Orange County’s first female deputy recently turned 91, but she wishes she still were a cop.
“I love to protect people,” says the straight-shooting Alice Chandler, who was deputized in 1949 to patrol the Irvine Ranch. “I pretty much do that at my nursing home. I’ve probably gotten maybe five or six staff members fired (for misconduct). The owners really appreciate me being there.”
Chandler celebrated her birthday June 18 with several active and retired deputies and police officers that have embraced her since her historical distinction came to light in August 2016.
They have befriended her, and Chandler – who has no surviving relatives and who never married – considers them family.
Katherine Anderson, a retired Garden Grove PD motor officer, has become best friends with Chandler.
“We meet regularly for breakfast and grocery shopping,” Anderson said.
In a few years, Anderson plans to relocate to Alabama with her family to become a cattle rancher.
“Alice is one of the biggest joys of my life,” said Anderson, who helped organize a group visit in September 2016 to the convalescent home in Corona where Chandler lives. “I’m learning a lot from her. She really is a wealth of knowledge on cattle and horsemanship, and for that I am grateful!”
OCSD Inv. Maria Bowman, who works general investigations in San Juan Capistrano, and Reserve Deputy Susan Huang, who works auto theft investigations for the Traffic Unit in Aliso Viejo, organized Chandler’s birthday party, which included a slide show of vintage photos, memorabilia, sandwiches, and a cake.
Bowman and Huang visited Chandler at her convalescent home with several members of the OCSD’s women’s shooting team.
“Meeting Alice and listening to her life story from how she was raised to the hardships and the highlights was inspiring,” Bowman said. “She truly is and always will be a trailblazer for women and women in law enforcement. She warms my heart and the hearts of all those around her.”
Artemis Defense Institute, a Lake Forest business that trains people how to shoot using realistic training scenarios, hosted the birthday party, whose guests included Sheriff Don Barnes and other members of the OCSD command staff.
The OCSD contracts with Artemis Defense Institute for CCW (carry concealed weapon) training.
Chandler regaled guests with stories of her colorful life, which in one-on-one conversations included off-color quips about her love life (“I’m still a virgin!”) and her comeback line if anyone refers to her with a demeaning epithet for an ill-tempered woman (“If someone calls me a b—-, I tell them, ‘That’s what my dog was’”).
Chandler was 21 when then-Sheriff James Musick summoned her to his office because of her reputation as a fine horsewoman. An hour later, he handed her a badge and told her mother to go buy her a Smith & Wesson handgun.
As a deputy, Chandler’s job was to keep trespassers away from Peter’s Lake, a popular duck hunting and fishing spot that also happened to be James Irvine’s private property.
After a few years as a deputy, Chandler went to work full time, herding cattle, breaking horses, and selling chickens at her family’s stables, Chandler Ranch (now Irvine Park).
Chandler’ other careers included working as a model and a movie extra.
In the 1950s and 1960s, she also flew airplanes after she and her two sisters got their pilot’s licenses at John Wayne Airport.
Chandler loved her time as a deputy going after trespassers and illegal hunters.
“They were scared to death of me,” she said.
“Alice, we still are,” quipped Barnes, who presented Chandler with a declaration and a challenge coin.
Chandler sounded off on today’s anti-law enforcement climate. She said one resident at her convalescent home threatened her when he found out she used to be a cop.
“People should respect officers more today — it hurts me, it really does,” Chandler said. “The newspapers don’t do enough stories to (show) how much you guys sacrifice.
“Not only that, but your families make a lot of sacrifices. When you leave, they don’t know if you’re coming home. It was so wonderful to be a cop and have the guts enough to do it.
“I don’t understand how some people want to be an officer today with it being so unsafe for them and their families. And yet they have the desire to protect people and help people.
“You guys go out with all this courage to help protect other people. And that’s pretty rare. It really, really is. And I love you all.
“Anyway, I’m going to be praying for all of you now.”
Chandler looked around the room and couldn’t stop beaming.
“It’s great having a big family,” she said. “I don’t have any kids, so you can be my kids.”
Lori Basheda contributed to this story.