By Timothy Moore
I met with retired Lieutenant Blaine Thompson as he was seated at his small cubicle in the newly formed Laboratory Enhancement Team of the Phoenix Police Department. He was previously in the departments in the Callback Unit of the Communications Bureau when the opportunity to serve in this new position arose. Blaine did not change much over the years, he was still a slender man but now his hair was gray, worn a beard and had glasses. He worn detective attire, required for the new unit. Even now, after retiring from the Phoenix Police Department as a Lieutenant over 22 years ago, he was still ready to take on another challenge working for our department in which he always had so much high regard.
I had this opportunity to spend a few hours with the retired officer listening intently to his fascinating stories. I have spoke to other retiree getting an assortment of tales and stories with various attitudes and opinions about our department. Blain Thompson, though, had many fond memories of the department as well as his favorite Chief of Police, Charlie Thomas who served from 1952 until 1964.
The department had gone through many changes since December of 1955 when Blaine came out number one on the eligible list for the job of Policeman. The population of Phoenix at that time was 162,000 people living within 24.square miles. The police department had 201 sworn officers and 36 civilian employees.
Blaine commented on the equipment and training police officers received in the 1950’s. He acknowledged that officers had a lot less training and equipment especially compared to the modern department of today. Mr. Thompson said, “The idea of in-service training or hand-held 800mh radios; police cars with air conditioning, adequate firearms and body armor were not even a consideration.”
Blaine reminisced back to the Phoenix Police Headquarters in the 1950’s. “The police headquarters itself was at 17 South 2nd Avenue that housed the Chief of Police, the information bureau, a desk sergeant, detectives and the Jail.” Blaine went on to say, “The I-bureau had one man assigned to it, Bill McGill. He mostly worked with latent fingerprints and ballistics.” Blaine noted that the highest ranking supervisor after 5:00 p.m. was the desk sergeant.
Like other officers of that time, Blaine spent time working the downtown “Deuce” area. The “Deuce” had a large number of bars from Washington to Jackson Streets, between 2nd Street and 2nd Avenue. It was the heart of the grocery produce area where trucks and trains made their deliveries. Blaine’s responsibilities included dealing with suspects who were drunk and disorderly or vagrants. Blaine would emphasize, “We were told to keep the streets clean in the downtown area,” Although he downplays it, there were also very dangerous times.
Blaine he had been in two shootings. Both were while he was working patrol and occurred during 1956. Blaine started, “Well the whole day started wrong. My gun was in the shop being worked on, so I borrowed Sergeant Lawrence Wetzel’s fathers Smith and Wesson. There had been several burglaries of railroad cars, specifically, boxcars. On this day three suspects had broken into a boxcar.”
When Blaine came upon them, they were taking tires out of the boxcar and stacking them on the ground. Blaine drew down on the three suspects. While holding them at gunpoint a fourth suspect struck Blaine from behind. A fight ensued then the suspects ran. Blaine fired a shot at one of the fleeing suspects. “The borrowed handgun must have shot to the right.” Blaine said. He was able to apprehend two of the four before other officers arrived on the scene.
The other shooting occurred at a drug warehouse between 700 and 800 W. Madison St. The call was a burglary in progress in the warehouse. Without back up, he proceeded to the rear door of the warehouse. From this position, he saw a suspect with a flashlight inside the warehouse. Blaine fired one time at the suspect who dropped his flashlight and ran out of the warehouse to the railroad tracks. When Blaine caught up to him, the suspect said he had been sleeping and did not know about a warehouse burglary. Blaine explained, “The suspect was bleeding from a crease across the top of his head that looked like a bullet wound to me. He told me he had been in a fight earlier with a wino who struck him over the head with a bottle.” Blaine knew a jury might believe this was a viable story. He recovered the flashlight the suspect dropped inside the warehouse and took it to the I-Bureau’s Bill McGill. Bill processed the flashlight for fingerprints. He found usable prints on the batteries inside the flashlight and compared them to the suspect’s fingerprints. It was a perfect match.
