the child’s mother. As he burst into a hotel room the bandit reached for his gun but Jim made a flying leap for the bed on which the bandit was lying and overpowered him.

He’s had his picture in Life magazine. He’s known many a famous person in connection with his police activities — John Barrymore, Errol Flynn, Jimmy Durante (“a wonderful guy”), the late Jerry Geisler, the lawyer, Howard Huges . . .

But policework isn’t quite as glamorous as on TV. “It’s wearing out shoe leather, asking questions — just plain hard work,” Jim says, who ought to know.

He thinks “Dragnet” was the most realistic police drama on TV. “It was so realistic it wasn’t even interesting.”

Perry Mason? “He must be God. In real life you never, never can get anyone to confess like that” says Jim, rubbing his chin. (He needed a shave).


CHIEF ALCORN

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