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January 4, 2011 > First Milpitas Police Chief Tom Letcher passes away

First Milpitas Police Chief Tom Letcher passes away

Submitted by Milpitas Police Chief Dennis Graham
Photo Courtesy of Milpitas PD

Milpitas Police Department regretfully announces that our first Police Chief, Tom Letcher, passed away on Friday, December 24th. He was 86 years of age.

Letcher served as Police Chief from 1954, shortly after the city's incorporation, until departing Milpitas in June of 1957. He later served as Chief of Police in Irwindale, California.

While chief in Milpitas, Letcher began programs and services that have been carried forward to the 21st century. In 1955 he started vacation house checks, in which police officers would perform security checks at the homes of residents on vacation. Also in 1955, the police department deployed roadblocks for traffic enforcement, precursors to today's DUI checkpoints.

The police department first provided around-the-clock emergency services in 1956, when Chief Letcher patched together a 24-hour operation by combining part-timers from the Ford plant's security unit; reserve "auxiliaries" from the police school at San Jose State College; and two full time police officers, including future long-time police chief James Murray, who led the department after Letcher's departure. In 1957 Chief Letcher first tested radar to catch speeders, equipment that has since become a mainstay of traffic enforcement in Milpitas.

At the time of his death, Letcher was a resident of Laguna Hills in Orange County, California, and is survived by his wife, Maggie. Services will be held at the Laguna Country United Methodist Church on Saturday, January 8 at 2 p.m.

"While we regret the death of Tom Letcher, this sad occurrence is an opportunity to acknowledge Chief Letcher's contributions to our city, and his legacy of innovation in providing state-of-the-art police services that continue in Milpitas to this day," current Chief of Police Dennis Graham told TCV.

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