Ray Hoobler, 73 had stormy tenure as San Diego police chief : Newspaper Obituary and Death Notice

San Diego Union-Tribune, The (CA) - Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Deceased Name: Ray Hoobler, 73 had stormy tenure as San Diego police chief

Ray Hoobler, whose 4 1/2 turbulent years as San Diego police chief inspired both loyalty and controversy before ending with a resignation under fire, died Saturday in his Victorville home. He was 73.

The cause of death was cancer, which was diagnosed four years ago, said his son, Jeffrey.

Known as an intense taskmaster who left no doubt about who was in charge, Mr. Hoobler succeeded O. J. Roed as chief of the San Diego Police Department in February 1971. Mr. Hoobler resigned in September 1975 amid evidence that he lied to city officials regarding his seizure of confidential files from the department's psychological counselor.

An investigation by then-City Manager Hugh McKinley concluded that Mr. Hoobler had lied to the City Council in denying that he had authorized the seizure and that the confidentiality of the files had been breached.

The resignation, under the threat of disciplinary action, capped a stormy relationship between Mr. Hoobler and city officials, much of it stemming from his sometimes confrontational administrative style.

"Ray was very dynamic and very apolitical," said Ken Fortier, a former Police Department colleague.

"He was not a good politician, which was a plus if you were working for him because he didn't permit political interference or
anything that smacked of outside influence on 'his boys' -- his officers.  "But that didn't make him popular at City Hall."

John Lockwood, a deputy city manager at the time of Mr. Hoobler's resignation, said Mr. Hoobler felt that denying he took the confidential files was in the best interests of the department.  "If he had indicated the files were available, he would have had to make them public," Lockwood said. "They indicated which members of the department had undergone psychological counseling. Ray wanted to protect their privacy."

In resigning his post, Mr. Hoobler referred to the "obvious increasing incompatibility of the relationship between my office and the office of the city manager."

Before his appointment as police chief, Mr. Hoobler distinguished himself as an investigator, especially in homicide, and as a hands-on administrator in a 24-year career with the San Diego Police Department.

"He was just dynamite as a captain," Fortier recalled. "We loved him. If there had been a cliff to jump over, he would be at the front and everybody would follow."

Even as he rose to the positions of assistant and deputy chief, Mr. Hoobler employed his street-wise savvy in emergencies.

"It wasn't unusual to see him at a major incident, taking over and shouting orders," Fortier said. "He would pick up a mike or put on a gas mask. As a tactician handling crime incidents he was very good."

Mr. Hoobler was in authority during an era of anti-war protests and widespread questioning of police tactics, especially in minority communities. At the time, FBI statistics showed that, overall, crime was increasing 11 times faster than the population.

As chief, he dealt with the first uniformed female police officers, who were assigned to the border check station in San Ysidro. He also was involved in security planning for the 1972 Republican National Convention, which had been scheduled in San Diego but was moved to Miami Beach.

In 1974, a dozen social action groups, anchored by the Coalition on Police Practices, petitioned unsuccessfully for his ouster. The groups, representing minorities, youth and other segments of the community, made such charges as "abuse of power" and "illegal and unconstitutional practices and policies."

Retired District Attorney Ed Miller recalled some of those edgy times.

"Ray would call me sometimes at very late hours to voice his displeasure with decisions I'd made," Miller said. "On the other hand, when he agreed, he agreed vociferously.  Ultimately, at times his emotions got the better of him, and I think that had a lot to do with being replaced.

"But he was a good cop.  Before becoming police chief, he was one of their best investigators."

Larry Gore, a captain under Mr. Hoobler, recalled that his former boss had no fear of alienating those who disagreed with him, regardless of their stripe.

"He always had an opinion on the issue of the day and let you know what it was," Gore said.  "He was blunt, direct and right to the point -- sometimes to a fault."

Gore said that for all his faults Mr. Hoobler deserved a share of credit for the San Diego Police Department's reputation as a leader nationally. "He helped get us there," Gore said. "Screaming at times, but he got us there."

Part of that legacy is attributable to Mr. Hoobler's commitment to strict ethical standards among his troops. "He was strict -- tough on officer standards and training," Gore said.

Mr. Hoobler, a native of Bloomingdale, Ohio, moved to San Diego with his family in 1942 and graduated in 1945 from La Jolla High School.

He served 18 months in the Navy and worked for the Postal Service in La Jolla before joining the Police Department in 1951.

He served seven years as a patrol officer, six years as a sergeant, a year as a lieutenant, three years as a captain and 18 months as an inspector.

Two years after being named assistant chief in 1970, he was promoted to deputy chief, the No. 2 post in the department. He replaced Robert Jauregui, who was demoted by then-City Manager Walter Hahn for accepting free trips to Mexico and Las Vegas.

In working his way through the ranks, Mr. Hoobler earned a degree in police science at San Diego City College. He later earned a master's degree in public administration from National University.

After his resignation, Mr. Hoobler worked 10 years for Atlas Hotels, where he became director of security and corporate vice president.

He became a managing partner for a while of a Mission Hills travel agency. He also served 18 months as executive director of the San Diego Crime Commission and was a former president of the Honorary Deputy Sheriffs Association and the San Diego Hall of Champions.

Divorced from his first wife, Joan Kanzius, in 1993, Mr. Hoobler remarried in July 1994. In October, he and his second wife, Jo Ellen Suter, moved from Rancho Penasquitos to Victorville.

He is survived by his wife; daughters, Cheryl Paul of San Diego and Linda Hartstrom of Sacramento; a son, Jeffrey of Virginia Beach, Va.; stepchildren, Jenny and David Suter of San Diego; a brother, Jon of Snohomish, Wash.; and five grandchildren.