Department History

From 1856 to 1894, San Mateo was referred to as the Second Township or the San Mateo Township of San Mateo County. The San Mateo County Sheriff was the chief law enforcement officer. Each township had Constables serve as their local law enforcement official. Like the Sheriff, Constables were elected to two-year terms in office. Two Constables were elected during each election to serve the San Mateo Township. Constables provided police service to the community, they carried out the orders of the Justice of the Peace, and they brought arrested individuals before the court.

On September 3, 1894, San Mateo was incorporated. A Board of Trustees was established to oversee the daily operations of the new city. The Trustees elected Peter C. Rogers to serve as the first Town Marshal. The Marshal assumed the duties as the chief law enforcement officer for the City of San Mateo. He collected business taxes and reported directly to the Board of Trustees. Constables and Night Watchmen provided police services under the supervision of the Marshal. Marshal Rogers served as Marshal until April 18, 1898.
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Five marshals served following Rogers. Their names and dates of service are as follows:
  • Joseph P. Cummings: April 18, 1898 - April 16, 1900
  • James R. Wallace: April 16, 1900 - December 16, 1902
  • Maurice F. Boland: December 16, 1902 - April 17, 1913
  • Aldon A. McComb: April 17, 1913 - April 17, 1917 (died while in office)
  • Thomas F. Burke: April 20, 1917 - January 27, 1944 (died while in office)
In December 1906, during Boland’s term of office, the Board of Trustees realized that the City of San Mateo had grown to the point where a police department was necessary. On December 24, 1906, the trustees passed a resolution and Ordinance #117 was adopted, thereby creating a three person police department. On January 1, 1907, the San Mateo Police Department was established and the first police officer, Thomas Tyndall, was hired. On January 28, 1907, John J. Friel was hired as our second police officer. Eleven months later, Ernest Ross was appointed as San Mateo’s third police officer. A question arose early in our history of who was our first police chief? The San Mateo Times and Leader newspapers and the Board of Trustees often referred to Marshal Boland, Marshal McComb, and Marshal Burke as "Police Chief." Descendants of these three men believe their relative was the first police chief. So, who was our first police chief? City trustee minutes show that Boland, McComb, and Burke were appointed as Marshals. The 1922 minutes made reference to the "Marshal’s Report." In April 1923, the City of San Mateo became a charter city. A city manager was appointed, and the marshal became a police chief. All three men performed the job as a police chief; however, Thomas Burke was our first chief. Thomas Burke died in office on January 27, 1944. 

  • Robert O’Brien: February 1, 1944, to January 30, 1950. O’Brien died while in office.
  • Martin C. McDonnell: February 4, 1950, to February 12, 1972
  • Henry C. "Bud" Kohnen: February 12, 1972, to September 1, 1973
  • Captain Howard Trickett: Interim Chief
  • J.L. Laverne Coppock: November 19, 1973, to March 2, 1981
  • Captain Michael Bonnie: Interim Chief
  • Lawrence "Don" Phipps: May 11, 1981, to July 8, 1994
  • John C. Stangl: July 8, 1994, to May 1, 2000
  • Susan E. Manheimer: May 1, 2000, to December 28, 2019
  • Captain Dave NorrisInterim Chief
  • Ed Barberini: February 3, 2020 to Current 
Contact Us with Your Stories
The San Mateo Police Historical Project is ongoing. Anyone with information about former officers, memorabilia, photographs, and stories is encouraged to contact us. Send an email to the police department at police@cityofsanmateo.org or send mail to 200 Franklin Parkway, San Mateo, CA 94403.