Peace Officer Memorial Group, Inc.

Officer Harold Harless





Officer Harold B. Harless
Born: November 15, 1922, Socorro, New Mexico
Appointed: July 1, 1957, Riverbank Police Department
EOW: October 17, 1965, Riverbank, Stanislaus County, California
Cause: Vehicle pursuit
At Rest: Oaklawn Memorial Park, Oakdale, Stanislaus County, California


Harold B. Harless was born November 15, 1922 in Socorro, New Mexico to Carrie Brownlow Harless and Mary Katherine (Boulter) Harless. He grew up in Socorro with his older brother Herbert and younger sister Katherine Marion and this was where he received his education.



In Socorro, the handsome Harold met the beautiful Georgia Mae Hollis. On August 26, 1942 they eloped to Las Cruces, New Mexico and were married by a Justice of the Peace.

 


Harold and Georgia had three small sons, Harold (Bill) and twins Lynn and Glynn, when he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. His initial training was done at Fifth Recruit Battalion, Recruit Depot, Marine Barracks, Paris Island, South Carolina in October of 1945.



During his tour of duty, the Harless families moved to Waterford, Stanislaus County, California. When Harold was discharged, he went to California to be with his family.

He worked on the Merriam Ranch in Hughson and also helped his father with his ten acres of almonds. Harold and Georgia were blessed with a daughter, Linda, and a son, Kenneth during this time. He later worked for Norris Industries as a guard and was a Riverbank Reserve Police Officer for five years before joining the department full time in 1957. He left the force for 18 months in 1963 to become a partner in a Riverbank service station operation and then returned to police work.



Harold's greatest joy was his family and he loved fishing, camping and gold panning.

  


Harold and his family lived in several homes in the Riverbank area before they bought property on Topeka Street in 1960.



On October 17, 1965, Officer Harless had just come on-duty at 11:00 PM and checked out a store at the intersection of Palmer Avenue and Patterson Road. Contemporary reports indicate he was turning left from Palmer to go west on Patterson and was unaware that CHP officers were pursuing a suspect who had sideswiped a CHP vehicle minutes before.

As Officer Harless pulled out to turn left, the suspect vehicle smashed into the drivers side of Officer Harless's patrol car at an estimated 80 MPH with, as CHP Officers Ralph Maybee and Tom Munth described, an impact of a "bomb-like explosion". The CHP officers and a citizen were unsuccessful in extricating Officer Harless from the flaming wreckage of his patrol car before it became fully engulfed. Officer Harless was killed instantly in the collision and the suspect was in critical condition and was charged with manslaughter.

The collision occurred less than a block from the home of his parents. Officer Harless was the fifth known officer to die in the line of duty in Stanislaus County. He was laid to rest at Oaklawn Memorial Park in Oakdale, California.



In 1995, the Riverbank Police Department placed a portrait and plaque inside the police department dedicated in honor of Officer Harless.

     

  

On July 19, 2007 a new Riverbank park was also dedicated in his honor.



Officer Harless is honored at the Stanislaus County Peace Officer Memorial in Lakewood Memorial Cemetery, Hughson, California, The California State Peace Officer Memorial in Sacramento, California, and the National Peace Officer Memorial in Washington, D.C., Panel 48-E, Line 6.

We of the Peace Officer Memorial Group are blessed and honored to be able to meet with and talk to the survivors of our officers. It is immediately evident that they come from good stock and we are so very proud to have them in our law enforcement family.