The Milpitas Police Department originated with the incorporation of the City of Milpitas on January 26, 1954.
The City’s first Police Chief was Thomas Letcher. Letcher had just one full-time Sergeant under his command, while patrol duties were handled by Auxiliary Police Officers working on a part-time basis. Most had other full-time jobs, and worked as officers in Milpitas on their days off; these auxiliary officers were paid $1 an hour in the 1950s. Officers from that time recall that the patrol car in use was a 1955 Ford equipped with a “Police Package,” which included a stick shift and a siren that was activated manually by pulling on a wire. Many of these auxiliary officers, including future Chief James Murray, were Korean War era veterans, foreshadowing over a half century of ties between the Milpitas Police Department and the nation’s armed forces.
When Chief Letcher departed in 1957, Chief James B. Murray assumed leadership of what was then a two-person organization. Over the next several years and decades, Chief Murray embarked on the steady build-up of the Police Department so that it could continue to properly police the growing city. By 1967 the Police Department had grown to 23 sworn personnel, including 2 Lieutenants and 7 Sergeants, 12 Police Patrolmen and one "Police Woman" (as a sign of the times, this employee was classified separately from the "Police Patrolman" position; for decades now the distinction in positions between male and female officers has been eliminated).
Throughout the years, the police department did not operate in a vacuum but was very much a reflection of the community and nation that it served. A roster of the Milpitas Police Department circa 1967 indicates that three of its Police Officers were on military leave associated with the Vietnam War.
Chief Murray's reign lasted for three decades, and he was considered by many to be one of the most innovative police chiefs of his era. He sought to professionalize his police force and was a pioneer in removing barriers that prevented minority and female officers from obtaining jobs in law enforcement and from advancing in their careers.
Murray was the first California police chief to require a 2-year college degree for police officers (1957), he required applicants to pass psychological screening (1960), he eliminated height and weight ratios for all applicants, and in 1980 appointed a female officer to the SWAT team, another first for California. In 1973, he sought a closer partnership with the community by implementing a Youth Neighborhood Officer Traffic Program, the first of many programs to come. The 1980s saw a whirlwind of activity, including the implementation of motorcycle officers, a DUI enforcement team, and the start of the DARE program in Milpitas schools. Perhaps because Chief Murray set high standards and was a trailblazer and innovator, the Milpitas Police Department tended to attract quality officers, many of whom left to become Police Chiefs in other Californian law enforcement agencies, and in states as far afield as Colorado and Illinois.
By 1990, under Chief Frank Acosta, who had taken over from retiring Chief Murray in 1987, a roster of police department personnel indicated that the ranks of the department had swelled to 70 sworn officers. Along with the increase in sworn personnel, the number of civilian employees also increased to keep pace with the increasingly complex tasks required to support modern law enforcement. Whereas in 1967 the department boasted only one secretary and two "Typist Clerks," by 1990 the Police Department included 26 non-sworn positions, including dispatchers, records clerks, a property clerk and a vehicle maintenance person. This growth resulted in the construction of our current police department building at 1275 N Milpitas Boulevard, which police personnel first moved into in 1991. In this era, employees of the Milpitas Police Department, far from being immune to international events, once again supported their country in a time of crisis: two employees were called up and deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf.
Aside from overseeing the development of, and move into, the new police headquarters, Chief Acosta continued with many of the community-focused programs initiated by Chief Murray, which by this era had come to be called community-oriented policing. Among the programs initiated under Chief Acosta was a citizen's academy-known in Milpitas as P.A.C.E.S (Police and Community Educational Seminars) - which allowed local residents to get a first-hand glimpse of the inner workings of the police department.
Charlie Lawson, formerly a Captain with the Richmond, California Police Department, took over as Chief in Milpitas upon the retirement of Frank Acosta. Under his leadership, several new programs were instituted, including the implementation of Police Activities League (P.A.L.), which over a thousand youths participate in each year. He also instituted the Shopping Center Program in the 1990s; under this program, every officer assigned to Patrol adopted a specific shopping center, where he or she interacted with the merchants on a regular basis, thus forming a relationship that allowed officers to quickly grasp and deal effectively with any public safety issues. By the turn of the century, the Shopping Center program was firmly established as a success, receiving national recognition in 2003 by Police Chief magazine as one of seven "proactive policing strategies that work."
