Chief Melvin F. "Dutch" Flohr 1940 - 1974

Dutch Flohr Ran Sr as if He Owned it

By Gaye Lebaron, the Press Democrat
Melvin I. "Dutch" Flohr was a larger-than-life figure in Sonoma County lore, having been a football hero in Petaluma and at Santa Clara University and hero-type deputy sheriff and having served as chief of police from 1940-1974.
Melvin Dutch Flohr in police uniform
Dutch was a big man, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, with huge hands and a deep voice and a no-nonsense demeanor. He walked the town with the gait of a western marshal, exuding confidence and control over the city he considered his domain.

When Dutch said "Get out of Dodge," as one old-time Santa Rosan said, "people left town."

Civil liberties were not an issue. And it was a man's world. "He ran the department like his family," said Bob Landolfi, Rod "Smokey" Sverko's partner for many years. "We were all his sons, no matter how old we were." They were Dutch's "boys" and it was "his department and his city."

Jack Spaulding

Jack Spaulding was the police captain who was second in command under Dutch and shared his methods. "One of the first things Spaulding said to me," Sverko said, "was 'Forget everything you learned at JC.' In fact, there were rumors that if they thought you were taking classes, they'd fire you."

These were the pre-Miranda days, when suspects not only were not read their rights but were not always granted their rights.

Stories From Sverko

One story, from Sverko, indicative of the times: "Dutch was at Los Robles and needed a ride. Tony Camozzi and I picked him up and we heard a call from Ang Bertoni, who was in a neighborhood where shots had been fired. He was at a house with a bullet hole in the porch roof, but the owner wouldn't let him in."

Dutch had them take him there straightaway. "He walked up on the porch and banged on the door and hollered 'Police!' The man opened the door and said, 'You're not coming in. This is my house.'"

Flohr responded: "This is my city!" picked up the man and "he became part of the couch," Sverko recalls. "We went in and found a lot of weapons inside.

"We did a lot of 'dirty searches' in those days. If you got people's property back, you were a hero....

I remember we had calls that people living in a house on Denton Street were nudists," Sverko said. "The neighbors must have been looking through a peephole in the fence, because they weren't out parading around. But Dutch went to the door and told the occupant: "I hear you're practicing nudity in there. Put your clothes on or you don't live in this town."

Sergeant Blaine Hunt

Sergeant Blaine Hunt, now the senior sergeant in the department, served just a year under Flohr, but he, too, has a story to tell.

As a rookie, he was assigned the downtown beat and was driving his patrol car along Fifth Street, "very proud, wearing my new uniform," when he heard Dutch's voice over the radio saying, "You there! Pull over!"

When he looked in his rear-view mirror, there was Dutch, looming large in his unmarked car. Hunt pulled over.

He wanted to talk about his idea of a police presence in the downtown area. "He told me he wanted a chance to talk to me, to tell me he wanted me out of the car and walking, early morning, noon and night. You know, that was 30 years ago, but those are all the same things I'm encouraging young officers to do today."

Carl Meister

Former Lieutenant Carl Meister remembers: "Dutch would go down to the railroad tracks (where there were transients) and point north, saying, 'That's Healdsburg,' and he'd point south, saying, 'That's Petaluma.' Which way do you want to go?'"

"It was an interesting time," Meister said. "But we did the laundry. It was a clean town."