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Allen P. Bristow

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Allen P. Bristow began his law enforcement career as a military policeman during the Korean War.  After the war, he joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  He left the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to become a professor of Police Administration at the California State University, Los Angeles. Later, he was “promoted to professor in the reorganized Department of Criminal Justice at California State University at Los Angeles. In 1983, he retired as a Professor Emeritus. During his tenure, he received the Outstanding Professor Award for 1967-68 and was elected to membership in the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

Allen P. Bristow received his graduate degree in 1957 from the school of Public Administration, University of Southern California, where he earned the John M. Pfiffner Research Award. He was the author of over a dozen textbooks, 70 journal or magazine articles, two western detective novels and the historical biography of Whispering Smith.

In a post retirement career, he served as a reserve military officer and was a training facilitator at Camp San Luis Obispo. He was placed on the retired list in 1995 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He lived for many years in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. and Atascadero, Calif. before moving to Oregon.”  Allen P. Bristow died in October 2008.

During his academic career, Allen P. Bristow authored a number of books about policing.  Following his retirement from education he has authored a number of fictional books about law enforcement in the “old west.”  Allen P. Bristow is the author of the academic works: The Search for an Effective Police Handgun, Effective Police Manpower Utilization; Patrol Administration; Police Disaster Operations; Rural Law Enforcement; Field Interrogation; An Introduction to Modern Police Firearms, A Handbook in Criminal Procedure and the Administration of Justice; You and the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics; Police Film Guide; and, Decision Making in Police Administration.  He was the editor of Police Supervision Readings.  He is the author of the fiction works The Pinkerton Eye and Playing God. And the author of the biographical look at a Western figure, Whispering Smith.

According to the book description of Whispering Smith, “The fictional adventures of the heroic railroad detective called Whispering Smith have entertained readers, motion picture enthusiasts and television viewers for many years. The colorful name of this character had such appeal that it has been adopted by musical bands, apparel manufacturers and emblazoned on the nose of World War Two bombers. But was there a real Whispering Smith? Was he the heroic champion of justice on the western plains as depicted by Hollywood or was he instead a sinister and tragic recluse? Traces of his confrontations with western outlaws are found throughout Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Yet in his search for justice did he become a centurion that confronted frontier lawlessness with a hangman's rope? Was the real Whispering Smith actually a cold-blooded killer, frustrated duelist, devious plotter and pugnacious braggart? These questions can best be answered by an examination of his life in this book.”

Wildwest magazine said of Whispering Smith, “A book of 173 pages might not sound very long, but it's quite an accomplishment when the subject matter is a man named Smith who whispered (or didn't say anything) a lot, tended to be secretive and had few friends and no family. Furthermore, the name Whispering Smith is usually associated with fictional adventures portrayed in books or seen on the big or little screens. It all began with Frank H. Spearman's best-selling novel of 1906 with the catchy name Whispering Smith. The railroad detective of that book has appeared (usually more dramatically and heroically) in at least half a dozen motion pictures (including a 1948 version starring Alan 'Shane' Ladd) and in a 1961 television series. But there was a real Union Pacific Railway detective who came to be known as Whispering Smith; his true name was James L. Smith. Apparently the real Smith never personally used the nickname 'Whispering,' and one estimation that he killed 30 men is no doubt way too high (though he was definitely involved in several killings and probably in at least one lynching). Allen Bristow, who had a career in law enforcement and has written many articles for Wild West magazine and other publications, deals with the 'Hollywood Versus History' issue in his first chapter. The author's objective in exploring this subject was in fact to see if the mild-mannered, honest, moral, courageous Hollywood Smith matched the real-life Smith, who was credited with having been the only peace officer to ever penetrate the Hole-in-the-Wall (outlaw hangout in Wyoming) and with having once run Bat Masterson out of Denver. In the end, the real Whispering Smith, in part because of excessive drinking, was not the man he once was. But neither was the actor Alan Ladd. Bristow closes with some intriguing parallels between the two men.”

