George Gascón, the man selected to be Mesa’s police chief, is Hispanic. And in a city in the midst of a tremendous demographic shift, much is being made of his heritage. But don’t make the mistake of congratulating Gascón on his status as the city’s first Hispanic chief.
“I don’t think so,” replied Gascón, of Los Angeles.
That honor belongs to the late Ramon G. Mendoza, who led the department from 1969 to 1978. Carrying on his father’s legacy of local law enforcement, Mendoza was responsible for modernizing many aspects of the agency.
Mendoza died seven years ago, at age 84, but he’ll forever be memorialized as long as the department’s headquarters — opened in 1975 — stands at 130 N. Robson.
The new station was just one of the chief’s many contributions to the agency:
• The city’s first female officers were hired in 1973.
• The computer age came to the Mesa Police Department.
• K-9 officers debuted.
• Security in the jail was improved through a closedcircuit camera system.
Mendoza learned police work from his father, a pioneer in his own right.
When Ramon S. Mendoza was hired as an officer in 1921, earning a monthly salary of $25, he made Mesa history as the first Hispanic in the city’s small brotherhood of the badge.
The father retired in 1942, but only after he shared space on the duty roster with his 28-year-old son. The younger Mendoza started work as a policeman on June 17 of that year, and his presence meant Mesa would continue to employ at least one Hispanic officer.
The elder Mendoza’s memory lives on with an elementary school, at 5831 E. McLellan Rd., named in his honor.
Upon his hiring, Ramon S. Mendoza was one of six officers who shared a patrol car. He found out that car was integral to his job — sort of.
In 1990, the retired Mendoza told the Tribune that on his first day of work his instructions were to “get into that car and drive around up and down the street and act important.”
Mendoza patrolled at night until 1952, and two years later he was promoted to captain. In 1956, he reached the rank of Captain of Detectives, equivalent to assistant chief.
And when Chief Gail Brimhall stepped down, Mendoza beat out 25 other candidates for the job. He was appointed chief on March 1, 1969.