In 1984 the Town of Mammoth Lakes incorporated. The Mono County Sheriff's Department provided contract law enforcement services. By the end of 1985, the Town Council decided to form its own police department. Bruce K. MacAfee who was the Assistant Sheriff in Mono County and the person responsible for overseeing the contract with the Town was ultimately hired by the Town as the Town's first Police Chief in January 1986. The contract with Mono County was due to expire on June 30, 1986 and the police department was to assume public safety responsibility at midnight that date. That deadline gave Chief MacAfee 6 months to put a police department together!
Chief MacAfee was given a small, one room office within the Town's current office complex which now serves as a building inspector's office. Utilizing P.O.S.T. consultants, it was decided that the department would be made up of fifteen sworn officers with three, non-sworn support staff. These would include a Chief's Secretary, a Record's Clerk and a Community Services Officer. Realizing the complex task of creating a police department from scratch, Chief MacAfee hired Lieutenant Terry Gardner and Sergeant Mike Donnelly of the Mono County Sheriff's Department to serve as Lieutenant and Sergeant for the Mammoth Lakes Police Department and to assist him with the recruitment and hiring process for the remaining sworn personnel. Donna MacAsey became the first Chief's Secretary and Chris Gillem Bowen the first Record's Supervisor.
With the new personnel, Chief MacAfee moved his fledgling department down the hall from the Town Office to what is now Dr. Craig's Chiropractic office. While still very small, it provided enough working space to conduct the numerous background investigations, create forms and generally conduct the necessary administrative duties to bring the department together.
For the next several weeks, Lt. Gardner and Sgt. Donnelly travelled the entire state conducting background investigations on the prospective new officers while Record's Supervisor, Chris Gillem Bowen literally created a police record's system from the ground up that is still in use today. Chief MacAfee remained busy ordering our first fleet of patrol cars (Jeep Wagoneer's), designing the graphics and outfitting with necessary equipment. Chief MacAfee's roots go back to the East Coast and Boston where his father was a retired law enforcement officer. This background heavily influenced him in his design and color of the new uniforms, patches and badge. The original uniforms consisted of light blue trousers with contrasting black stripe down each leg. A dark blue shirt with contrasting epaulets on the shoulders, which matched the trousers. A much more formal look than traditionally seen on the west coast. Chief MacAfee's father actually designed the original patch and badge.
By June of 1986, all the new officers had been hired, patrol cars painted and outfitted, forms adopted and records in place. A final inspection of uniformed officers and cars was conducted with Town Council and members of the community looking on; we were finally ready to go!
At midnight on June 30, 1986, the first watch took to the streets of Mammoth Lakes. Those first officers were Sgt. Walt Schick, Sgt. Mike Donnelly and Officer Paul Dostie.
Many believed we would never make it, we did. Then many believed we would never last, we have and we continue to grow both in numbers and also in heart. Today we have 20 sworn officers, and three non-sworn support staff. Additionally, the Town has contracted with Steve Searles who works under the direction of the police department as a Wildlife Specialist, working primarily with the local bear population. We are a highly respected law enforcement agency, providing a full range of services We look forward to relocating to a new public safety facility in the near future that will better meet both the community’s and the department’s needs!
In 1997 it was decided to return to the traditional blue uniform in order to be more easily recognized when responding to outside agency mutual aid requests. Officers also designed a new shoulder patch and badge as well as patrol car graphics used today.
In 2006 the Police Department’s second Chief, Michael J. Donnelly, retired. Lieutenant Randy Schienle, one of the Police Department's original officers, was promoted to Chief. He served as Chief until July 2010 when he was retired. Chief Schienle was replaced by the Mammoth Lakes fourth Chief, Dan Watson, who had previous Chief experience in South Pasadena which followed a career with the Los Angeles Police Department.
Over the past few years some of the most notable changes/accomplishments for the department have been the formation of a local Honor Guard. This unit, which also includes members of the Mammoth Lakes Fire Department has been highly visible at numerous community events, and has attended several funerals for fallen officers state-wide. The department has partnered with the Mammoth Lakes Fire Department and the Mono County Health Department and formed the Mammoth Lakes CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) Team. This volunteer group currently has over 50 active and enthusiastic members who have been trained to respond in the event of local emergencies. Finally, the department and its members played a critical role in designing the Town’s Emergency Operations Center, which has proven to be a valuable asset for the community.
The Mammoth Lakes Police Department and its members look forward to serving this community for years to come.