Seal Beach Police Officer Pat Sullivan

Seal Beach Police Officer Sergeant Pat Sullivan was interviewed by Libby Appelgate for the 90th Founders Day celebration in 2005. Her articles were published in the Sun.

 “During the 1950’s the city  had a population of about 1500 – 2000.  The City of Seal Beach stopped at Coast Hwy. so you  knew everybody and ran around with everyone.  Your friends were Seal Beachers.  While a student at St. Anthony’s, I was still a Seal Beacher.  There was a rivalry with Huntington Beach .  Whose pier was the longest, the surf conditions.  Some of our buddies were Bill Robertson, whose dad owned the Airport Club Casino, Bill Lescher, whose parents ran the sport fishing boats. G. Stangeland owned the umbrellas stand.  Every male teenager in town either had a paper route, worked at one of the restaurants, gas station, or worked for G. Stangeland.  I put out umbrellas for G when I was in high school and he let us ride the surf mats for free,” as Pat Sullivan recalls a similar story that others have remembered. The ‘50’s were fairly calm here.  

Pat joined the police force in 1964.  He always had the desire to become a policeman so when the test came up for Seal Beach he signed up for it.  “I passed the physical agility, background check, took the written test and was appointed a Seal Beach policeman.  In those days you did not go to the Academy, you went directly into the field sometimes with a training officer.”, he explained. 

He went back in the old police station on 8th Street and another officer said to him, “Here are your badges”  as he pinned them on us ceremoniously.  Then right away he points to Officer Sullivan and says, “Pat, you’ve lived in town a long time and know the town so you can get on the three wheeler.”  He was scared.  

Pat says, “I am going to be carrying a weapon that I had never fired.  I am on the three wheeler, on Main Street, doing graveyard shift, and the very worst of all possible situations happens, the alarm goes off at the Bank of America.”  He is the first one in because he is the motorcycle guy.  Sergeant Ralston told him to go to the front and he went to the back and he is thinking, “I am the rookie, I am the new kid on the block and I have to go through the front?” 

“We didn’t get a lot of training until we went to the Academy.  My first sergeant was Paul Bender.  He came from a family of twelve who lived on 12th Street.  Paul demanded the most out of you.  He would be like your Drill Instructor in the military.  You learned right away that you never handed him an original of a hand written report because Paul would take your original report and put red correction marks all over it and make you re-write the whole thing.  So we learned to hand him a zerox copy so he could red line it, correct it and make a better report.  So then you didn’t have to redo it.”, tells Pat.

At this time, the Hill was developed but Leisure World wasn’t yet.  Seal Beach was still a city of about 5,000.  Officer Sullivan explains, “I remember it was not uncommon to have three police officers out  and a supervisor at that time.  After Leisure World and College Park we had about 40 policeman.  We were spread out quite a bit and we didn’t have the dense population that we have now but we were very active.  This is a summer town.  We used to deal with kids coming down from Paramount, Lakewood and other inland towns that would come here and think they could do drugs on the beach. We were in the middle of a cultural revolution in the ‘70‘s.  There were a lot more narcotics, alcohol, and marijuana.”

 “I think we saved as many lives as we made arrests.  It wasn’t uncommon to stand up at Eisenhower Park and look down on the children’s playground at the rocket ship for climbing to see one of them lying facedown in the sand.  We would go down, pick them off the sand, put them in the back seat of the unit and hustle them down to the police station on 8th Street, get the hose out and wash them down.  Many cases were overdoses of Seconal.”

This drug was one of the drugs that was abused by the characters of Jacqueline Susan’s 1966 hit novel “The Valley of the Dolls.” “It wasn’t alcohol, it was Seconal and Amphetamines that were the popular drugs in those days, this is the battle the Seal Beach Police Department had in the ’70’s.”, Pat describes.

“There were three different head shops on Main St.  The Emergency Camel, a folk music place, and Strawberry Fields which was located at 113 ½ Main St. where you got your pipe, and lava lamps that were equipment for marijuana smoking.  Sergeant Gary Buzzard worked a lot of narcotics control,”  he says.

There was an era when LSD came into our city with Timothy Leary as their guru. The Strawberry Fields book store was the headquarters for one phase of the “be-in,” “love-in,” movement which was sweeping the nation.   Police Chief Lee Case was careful, however, to maintain departmental neutrality.  “We are in the middle of this situation,’ the chief said, “some citizens think we aren’t tough enough with the hipsters. We follow a middle course.  We avoid harassing them but we give them due attention to make sure they conform to local law.”

“We were afraid it would come into the population of our young people so the police department brought anti drug education into the schools in the pre DARE days.”  Sergeant Sullivan explains, “Education is the key to help young people realize that this movement of experimental drug use is dangerous and can kill.”

Sergeant Sullivan could not have done this work for 19 years without the support and encouragement of his wife, Jan and his two boys who have both been in law enforcement for over 30 years. 

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