|Birth: ||Aug. 6, 1914|
|Death: ||Oct. 9, 2003|
Article published Oct 10, 2003
Longtime police chief Alvarez dies
OCALA - Long after he retired from the Ocala Police Department in 1974, Kenneth C. Alvarez was still "The Chief" to many who had worked closely with him.
Alvarez - who served for 36 years in the department, including 23 years as chief of police - died Thursday morning at age 89.
He was born in Jacksonville on Aug. 6, 1914, and traced his Florida roots to Spanish colonists. He became an Ocala resident in 1926 and a policeman in 1935 while at Camp Roosevelt working for the federal government.
He joined the Ocala Police Department on June 1, 1938. He was promoted to sergeant in 1942, to lieutenant in 1943, and to assistant chief in 1951. He became chief of police on April 1, 1952, and remained in that position until he retired on Sept. 30, 1974.
"He was a super officer, a super gentleman, a super chief," said Gene Andrews, who served with him from 1958 to 1961, before leaving to join the Marion County Sheriff's Office. "He was a big believer in FBI training. About once a month he would bring someone down from the FBI office in Jacksonville for training."
In 1973, Alvarez hired a rookie patrolman named Morrey Deen. Deen went on to become Ocala police chief, serving from 1995 to 2002.
"He was a tremendous influence on me," Deen said. "He was very instrumental in starting the Police Recruit Academy . . . He took the first steps toward bringing professionalism to Florida police departments, in which Florida has become one of the nation's leaders. He was designing forms for inputting data into computers years ago."
Andrews said: "He was a man with a bright future - ideas of where police departments should be going. He instilled detailed recordkeeping. He was strict, big on appearance - on how we conducted ourselves and on traffic enforcement."
Alvarez was fortunate to see much of what he started come to fruition.
"A lot of what he started wasn't implemented until after he retired," Deen said. "It meant a lot to him to see the transition."
Through the years, Alvarez became skilled at handling the political aspects of the job.
"He was a very capable chief in a highly-charged political atmosphere," said David Cook, a former Star-Banner editor, who covered the Police Department in the 1950s. "Despite that, he was able to maintain an excellent department - to keep it on a steady course despite the pressures."
Because the city charter requires the police chief to report directly to the mayor, the position very often became the source of political conflict between the mayor and the city manager.
"It was understandable," Cook said. "The city manager was charged with developing a budget and setting the tax rate, but the Police Department was not under his control."
In most cases, Alvarez managed to stay above the turmoil.
"Sometimes it was pure politics, very vicious at times," Cook said. "He learned for years how to survive, how to withstand those pressures."
In most respects, Alvarez not only survived, he thrived.
"He was a very efficient administrator and a capable officer," Cook said. "He was well-liked, which was another secret of his longevity. Even his political opponents liked him. He was a man who made a lot of friends."
"He was a hard-nosed law enforcement man," said former Star-Banner City Editor Al Lee, who met Alvarez when he moved here in 1960. "He was loyal to his staff - about five people at that time - and he frequently gave them pep talks."
Alvarez became unhappy with a system that he felt was too lenient with criminals.
"His slogan was, 'There is no justice in criminal justice' - which some may take the wrong way," Lee said. "He was very open to the news media - talking with us or getting public records."
Alvarez was also an innovative leader - instrumental in starting the criminal justice degree program at Central Florida Community College.
"He started a training program for the department when there were very few programs like it in the state," Lee said. "He started it in Ocala and it worked quite well." The innovation and training programs established by Alvarez helped Ocala avoid many problems when racial strife threatened to divide the country in the 1960s.
"Ocala was blessed to have him during that time," said Jim Kirk, a former city councilman who served as mayor from 1966-70, and again from 1974-1976. "He was a force that was never recognized, the defining force in keeping the peace when the rest of the country was in turmoil. It was his vision - we already had women and blacks on the force - not by design, because it was his nature to pick the right people for the job.
"We avoided a lot of problems because of his vision . . . that was the legacy of Kenneth Alvarez," Kirk said.
Alvarez was an unsung hero, Kirk said. "I think a lot about those times. He was very instrumental in keeping this community safe and secure when there was burning and looting around the country. He was the biggest part of why this community came through safely. I know he was proud of that. I learned a lot from him. He had a way of staying calm in critical situations.
"We never had to call out the National Guard. People liked the way he handled problems."
