Beder Clifton

Obituary: Beder Clifton was tough cop, loving family man and friend

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4B

Beder Clifton, a veteran Sacramento police detective whose tenaciousness and investigative skills led to arrests in major drug cases, died Sept. 20 with Alzheimer's disease, his family said. He was 74.

Mr. Clifton devoted most of his 30 years at the Sacramento Police Department to fighting drug dealers. He started in 1961 and gained an early reputation for making serious felony arrests.

Promoted to sergeant in 1970, he worked in investigations before joining the narcotics division. He cultivated informants, spent long hours on surveillance and gathered critical information for obtaining search warrants. He helped organize many joint-agency task forces to investigate and prosecute drug cases.

"He ate, drank and slept police work," said his former police partner Hal O'Kane, a retired captain. "He strove for perfection in every aspect of investigation."

Although joint-agency operations included other local, state and federal officers, Mr. Clifton was "the dean of narcotics enforcement officers in Sacramento County," according to a tribute at his 1991 retirement from U.S. Rep. Robert T. Matsui, D-Sacramento.

He played a key role in the arrests of Surawat Assawamatiyanont and Willie Dale Smith, who were accused in a conspiracy during the late 1970s of importing and distributing massive amounts of heroin.

He was involved in the 1973 arrest of Ron Launius, who was convicted of drug smuggling and was suspected in related killings. He recalled Launius as "one of the coldest people I ever met" after Launius was killed with a group of drug dealers in the notorious Laurel Canyon slayings in Los Angeles in 1981.

Born in 1938 in Oakland, Beder Coleman Clifton moved with his family to Sacramento and grew up in the Curtis Park neighborhood. He served in the Navy in the Philippines after graduating from McClatchy High School and attended Sacramento City and Sacramento State colleges.

He married Constance H. Sullivan in 1969 and had three children. He also had two children from an earlier marriage that ended in divorce.

Mr. Clifton often used his vacation time to earn extra money for his family with Cal Expo police during the California State Fair. After retiring from the Sacramento Police Department, he spent several years as an investigator for the state Department of Insurance and the Sacramento County district attorney.

A tough-looking guy with a thick moustache and beard, he was a no-nonsense cop who wasn't afraid to ruffle feathers. His grandchildren playfully called him "Grumpy." But friends knew the facade masked "someone who would give you the shirt off his back," O'Kane said.

Devoted to his family, Mr. Clifton always made time to attend his children's sports activities. He enjoyed cooking huge family breakfasts on weekends and often experimented with new Chinese and Mexican dinners.

"If you didn't know him, you were intimidated," said his daughter Renee Clifton. "But everyone who knew my dad loved him. If you needed anything, he was always there for you."

Beder Clifton

Born: July 29, 1938

Died: Sept. 20, 2012

Survived by: Wife, Constance Clifton of Fair Oaks; daughters, Sherlyn Clifton, Renee Clifton of Corrales, N.M., and Monique Clifton of Citrus Heights; sons, Bradley Clifton of Riverside, and Ron Clifton of Escalon; sisters, Jennie Brown of Portland, Ore., and Adelaide Owens of Sacramento; five grandchildren

Services: 11:30 a.m. Saturday at East Lawn Memorial Park, 4300 Folsom Blvd., Sacramento

Remembrances: Donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, P.O. Box 96011, Washington, D.C. 20090.

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