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Madera police chief demoted twice

Madera County Historical Society

Madera’s police force lined up for this photo in 1930. Second from the left is Walter Thomas, who was soon to become Chief. In the 1950s, Thomas encountered some political opposition and was demoted twice — once in 1950 and once in 1957. The lad in the middle is Thomas’ son.


It appears that petty politics finally got Walter Thomas. The Madera Police Chief was demoted in August of 1957 to Assistant Chief. After almost 30 years at the helm of the department, he acquiesced in the face of the political machinations of a few elected officials. On the surface, it looked like a raw deal, but it didn’t fluster Chief Thomas. After all, he had been through it once before. This was the second time the rug had been pulled from under him.

It is difficult to determine just when the political opposition to Chief Thomas began to coalesce. The record shows that by 1950, some members of the City Council began to cast baleful eyes his way. By late fall the political climate grew stormy, and on Nov. 6, 1950, the Madera City Council voted to relieve Chief Thomas of his position and replace him with Mike Elliott, a highly touted “boy wonder” from Oregon. Thomas was kept on as assistant chief.

The ostensible reason for Thomas’ shabby treatment was a desire on the part of the City Fathers to “modernize” the police department, but within 18 hours of their removal of the Chief, they had to reinstate him. It seems that “Boy Wonder” wasn’t all that he had claimed to be.



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