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Oakdale Police History On Display
Retired Oakdale Police Lieutenant Vern Gladney stands with some of the police items he’s collected that are on display showing the history of the Oakdale Police Department. The exhibit is on display through the end of July at the Oakdale Museum. - photo by RICHARD PALOMA/The Leader
Retired Oakdale Police Lieutenant Vern Gladney acquired a vast assortment of duty gear over his 30 years of service with the city’s police department, a career that spanned parts of four decades.
As the department’s unofficial historian, Gladney also collected photos of the town’s police department beginnings, dating back to its first marshal, George T. Morrison who was hired in 1907 and one of the city’s early chiefs of police, Clay Dorroh from 1947.
The equipment and photos have been put on display as part of a “History of the Oakdale Police Department” collection now running at the Oakdale Museum sponsored by Friends of Oakdale Heritage.
Along with a photo of Marshal Morrison, comes the story of him being shot in the line of duty in 1909.
The details are sketchy, but Morrison encountered two criminal suspects near the railroad tracks at the site of what is now the Oakdale Cowboy Museum. During the encounter, Morrison was shot, suffering a gunshot injury to his head. Morrison survived his wounds and went on to serve the city six more years until quitting due to illness. Morrison died of a brain tumor in 1915.
An assortment of duty holsters and ammunition cases from decades ago show a different time when the “service revolver” was the issued handgun compared to today’s multi-round semi-automatic pistols.
“Officers from the 60s had to wear that helmet all day long,” said Gladney as he pointed to a vintage police helmet on display next to the line of holsters. “I don’t think it was until the ‘70s that they were allowed to ride in the car without it.”
Other headgear includes today’s dress “campaign hat” and a modern Kevlar riot helmet.
Credentials from Police Chief Clay Dorroh from 1947 are on display along with photos of him and the five-man force at the time. When the first chief, Daniel Kelly, left the department to become chief of police in Patterson, “Officer” Dorroh was unanimously selected as his successor.
Also on display from that period is a letter from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to Chief Dorroh thanking the department for assisting in an investigation.
In the same display case are photos from the city’s other marshal who followed Morrison, E.C. “Pussycat” Woods who served for over 20 years.
Gladney also has an assortment of issued badges through the years showing the various shields and the commemorative circular badge from 2006 to honor Oakdale’s centennial that is still worn by many officers today.
Department photos over the years show the department’s shift from tan uniforms, to blue, back to tan, and then to the navy blue worn today. Photos also show police cars from different eras and the historic single-cell city jail.
Gladney doesn’t take all the credit himself for the collection, stating former officer Jim Wadell and current police sergeant Julio Rosa contributed to the display. Gladney said some of the photos also came from the department archives he was able to get loaned out to him to put in the exhibit.
Accompanying the display is a photo slide show encompassing hundreds of photos showing various Oakdale officers through the years, crime and accident scenes, and early 20th century businesses.
“We have a 20-year span from the first chief of police on, without really anything,” said Gladney, asking that members of the public contact him with any photos or memorabilia from the early years of the police department.
The police display runs through the end of July. The Oakdale Museum is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on the third Saturday of the month from noon to 4 p.m.