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The Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms Office was established at the first meeting of the California State Assembly on December 15, 1849 at what was then called "Pueblo De San Jose". House Speaker Thomas J. White appointed Samuel N. Houston as the first Sergeant-at-Arms. He was assigned three specific duties; maintaining decorum, bringing absent members into the chambers, and providing security for the members of the Assembly. Mr. Houston was allowed to employ one deputy.
The duties of the Sergeant-at-Arms have expanded greatly since that day; however, the primary responsibility of providing security for the members of the State Assembly remains the same. The Chief Sergeant-at-Arms is an officer of the Assembly with law enforcement, protocol, and administrative responsibilities (Assembly House Rule 33). The Chief Sergeant-at-Arms is elected by the Assembly Members every 2 years.
Today's Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms Office (headed by Chief Sergeant Bryon G. Gustafson, Ph.D.) employs over 50 professional individuals, in which half are highly trained peace officers. The Sergeant-at-Arms Office provides a safe and secure environment in the Capitol Complex or anywhere in the state where the business of the Legislature may be conducted. Through custom and practice, the Sergeant-at-Arms performs a number of protocol and ceremonial duties. These include Joint Conventions such as the State of the State Address and formal visits from foreign dignitaries to the California State Assembly.