Orange County Sheriff's Museum
The Unique History of
OCSD and Knott's Berry
Russell Knott, the son of founders Walter and Cordelia Knott, was in charge of general administration for the Farm, and as such was responsible for overall security operations. The first Security Chief at Knott’s Berry Farm was Harold Ohmneiss, who took office in September 1951 and reported to Russell Knott. According to Russell’s son Steve, Harold had retired from the Navy and hired many retired Navy servicemen as Knott’s deputies, and that appeared to work well.
An article that appeared in the May 1952 edition of a Knott’s Berry Farm employee newsletter provided an early look at the duties of the Security Officer: “A group with duties as varied as any on the Farm is the staff of Security Officers. Directing traffic, helping to find misplaced children, taking care of minor first aid problems, transferring money, helping guests or employees with automobile problems and dispensing volumes of information to guests are but a few of a security officer’s duties. On Sundays and holidays about ten officers and parking attendants direct the parking of the thousands of cars and operate the tram service to and from the main buildings. With more than 40 acres of parking space this is no small task. On busy days officers are stationed at railroad crossing and trestle as an accident prevention measure. They form an efficient fire department under the direction of fire chief Clyde Finley who also serves as chief of the West Anaheim Volunteer Fire Department. Each week a fire drill is held with practice in fire prevention, checking electrical and gas outlets and drilling with firefighting equipment. Always helpful, courteous and friendly, the security officers do much toward promoting friendly relations and maintaining the smooth operation of the Farm.”
Chief of Security, Harold Ohmneiss. Photo taken in the early 1960s.
By August 1956, the
Knott’s Berry Farm
security force consisted
of 15 men, 14 of whom
patrolled the grounds in
the uniform of the
Orange County Sheriff’s
Department. All the men
were deputized, and by
rank the force consisted
of the Chief, one
Sergeants, and eight
employees were Sgt. Dick
Berry, Bob Cornett, Mark
Everett, Jack Good,
Oliver Hess, Don Hoy,
Frank Marchott, Chief
Harold Ohmneiss, Lt.
Pete Parsley, Sgt.
Wendell Ramsay, Bill
Archie Scott, Sgt. Earle
Skinner, Capt. Don
Stewart, and plain-clothes officers Jim
Wagoner and Carroll
At some point during the 1950s, unarmed security officers were also added to the mix, wearing various types of a casual uniform with a Boysenberry style patch. They were soon known as “berry patchers” because of the uniform patch, and these Knott’s employees had no relationship with the OCSD.
Knott’s Security operated out of a security office located in what today is known as the Marketplace. The office was relocated to inside the amusement park after the entire building was torn down in 1997 to make way for the GhostRider rollercoaster. Hundreds of Deputies and Special Deputies worked as Knott’s employees between the late 1940s and the late 1980s and operated out of the same security office since they were Knott’s employees. There was never any Orange County Sheriff’s substation on the property.
A “Berry Patcher” did not have Deputy Sheriff peace officer powers, wore several varieties of uniforms over the years, and performed duties that did not require a Deputy Sheriff to handle.
Handling traffic control, parking vehicles, and providing directions was a primary job of the security officer/deputy.
Harold Ohmneiss with the Security department six passenger GMC “3 door pickup truck” placed into service in 1961 and used as the primary patrol vehicle.
Walter and Cordelia’s grandson Steve Knott, seen here in 1963. Steve attended the Orange County Sheriff’s police academy in 1962 and would later serve as Director of Security when Chief Harold Ohmneiss retired in the mid-60’s.
The article below was published in 1963 in the Orange County Peace Officers 38th Annual Book and provides a glimpse into early 1960s Knott’s Berry Farm Security operations.
Knott’s Berry Farm’s Security Department consists of approximately 90 employees, 34 of whom are commissioned Orange County Special Deputy Sheriffs. They are governed by the rules and regulations set forth in the Orange County Sheriff’s manual regarding wearing apparel and the high standard of personal conduct and public relations for which the Sheriff’s Department is noted. We participate in the Orange County Basic Training Classes for Police Officers at Orange Coast College in addition to training classes held here at the Farm.