According to the book description of Playing God, “The murder and cremation of a young homesteader befuddles Sheriff Jeff Scott and complicates La Roca County politics in the election year of 1890. Each county official involved in the investigation develops a different theory about the crime and the pre-election publicity it may provide. A love triangle, rustlers, land fraud and suicide are among the suggested solutions to the crime. The case is further compromised by the political goals of the investigating officials. Tempers become short between the district attorney and the undersheriff, as their theories about the murder clash and the prime suspect commits suicide in his jail cell. Sheriff Scott's bid for re-election is cast into doubt as a variety of incidents reflect on his judgment and solving the crime becomes vital to his political future. The truth about the murder eludes the sheriff until he finds that nothing about the case is what it first seemed. None of the solutions put forth by the others are correct and revelation of the truth would be extremely embarrassing for them and distressing for the community. It remains for the sheriff to "play God" in the interest of justice and to preserve tranquility among those he serves.”

Whispering Smith
Allen P. Bristow  More Info
Effective police manpower utilization,
Allen P Bristow  More Info
Decision-making in police administration,
Allen P Bristow  More Info

Playing God
Allen, P. Bristow  More Info
Field Interrogation
Allen P. Bristow  More Info
A handbook in criminal procedure and the administration of justice (Glencoe Press police science series. California police handbooks)
Allen P Bristow  More Info

The Pinkerton Eye
Allen P. Bristow  More Info
Police film guide
Allen P Bristow  More Info
Police Supervision Readings
Allen P. (editor) Bristow  More Info
You and the law enforcement code of ethics
Allen P Bristow  More Info
An Introduction to Modern Police Firearms
Duke, Bristow, Allen P Roberts  More Info
Douglas, G and Allen P. Bristow Gourrley  More Info
Police Disaster Operations
Allen P. Bristow  More Info
Rural law enforcement (Allyn and Bacon criminal justice series)
Allen P Bristow  More Info
The search for an effective police handgun,
Allen P Bristow  More Info

One reader of Playing God said “Bristow knows his stuff: history, technical details, and especially people. An accomplished historian, he keeps you enthralled with the details, all the while keeping you guessing throughout as the various characters, all with different agendas, attempt to solve the murder. Throw in an epidemic and a batch of self-serving frontier folks looking for political gain at others expense, along with a keen understanding of people and you have a first rate mystery novel. This is definitely a good read.”

One reader of Playing God said, “This is a great read! The story is set in California in 1890 between the Wild West and what we know as modern police departments. It is obvious that the author has had extensive police experience. Bristow develops characters and multiple plots with unexpected developments, subtlety illustrating human nature. It all adds up to a very creative story that is hard to put down, as is his last book, The Pinkerton Eye.”

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The Sheriff's Department of Los Angeles County was formed in April, 1850. Elections for the office of Sheriff were held annually until 1882, when the term was increased to two years; in 1894 the term was increased to four years. The first Sheriff of Los Angeles County was George T. Burrill and his staff consisted of two Deputies.


Twenty-four men have served Los Angeles County as Sheriff since 1850: nineteen were elected and six were appointed by the Board of Supervisors to serve the unexpired term of their predecessors. Two were killed in the line of duty. Of those appointed, four were re-elected to the office. The youngest man ever elected to the office of Sheriff was William B. Rowland, who was sworn in when he was 25 years old (in 1871), and was re-elected three times. The record for the longest consecutive service goes to Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz, who completed 51 years in the department, from deputy in 1907, to being appointed Sheriff in 1932 and then retiring in 1958. Our previous Los Angeles County Sheriff, Sherman Block, entered the department as a Deputy Sheriff in 1956 and continued up through the ranks until he was appointed by the Board of Supervisors to succeed Sheriff Pitchess in 1982. In June of 1982, Sheriff Block was elected to a full four year term as Sheriff of Los Angeles County.







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