Throughout his tenure Chief Lawson focused on reducing crime through community outreach, and in 2001, he created the Senior Volunteer Program, which by 2005 had expanded to 27 active volunteers who engaged in a variety of activities, ranging from assisting the Traffic Safety Unit at DUI checkpoints, to fingerprinting children at local shopping malls. In 2001, he introduced CompStat to Milpitas. CompStat combined timely and accurate crime analysis with effective tactics, rapid deployment of personnel and resources, and continuous reassessment of our crime fighting efforts, while focusing the entire organization on our primary mission, keeping the citizens of Milpitas as safe as possible from crime.
The net result of these programs and many others implemented or improved by Chief Lawson, was that crime fell for seven straight years during his tenure, and today remains significantly lower than at its peak two decades ago, even though Milpitas's population has grown significantly since then.
The Milpitas Police Department reached the peak of its growth in 2002, when it employed 95 sworn officers and nearly 30 civilian support staffers, not counting its 38 crossing guards and the many volunteer Explorers and Seniors. During the Lawson era, service to country continued to be a police department hallmark. Within months of the 9-11 attacks in 2001, a veteran Milpitas officer was deployed in support of the Homeland Security effort.
On August 20, 2006, Dennis Graham was sworn in as Milpitas' youngest Police Chief since James Murray was appointed in 1957. Innovation was the standard as the department benefited from a vibrant workforce full of ideas for improvement. In November of 2006, Chief Graham greeted an international delegation of law enforcement professionals, including a Dutch author and specialist in technological innovation, who visited to study the police department's state-of-the-art Computer Aided Dispatch system, which substantially reduced emergency response times for the Police and Fire departments. Chief Graham teamed with the Fire Department, the City Manager, political leaders, and the county to bring to Milpitas Emergency Medical Dispatching, ensuring that citizens with the most urgent injuries receive the closest available ambulance, and pre-arrival instructions from dispatchers that enable the reporting party to provide immediate aid while awaiting paramedics.
Other service improvements included online reporting, allowing citizens to file crime reports over the Internet; the Parent Project, a course taught by specially trained police officers to help parents address behavioral issues with teenagers who are acting out; in-house leadership development programs for Lieutenants, new Sergeants, and line level personnel; the use of specially trained K-9 teams in conjunction with SWAT; ad hoc strike teams initiated by line level officers to address "hot spots" and stop specific crime trends; and the creation of the Technology Applications Group, a team of talented and motivated officers who identify, devise, modify, and employ high tech surveillance, tracking, and other systems that have resulted in the arrest of numerous criminals and ended significant crime trends. In 2006, the Milpitas Police Department provided Islamic cultural awareness training to all sworn officers, including ranking personnel, and was among the first agencies to provide community crime prevention presentations to help parents and juveniles negotiate the safety issues associated with the use of social networking systems such as Myspace and Facebook.
In November of 2008, the Milpitas Police Department was honored by the International Association of Police Chiefs as a semi-finalist for the Webber Seavey Award for Quality in Law Enforcement for reducing gang violence on the Milpitas High School campus via a multi-faceted venture with the community through training, education, and outreach, a key component of which was a joint process between the police department and high schools which created new standards to address campus gang issues, resulting in a 55 percent reduction in the number of campus assaults in the 2007-2008 school year.
As a result of these and other initiatives, crime in Milpitas dropped in each of the first five years of Chief Graham's leadership, in 2010 reaching an all-time low crime rate, and the lowest violent crime rate since 1972, in spite of the national and state fiscal crisis which resulted in a decline in staff during a period of steady population increases. Chief Graham retired in 2012.
Steve Pangelinan, rose through the ranks at the Milpitas Police Department and was appointed as the City's sixth Police Chief on October 22, 2012. Chief Pangelinan dedicated 30 years of professional police services to the Milpitas Police Department. Chief Pangelinan worked, managed and led every aspect of Police Operations including the Patrol Division, Traffic Unit, Media Relations, Tactical Team, Field Evidence Team, Investigations Bureau, Anti-Terrorism, High Tech Crimes Unit as well as many other assignments. He managed and developed budgets, analyzed and resolved many complex police and organizational issues.
As a new Police Chief, Chief Pangelinan embarked on a challenging situation. On September 8, 2012, the Milpitas Community suffered a tragedy when a beloved local store clerk was robbed at gunpoint and senselessly murdered. Chief Pangelinan authorized the use of "wiretapping" which was unprecedented in the Department's history. The investigation culminated in December 2013 with the arrest of four suspects on charges of murder.
