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‘When I came onto the force, they didn’t even have radios in the car, and now cars are equipped with computers.’ : Anaheim Police Chief Steps Out in Style

Times Staff Writer

Jimmie D. Kennedy’s reign as Anaheim’s chief of police ended with a flourish Wednesday with a top-to-bottom, full-dress review of the officers he has guided since 1983.

That last formal act brought to a close a career that has spanned nearly 30 years, back to when the city was just beginning to gain national attention as the home of Mickey Mouse and friends to its emergence as an entertainment capital and the county’s largest city.

Through those years, as Kennedy worked his way from patrol officer to top cop, the city grew from a middle-class suburb with a country flavor, acres of orange groves and little crime to an urban center with its attendant problems of violent crime and overcrowding.

But though the problems of running a big-city Police Department have grown, Kennedy, 53, expressed regret at making his decision to retire at this particular moment in history.

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“It’s very frustrating to be leaving at this time, because we’re coming to a period of great excitement, with technology making this job a lot easier,” he said. “When I came onto the force, they didn’t even have radios in the car, and now cars are equipped with computers that allow an officer in the field to get information directly from Sacramento.”

Included in the state-of-the-art equipment acquired by the Anaheim department are a portable laser that enhances fingerprints at the scene, an elaborate new communications center and a computer-based information system. The department has also built a heliport for its three helicopters, and Kennedy has been a strong backer of Police 2000, a proposal for a $22-million expansion of police facilities and personnel.

Today’s department is a far cry from what greeted the Kansas-born, former Navy radar operator when he joined the Anaheim force in 1958.

Kennedy, who never attended an academy, spent the first two weeks riding around with more experienced officers watching how they worked. That was the extent of training required in those days, he said.

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Today’s emphasis on training and education does not produce a better cop than those of 30 years ago, Kennedy said, but it does save departments time and money by weeding out the ill-suited at a much earlier stage.

“The whole training process is much better, with more rigid screening and intensive background checks,” he said. “It makes it a lot tougher to get through it, and that is important because there is so very little production in the first year from an officer because of the training.”

Kennedy conceded that even with background and psychological screening, a few bad officers make it into the profession. But, “most of the bad things that people read about are just cases of people being human beings and making mistakes,” he said. “We are exposed to rather harsh judgments, where many expect us to be somehow superhuman, but we have the same needs and frustrations as anyone else.”

Kennedy said he considers himself fortunate that he never had to fire his gun, although he has been involved in dangerous situations. Among the more frightening, he said, have been high-speed car chases.

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Kennedy leaves behind a department with a $35-million budget, 327 officers, 146 civilian employees and 164 part-time workers. Capt. Martin Mitchell, a 30-year veteran of the force, was recently named interim chief of police while a national search for a replacement is conducted.

Kennedy, who has a master’s degree in public-service management, said he will continue to teach college courses on police investigation. He has also joined a San Clemente-based management consulting firm that contracts with police departments within the state for services.


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