Red Light Ball: Today’s police force built on foundation of trust, honor | TheUnion.com
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Red Light Ball: Today’s police force built on foundation of trust, honor

The City of Grass Valley was without a jail from 1916 until 1935, and law enforcement was provided by the Nevada County Sheriff’s Department.

In 1935, the mayor and city council consisted of three men. This council built a new City Hall, which included the city jail. The police force at that time consisted of two men – one on the day shift and one on the night shift – with each shift running for 12 hours. The man on the day shift acted as chief of police, poundman, superintendent of public works and tax collector at a salary of $110 per month. These men were watchmen and had no uniforms or police headquarters.

In 1938, Ben Jenkins was appointed chief of police. The council then passed an ordinance creating a full-time police department that consisted of the chief and five officers. This was the first time the city of Grass Valley had an organized police force with uniforms.



Jenkins was instrumental in taking a forward step in modern police work in 1939 by having the patrol car equipped with a two-way radio. The officers were all required to take FCC examinations and become third class radio operators.

In 1945, Frank Knuckey became assistant police chief, and the department grew to seven sworn officers. Knuckey was appointed chief of police in 1947. In 1953, the voters of Grass Valley enacted a new charter that contained a civil service clause for the police department. This removed all politics from the job, initiated job security and gave officers two weeks of vacation and a five-day work week.




The position of assistant chief was deleted in 1958 and replaced by three sergeants who would provide supervision for all shifts. In 1959, the department added a second car for patrol and traffic, augmenting a three-wheel motorcycle, with all “radio equipped.”

The police department installed its own radio system in 1962 in the City Hall building, which handled all police and fire calls inside the city.

In 1974, Chief Knuckey retired, and Sgt. Vince Seck was promoted to the position of chief of police. He served in that capacity until 1978.

Melvin W. Mouser was appointed chief of police in October of 1978. In 1996, the Grass Valley Police Department moved to a new facility at 129 South Auburn Street.

In 1997, Chief Mouser retired. Shortly after his retirement, the building was officially named The Melvin W. Mouser Grass Valley Police Facility.

In 1998, John Foster was appointed by the City Council as Grass Valley’s chief of police and currently serves in that capacity.

In 2007, upon Foster’s recommendation, the City Council hired the department’s first full-time female police officer, Deborah Bayer.

Today, the Grass Valley Police Department consists of 31 sworn officers, five reserve officers, 13 nonsworn positions and 10 volunteers for a total of 59 employees and support personnel.

As you look back at the history of the Grass Valley Police Department, you find that the predecessors built a strong foundation of trust and honor in partnership with the community. This foundation is evident today by the solid commitment of our employees, who serve the community with exceptional customer service, striving to improve our quality of life through community partnerships.


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