Former Angels Camp Police Chief Dale Mendenhall died July 26 after a battle with cancer. He was 53.
Mendenhall took the helm of the city’s department in January 2008 after Tony Tacheira retired.
“It’s a place I always dreamed of living,” Mendenhall told The Union Democrat upon his hiring in the Mother Lode. “I love the outdoors.”
He graduated the Kern County Sheriff’s Department police academy at age 20 and had spent the entirety of his career with the Delano Police Department prior to the move to Angels Camp.
In 28 years in Delano, Mendenhall worked his way up through the ranks to become a commander and interim police chief. He also helped launch the department’s first SWAT unit.
Mendenhall completed training with the FBI National Academy shortly before his hiring in Angels Camp.
During his tenure of a little more than two years with the Angels Camp Police Department, Mendenhall focused largely on a culture of “community policing,” which he said began with officers getting out of patrol cars and talking to merchants and residents of the city.
“He really had that community-oriented spirit,” said Angels Camp Vice Mayor Jack Lynch, the last City Council member from the panel that hired Mendenhall. “He worked at that, to get the officers to interface with the citizens. I personally noted a change.”
Just five months into Mendenhall’s tenure, the department had to deal with one of the most violent crimes in the city’s history. The only double homicide ever recorded in Angels Camp occurred in June 2008 at an apartment complex across the street from Mark Twain Elementary School.
Four suspects were arrested within days of the killings of a father and son. Each was convicted on charges related to the attack. A fifth suspect fled and is believed to have returned to his native Mexico.
In April 2010, the council relieved Mendenhall of his duties as police chief amidst a severe budget crisis. Layoffs and resignations during that time also included the city’s fire chief, water and sewer plant chief, public works director and museum director.
“He did a good job for the city during his time,” Lynch recalled, but added “when you have a large deficit like we were facing, you have to reduce your expenses and his position was one of them.”
In April 2011, Mendenhall was one of five applicants for a vacancy on the City Council. Roger Neuman was eventually selected for the position.
Mendenhall was a licensed pilot, a fisherman, a hunter and raced stock cars for a season. He owned a 21-foot sailboat and said Catalina Island was his favorite sailing destination.
Mendenhall is survived by his wife Susan, children and stepchildren Ryan, Hali, Kristofor, Michael, Timothy, Megan and Nicholas; siblings Chris, Sheila, Karen, and Rickey; and six grandchildren.
A small family celebration of life service took place Saturday at Golden Valley Christian Fellowship in Bakersfield.