Santa Ana Police and John Birch Society

In 2020, after the horrific killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, viewed around the world on public media, the question of police reform is again on the minds of legislators and policy makers at the local, state and federal levels.  A familiarity of the evolutionary history, tracing how a municipal department could, again, become a national focus of reform, is essential to crafting future reforms.  A prior post,  drawing heavily from the foundational American policing history by Robert M. Fogleson, outlines briefly how the nation got to this position.  The following article from the New York Times in 1964 demonstrates how, even back in the 1960’s, rogue poice officers intent on using the general public support for police, were attempting to undermine regular municipal authority and usurp control of police operations.

From The New York Times Archives
About the Archive
This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions.

Harassment Is Charged

By Donald Janson
Special to the New York Times
Nov. 14, 1964

SANTA ANA, Calif., Nov. 12—A special investigator said today that he had found evidence of a protracted effort by members of the John Birch Society to gain control of the Santa Ana Police Department.

All the Birch Society members involved are Santa Ana policemen. They belong to a local chapter of the society made up exclusively of policemen.

The investigator is Garvin P. Shallenberger, a Santa Ana lawyer. He was appointed to conduct the investigation last week by City Manager Carl J. Thornton. An Orange County grand jury is also investigating.

Mr. Shallenberger said in an interview that about a dozen members of the group had joined in “harassment” of Police Chief Edward J. Allen.

The objective, he said, seemed to be “a power play to get the chief and replace . him with someone over whom they could exercise control.”

Actions being traced, he said, include the distribution of anonymous pamphlets questioning the honesty of the chief, anonymous telephone calls to the chief’s home late at night and before dawn, fire trucks sent to his home on false alarms, unordered flowers sent to him c.o.d., the placement of advertisements stating that he had an automobile for sale when he did not, the theft of his badges and the removal of his picture from the wall at police headquarters.

Mr. Shallenberger said hearings would be held before the City Manager when his investigation was completed, perhaps in two weeks.

He noted that only a small minority of the police force of 134 was involved. He said he had found no evidence that the activities of the local Birch group were condoned by the Birch Society’s national headquarters.

Two Santa Ana police officers, Capt. Fred Hopper and Lieut. Loran Norton, were dismissed on charges of insubordination Friday by Chief Allen.
The formal charges against Lieutenant Norton, made public yesterday, include soliciting membership in the Birch Society “while on duty in the Police Department building” and then “falsely” denying the accusation.

Other charges:

“On numerous occasions during the past year, Lieutenant Norton has stated in general substance and effect to members of the Police Department that the chief was mentally unbalanced and exhibited symptoms of various forms of mental illness.

“Lieutenant Norton stated in general substance and effect to other members of the Police Department that he was out to get the chief and that the chief was not fit to hold office.”

The two officers are charged with unauthorized use of a city car and absence from their posts to conduct an “investigation” in Los Angeles County Oct. 26 of payments to Chief Allen for a Hollywood telecast two years ago about him. He has compiled a nationally acclaimed record of achievements in 36 years of police work.

Mr. Thornton said in ordering the investigation by Mr. Shallenberger that “the majority of the personnel implicated in this disruptive activity” were Birch Society members.

Mr, Shallenberger said the Birch members had gained control early this year of the prin‐ cipal offices of the Santa Ana Police Benevolent Association.

Since then, he said, the association has been putting out news bulletins with coded messages condemning Chief Allen.

Captain Hopper has denied the charges against him. The dismissed officers may ask for a hearing before the city’s Personnel Board.

Santa Ana, 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, is the seat of Orange County. Last week the county elected a Birch Society member, John G. Schmitz, professor of philosophy at Santa Ana College, to the State Senate.

President Johnson received 58 per cent of the popular vote in California last week but Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the Republican Presidential nominee, got 56 per cent in Orange County.

John H. Rousselot, national public relations director for the Birch Society, who has his office at San Marino, was traveling in the Midwest today. But last week he was quoted by The Associated Press as saying “probably 20 to 30” members of the Santa Ana Police Department belonged to Birch chapters.

He said there was no authorized program of harassment but that “if in our investigation we find our members have acted improperly, we will take appropriate means.”

“Their” membership will be terminated,” he said.

“Summary Blurb” from NYT: 

NYT Page from November 14, 1964:


Full disclosure.  I am the daughter of a key protagonist in this saga.  And I do remember it.

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