City law enforcement was a hard-work, low-pay job in the 1950s and 1960s. Despite the problems, Alvarez maintained a well-trained, well-disciplined department.
"He operated with the most meager of budgets," Cook said. "It was a tough existence but he survived it. . . . He loved the community and the people in it."
"Chief Alvarez was chief of police when I was elected mayor in 1970," said Circuit Judge William Swigert. "He was the epitome of a competent, well-informed, efficient police chief. He was a personal friend, a trusted adviser on police matters and truly an officer and a gentleman."
"All of the mayors who worked with him learned a lot," added Kirk. "I respected him and came to love him like a brother. He was a good man who did a great job."
Alvarez is survived by his wife, Maude Alvarez, of Ocala; sons, Kenneth Alvarez Jr., of Sarasota, and Richard Alvarez, of Blacksburg, Va.; sister, Marion Rosenberger, of Gainesville; brother, Donald Alvarez, of Ocala; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Article published Oct 12, 2003
Community will miss Alvarez
Those who best knew longtime Ocala police chief Kenneth C. Alvarez remember a man who was a progressive and passionate lawman, a caring and committed citizen and an uncommon leader who stood above the crowd.
"He was the epitome of a competent, well-informed, efficient police chief," Circuit Judge William Swigert - who was Alvarez's boss when he was Ocala's mayor in the early 1970s - told the Star-Banner. "He was a personal friend, a trusted adviser on police matters and truly an officer and a gentleman."
Not surprisingly, sentiments such as Swigert's have been echoing throughout our community since Alvarez died Thursday in Ocala at age 89. You see, those who worked with Alvarez, who witnessed his ground-breaking approach to police work, who felt their lives and careers shaped by his example say they are better people for having known the man many called "The Chief" until the end.
Alvarez, indeed, made his mark many times over in our community and, ultimately, on the statewide stage. He joined the Ocala Police Department in 1938 and became chief of police in 1952. Over the next 22 years of his reign as chief, Alvarez left an indelible mark on his city and the nature of law enforcement work across the state.
This was a man, for example, who was a principal creator of the Legislature's 1967 Criminal Justice Standards and Training Act, Florida's first law setting minimum standards of police training and education. This was a man whose commitment to making his own force better educated and better prepared to fight crime led to the establishment of the criminal justice degree program at Central Florida Community College.
"He is somewhat of an institution in the state," Alvarez's protege and successor, Lee McGehee, said in a 1990 interview.
But it was here at home where Alvarez's impact earned the respect and reverence with which he is now being remembered.
Long before helping establish statewide standards, Alvarez was instilling the importance of training and education into his small but growing department. He had some old-fashioned values like demanding a spit-and-polish appearance from his officers, as well as spit-and-polish public conduct. But Alvarez, who retired in 1974, also was way ahead of his time, experimenting with automated record-keeping long before most people knew what a computer was and bringing FBI trainers to his department on an annual basis.
Socially, Alvarez, again, set the bar. While the rest of the nation, and particularly the South, was wrestling with the ideas of integration and diversity in organizations, Alvarez had black officers and female officers on his force.
And while much of the South exploded in turmoil during the coming of civil rights and the breaking down of racial barriers, the transition in Ocala was relatively smooth and uneventful. Many credit Alvarez's disarming leadership by example for that.
"Ocala was blessed to have him during that time," said Jim Kirk, who was Ocala mayor during the period of widespread desegregation. "He was a force that was never recognized, the defining force in keeping the peace when the rest of the country was in turmoil. It was his vision - we already had women and blacks on the force - not by design, but because it was his nature to pick the right people."
Along the way, Alvarez touched dozens of local and state organizations from the Salvation Army and Exchange Club to the North Florida Council of Boy Scouts and the governor's Police Standards Council.
He will be publicly remembered with a visitation today from 3-6 p.m. at Hiers Funeral Home in Ocala. The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at First Baptist Church in Ocala.
Alvarez will always be remembered as a great police chief, but he also lived by his words, faithfully serving his community as "an adviser to the young, an arbitrator of disputes, a father confessor, a social worker, a teacher, and most of all, a concerned citizen."
That was Kenneth C. Alvarez, an officer and a gentleman who will be missed
Created by: Teresa
Record added: Aug 01, 2008
Find A Grave Memorial# 28696495