“The only paperwork I needed to complete back then” said Blaine, “was the booking form to book the suspect into jail. Today you have all kinds of paperwork to fill out”. The only criticism he received from this shooting incident was from the chief. “Charlie Thomas chewed me out for not shooting better, but I knew he was proud of me,” Blaine said.
In 1960, detectives Blaine along with Darwin Davis picked up two burglary suspects, Benjamin E. Crosby, age 18, and Lamar Hugh Romero, 23, at their home on 37th Street and Thomas Road and took them to police headquarters. There, the two admitted to committing burglaries at seven homes and three schools in the Phoenix area.
According to The Arizona Republic newspaper, further interrogation by Detectives Blaine Thompson and Darwin Davis revealed an extortion attempt by the suspects to extort $25,000 from the granddaughter of the late William Randolph Hearst. The granddaughter Mrs. Phoebe Millicent Hearst Tovrea, who lived in Phoenix, received a letter from the suspects threatening the life of her 8-year-old daughter. The case was turned over to the Federal Investigations Bureau’s Special Agent Edward L. Boyle. Boyle commended the officers later for their “fine work” as reported in The Arizona Republic.
On October 31 1960, Blaine received a surprise in the form of a letter of commendation from the United States Department of Justice. The commendation read:
“Dear Mr. Blaine Thompson, I want to take this opportunity to extend my congratulations to you for the splendid manner in which you conducted the investigation involving Lamar Hugh Romero and Benjamin Eugene Crosby. The successful conclusion of this case is a direct result of your thorough painstaking interviews of these individuals, which certainly reflects much credit on your department. Sincerely yours, J. Edgar Hoover.”
On July 1 1961, Blaine was promoted to police sergeant and assigned for duty in the Phoenix Division of Field Operations, under Chief Thomas.
Blain also spoke of the arrest of Ernesto Miranda and the effects the Miranda decision had on law enforcement. Blaine said, “Miranda preyed on victims in the downtown area. He would grab the purses of women that were alone. If they did not comply, he would hit them. If it was convenient he would rape them.”
Blaine was working as a night detective when patrol officer Dave Anderson arrested Ernesto Miranda. Detectives Carole Cooley and Blaine responded to conduct the interviews. Blaine said he and Cooley interviewed Miranda most of the night saying, “Miranda was cooperative and for some cigarettes, we were able to clear most of the cases we had on him. Miranda bailed out of jail. Sgt. Seymour Nealis sent Carol Cooley and Bill Moore to arrest Miranda on an additional rape charge. With the Escobedo Decision coming down, (a landmark decision in Chicago, Ill. that provided the right for a suspect to have an attorney) the Superior Court overturned Miranda’s conviction because he had the right to remain silent. This resulted in the Miranda Warnings.”
Blaine concluded, “The best thing to happen to law enforcement that came from the Miranda Decision was it made us process other evidence and not just depend on a confession. This actually made law enforcement more professional.”
On October 25, 1971, Blaine was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and was reassigned from the Phoenix Police Department’s Special Operations Bureau to the Patrol Bureau in the Division of Field Operations. The Police Chief was Lawrence Wetzel.
As a lieutenant at the Phoenix Police Department’s Community Relations Bureau in 1974, Blaine authored a burglary prevention book for the department. The article in The Arizona Republic newspaper started, “It won’t win a Pulitzer Prize or be made into a movie, but the slim blue volume titled “Burglary Prevention” may be the most popular piece of literature in the Valley.” The initial printing was 20,000 copies in English and 10,000 in Spanish. The book was sent to other departments in the United States upon request. The Arizona Republic listed some of the other police departments that received copies of the book such as those located in Portland, Oregon; Montgomery, Alabama; and American Falls, Idaho.
While assigned to the Squaw Peak Precinct, in July of 1980, just prior to retiring as a Phoenix Police Lieutenant, Blaine developed a plan for the department on Team Policing. This plan was implemented at the Squaw Peak Precinct and was used as a model through out the department, as directed by Police Chief Ruben Ortega.
When asked if he had any regrets from his 26-year career with the Phoenix Police Department he only responded, “Regrets? I only regret that I can’t be 21 and do it again! You don’t realize how magnificent the Phoenix Police Department really is until you leave and have been gone awhile.”