In 1850, Millard Fillmore was President of the United States.
The Civil War and subsequent assassination of President Abraham
Lincoln were years away. San Diego, in that year, became one of
the original 27 counties chartered by the State of California.
(Today, there are 58 Counties.) It encompassed an area of over
42,000 square miles and according to the U.S. Census Bureau, boasted a population of 791 people. Agoston Haraszthy (shown
Hungarian Count, elected first Sheriff of San Diego County,
later went on to gain fame as the “Father of the California wine
industry” in the Napa-Sonoma area today known as Buena Vista. From those humble beginnings, the Sheriff’s Department has
carved out a remarkable rich history that is synonymous with
that of San Diego County. That history is now on exhibit in the
Sheriff Haraszthy built the first cobblestone jail in
historic Old Town, the birthplace of California. Two years
later, after the first San Diego jail was built, the famous
Judge Roy Bean became its first escapee. With a penknife, he dug
himself out under the foundation of the cell. That jail stood
less than 100 feet from where the Sheriff’s Museum now stands.
The late 1880’s of San Diego County saw the arrival of other
famous lawmen, including Wyatt Earp, who came to do his own
brand of peacekeeping. As a hired gun, he was indicted for
five killings in the Old West. San Diego’s Horton Plaza is now
the site of where Wyatt Earp opened a gambling hall just prior
In the term of Fred M. Jennings, the 18th Sheriff of San
Diego County, Mrs. Olive Belle Chambers was appointed as a
Deputy Sheriff in 1913, becoming the “first lady with a badge.”
Edgar F. Cooper, who became the 21st Sheriff in 1929 is
remembered most for forming the County’s first industrial road
camp and the creation of a Juvenile Delinquency Division with
the Sheriff’s Department.
The longest term of any Sheriff in San Diego County belongs
to Bert Strand, the 23rd Sheriff. Among his many achievements
during his 21 years in office, one of the most important was the
organization of the Sheriff’s Reserves.
As the 26th Sheriff of San Diego County, John F. Duffy served
five terms. His milestones include reclassification of women
from “jail matrons” to Deputy Sheriffs and the development of
the Sheriff’s Crime Prevention Program and the Emergency
Planning Detail. He was credited for bringing the Sheriff’s
Department into the 20th Century.
Bill Kolender served as the 28th Sheriff of
San Diego County from 1995 until his retirement in 2009. As the leader of one of the largest Sheriff’s
Departments in the nation with over 50 years in the law
enforcement profession, Sheriff Kolender made a
significant impact in improving law enforcement throughout
California. Among his accomplishments is the establishment of
the department’s first Domestic Violence Unit which became
operational in January ’98; the expansion of the Senior
Volunteer Program; and new small storefront offices throughout
the County focusing on Community-Oriented Policing. He has been
instrumental in improving equipment for the deputies, the
department’s infrastructure, including the building of new jail
facilities, new stations, new Communications Center, Jail
Information Management System just to name a few.
Following Sheriff Kolender’s retirement, Sheriff Bill Gore took office as the 29th Sheriff of San Diego County.
From horses to motor cars, airplanes, helicopters and highly
sophisticated computers and laboratory equipment, the San Diego
County Sheriff’s Department has come a long way since 1850.