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Beverly Hills' Stars and Image Shielded by Ex-Police Chief


As Clinton H. Anderson was buried this week, friends and acquaintances of the no-nonsense former Beverly Hills police chief paused to remember him and the bygone era in which he served.

From 1942 until he resigned in 1969, Anderson protected the city's image as a sleepy little town for big screen stars. Back then, protecting the privacy of celebrities was an important part of the police force's mission.

Arresting the rich and famous for, say, drunk driving would have been unthinkable; the cops would simply give them a ride home.

"A case like Zsa Zsa Gabor's would have never made its way to some prosecutor's desk," observed former mayor Leonard Horwin, who served on the City Council from 1962 to 1966. "He was well aware of the city's image and how to protect it. He would preserve a certain bit of immunity for prominent people."

"We have more celebrities in Beverly Hills than you can shake a night stick at," said Anderson in his 1960 book, "Beverly Hills Is My Beat," a chronicle of notable events in his 39 years on the force.

Over the years, of course, Beverly Hills has been home to some of the biggest names in show business, including the likes of Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Will Rogers, Charlie Chaplin, Jack Benny, James Stewart, Gary Cooper, Lucille Ball and Harold Lloyd.

Anderson's death from natural causes last week at the age of 86 led many longtime residents to reminisce about how life in their city has changed.

Under Anderson's leadership, the Beverly Hills police gained a reputation as a highly professional force, rising in numbers from 57 to 97 officers. It has since grown to 128 officers.

"He set a standard of integrity that has withstood the test of time," said Beverly Hills Police Chief Marvin Iannone, one of about 100 mourners who attended Anderson's funeral Tuesday at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale. "He set an example that our officers still follow today."

Capt. Fred Koch, who worked under Anderson, described the former chief as "a disciplinarian who saw the police force as an extension of the military, but instead of fighting an external enemy, we were fighting an internal one. . . . He gave 100% and expected 100% from his men."

Anderson was born in Providence, R.I., in 1902, the son of a police officer. In 1929, after a brief stint in the Coast Guard, he moved to California and joined the Beverly Hills Police Department, where he started out as a bicycle patrolman and rose through the ranks to become chief in 13 years.

When he began as a patrolman, he wrote in his book, the vacant lots along Wilshire Boulevard outnumbered the buildings. But even then, the community was set apart from the rest of Los Angeles by an "invisible economic wall" because of the enormous wealth of many of its residents.

He was involved in some sensational cases. Mobster Benjamin (Bugsy) Siegel was reading a newspaper in his rented house in Beverly Hills in 1947 when he was shot by a gunman who had been hiding outside. The assassin was never found.

In 1958, actress Lana Turner's boyfriend, organized crime figure Johnny Stompanato, was stabbed to death in Turner's home by her 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane. Anderson had to defend his department from accusations of a cover-up when the killing was ruled a justifiable homicide and no charges were brought against Crane.

Although the city's inhabitants included some shady characters, their crimes tended to be the sort accomplished with fountain pens, rather than guns or knives. So in most years, about 98% of the reported crime in Beverly Hills was committed by people who lived outside the city.

Thus, much of Anderson's attention focused on keeping "undesirables" out--a practice that often led to accusations of police harassment--particularly of blacks and other minorities.

"He was not as concerned about civil liberties," said former mayor Horwin. "He believed in a strong 24-hour patrol of the streets, a constant movement of cruising police cars."

In his book, Anderson recalled having once stationed patrol cars at the both ends of the street where a noted gambler lived. No one could visit the house without being questioned by police.

"His socially minded wife found this terribly embarrassing, and eventually the gambler moved," the chief wrote.

Anderson defended his policy of constant surveillance as an effective deterrent to crime. "Citizens of Beverly Hills pay their Police Department to keep crime away from the city," he wrote. "Our purpose is the prevention and detection of crime, rather than boasting of the number of catches we make."

On the constant lookout for prowlers, Anderson once stopped a suspicious-looking man who, it turned out, had just burglarized a mansion. "We caught him walking down a Beverly Hills street discarding stolen jewelry, piece by piece, which he had decided was worthless," he wrote.

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