This Department maintains traffic control on perimeter streets and on the 230 acres of restaurant and amusement park area. Each foot officer is equipped with a 2-way “Handi Talkie” radio with direct communications with three patrol cars, a base station and several electric carts which are used in directing traffic. These radios are an invaluable aid to us in our many other duties, such as re-uniting lost parents with their children and responding to First Aid calls, plus general control of the grounds.
Other responsibilities of this Department are the maintenance of a First Aid Station staffed by two registered nurses, the cleanliness of grounds and restrooms, protection of guests’ autos while they are visiting the Farm, and also prevention and suppression of fire.
This Department has always had a very close association with surrounding cities’ Police Departments and with our own Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Knott’s Berry Farm’s version of a Security Officer is “a good public relations man as well as a man well trained in police work.” Ninety-eight percent of our personnel are retired Service men who received training in the Services which has given them a good background of stability, good public relations and the ability to handle people properly.
Knott’s continued to have a good working relationship with Sheriff Brad Gates, who took office in 1975; however, as time moved on, it was becoming clear that the urban Orange County of today no longer needed the Special Deputy program. By the late 1980s the program was phased out completely, not only at Knott’s Berry Farm, but countywide. From that point forward, Knott’s has only had un-armed security officers with no relationship to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and as such ending a most interesting relationship between the OCSD and Knott’s Berry Farm.
History of the Deputy Uniform and Uniform Patch
There were three versions of the Deputy uniform and patch used throughout the history of Knott’s Security.
worn by the
deputies was the
same patch worn
by an Orange
sheriff on the
to Knott’s were
first in the
1100 series, and
needed, the 1400
a regular deputy
had elements of
color in the
of a uniform.
In the early 1980s, the Special Deputy uniform changed to a khaki shirt and green pants, and the patch changed to the words Special Deputy on the top and nothing on the bottom.
Use of Two-Way Radios at Knott’s Berry Farm
In the 1940s and 1950s, before two-way radios were utilized at Knott’s Berry Farm, the Security Office would receive a call for service and use the public-address system to alert the deputy by making a generic announcement. This was the same PA System used to let visitors know that their table was ready at Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant! Upon hearing the announcement, the deputy would find the nearest telephone and call the office to receive details of the call. Once the call was completed, the deputy would again telephone the office and provide a disposition.
In 1955 an Orange County law enforcement VHF low band base station radio was installed inside the Security Office. This radio was programmed with the Orange County Sheriff, and later Buena Park Police channels, allowing for Knott’s Security to monitor and transmit, if necessary, with these agencies. The radio provided situational awareness for Knott’s, who would relay appropriate information to the Knott’s deputies. A law enforcement VHF low band mobile radio was also installed inside the primary patrol vehicle, with the same programming as the base station radio. Both radios were removed from service in the 1970s when Orange County law enforcement transitioned to a new UHF radio system. It was not until 1980 when one law enforcement UHF Motorola MT500 portable radio was provided to Knott’s by Buena Park Police, and it was carried by the mobile patrol deputy. This radio was programmed with Red, White, Blue, Orange North, Orange South, and Buena Park Green, and it was the Green Channel that was normally monitored by Knott’s Security. When the Special Deputy program was disbanded, the radio was no longer utilized at Knott’s.
Knott’s was licensed on one business band VHF simplex channel in 1960, becoming the first “two-way radio system” deployed specifically for Knott’s personnel. This one channel was used primarily by Security, First Aid, and Parking Control for the first 10 years, with additional channels added in the 1970s and beyond for other park operations. The Knott’s dispatcher was known as “Station-K” on both the law enforcement and business radio channels.
Chief of Security Harold Ohmneiss using the VHF low band law enforcement radio in 1955.
Knott’s Deputy Archie Scott using the first field radio deployed at Knott’s. This radio was the Motorola Handi-Talkie, operating on a business frequency obtained by Knott’s in 1960.
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