Chief Pangelinan reintroduced participation with the Regional Auto Theft Task Force (RATTF) and the AB109 Task Force, a component of the Santa Clara County Specialized Enforcement Team (SCCSET). In 2014 alone, the unit investigated a total of 248 cases which included 127 searches and 289 arrests. Different counties throughout the state had created AB109 teams of officers, but none of them reached the level of community impact the AB109 Compliance component in Santa Clara did.
In early 2015, Chief Pangelinan initiated a Crime Reduction Team (CRT). CRT identifies crime trends and initiates proactive crime suppression of Part 1 crimes within the city limits. With the formation of this team, the City saw an immediate impact of crime reduction with heavy enforcement dedicated to problem areas.
Over 5 years, Chief Pangelinan hired twenty-six Police officers, three Records Property Clerks, and three Dispatchers with the highest moral character and professional restraint in their dealings with the public. In 2014, he overhauled the Police Department's Social Media Platform to Facebook, Twitter, Nextdoor, and Nixel which combined reached a total of approximately 12,000 users instantaneously. Under the Chief's leadership, the Camera Registry Program (77 registered users) was created as a time saving tool to assist Investigations for any crimes committed in neighborhoods. Chief Pangelinan reinstituted Succession Planning, and sent seven employees to the FBI National Academy, Command College, and SLI Institute. In addition, Chief Pangelinan modernized the look of the Department and transformed all fleet to silver stars, along with Department letterhead and business cards. Chief Pangelinan was instrumental in authorizing the purchase of sixty-nine body worn cameras and sixty-five Tasers with an HD camera to promote transparency in the department and the community. Chief Pangelinan retired from law enforcement on December 31, 2016, and served as Interim Chief and Interim City Manager until January 2018.
Armando E. Corpuz had a distinguished law enforcement career and served over 30 years with the City of Milpitas. A Milpitas native, Chief Corpuz began his journey as a Reserve Police Office in October 1990. Over the years, he steadily rose through the ranks and was sworn in as the City’s 7th Chief of Police on January 7, 2018.
Throughout his career, Chief Corpuz excelled in multiple roles and assignments. He held a variety of assignments, including DUI Enforcement Officer, Arrest Control & Tactics Instructor, Assistant Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team leader, Field Training Officer, Detective Sergeant, Lieutenant, Commander, and Captain. As an exceptional leader and manager, he led every aspect of police operations, including the Field Services Division, Special Operations Division, and Technical Services Division, before transitioning to his role as the Chief of Police.
Chief Corpuz’s commitment to excellence and effective leadership positively impacted our City. Under his leadership, the City experienced a 3.4% reduction in Part 1 Uniform Crime Reporting Incidents in 2018. Residential burglaries reached a 17-year low, and police response times consistently remained under three minutes. The Milpitas Police Department also received high satisfaction ratings in multiple city surveys, scoring 84% in 2018 and 85% in 2019.
Chief Corpuz spearheaded various innovative programs and technologies to enhance public safety during his tenure. These initiatives included Text to 9-1-1 Technology, a MedEvac Armored Rescue Vehicle, an Unmanned Aircraft Systems Program, and an Automated License Plate Reader Program. He redefined the police department’s role in community engagement by implementing inaugural events such as Coffee with a Cop, Teen Citizen Police Academy, religious institution town hall meetings, and officer book readings with preschool and elementary students. He also prioritized building strong relationships with the community by regularly meeting with community members and supporting them through social issues and challenges. Chief Corpuz also worked directly with the Public Emergency and Safety Preparedness Commission to enhance policy development.
Chief Corpuz developed a recruitment team, which resulted in the hiring of twenty-eight (28) new police officers, twelve (12) dispatchers, five (5) professional staff members, and three (3) community service officers. Under his leadership, Chief Corpuz created an environment conducive to succession planning and promoted seventeen (17) sworn and three (3) non-sworn staff members.
Beyond his professional success, Chief Corpuz made significant personal contributions. He was an instructor at the San Jose City College Extension Campus in Milpitas and was inducted into the Milpitas High School Hall of Fame in 2015. He was recognized as the “Best Public Servant” by the Milpitas POST newspaper and was awarded the “Key to the City” by then-Mayor Rich Tran and City Council, highlighting his remarkable career and devotion to professionalism, integrity, and accountability.
Chief Corpuz is a graduate of the FBI National Academy 257th session, a graduate of the Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute Class 201, a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education, and a graduate of the Senior Executive in State and Local Government Program.
Chief Corpuz left a lasting legacy in the City of Milpitas, and after 30 years of dedicated service, he retired on December 30, 2020.