The Hot Sheet

Bi-monthly Newsletter No. 19
September/October 2006

Public Servants and Private Eyes

By: Glynn Martin Executive Director

Parker, Gates, Brown, St. John. LAPD legends, the lot. Each an officer whose service to the City of Los Angeles spanned entire eras of local history. As such, there was no time for a second career. No chance to excel at another calling, and no need to either as decades later their places in LAPD lore remain secure. This was a class of officer whose life work was law enforcement in the city of angels, an important class, surely, but not the only one. There are others who secured their places in history away from the job. For more information, see inside. Some did it in retirement. Think Ed Davis and Tom Bradley. Both went on to make political history. Buildings and parks share their names. Others continued their service as police commissioners. Jim Fiske and Jesse Brewer are two who served. A couple more now sit as councilmen. Their legacy remains a work in progress. oct_06_2

Nick Harris (center) left LAPD to run a private investigation firm (note sign from Witherell kidnapping).

All of these folks, served full careers. How about those that didn’t. What about those that made mid-career changes. We’ve had a few. Gene Roddenberry undoubtedly leads this list. He didn’t leave us for another Department, he left us for another galaxy. No one expects to see a Roddenberry park, building or airline terminal. Don’t rule out a space station or a comet field, though. This LAPD star shined brighter after he left the Department. He isn’t the only one. Some other career changers to consider; Buck Compton, Joseph Wambaugh, Barry Levin and Nick Harris. An interesting array of people whose successes at the department preceded successes elsewhere. Consider one of the “Band of Brothers” who ultimately served as an appellate court justice. Consider one that defended the defenders of the thin blue line. Consider a best selling author. And how about a private eye, known as California’s Sherlock Holmes, whose business is now more than 100 years old. They all made it after taking

What’s Happening at

Old Number 11

By: Glynn Martin Executive Director

We should probably start by talking about our cover photo, as this represents a notable donation we recently received. And it came from one of our other legendary lawmen, Jack Halstead. Directors Tom Hays and Art Sjoquist recently accepted a significant donation of material from deep in our past. Included was a boxful of wonderful photos, including a series of photos depicting Nick Harris doing his private eye work during the twenties. In the same photo box, we found an album of 1903 LAPD officers. This was a very generous and thoughtful donation for which we will always be indebted to Jack. Lt. Halstead has not been the only Jack in our thoughts lately. On September 9, we hosted our thirteenth annual Jack Webb Awards dinner at the Sheraton Universal. We honored four distinguished community members, Cynthia Brown, Russ Colvin, Johnny Grant and Michael Connelly. Our distinguished guests included Chief and Mrs. Bratton, Sheriff Baca, District Attorney Steve Cooley, and Chief Daryl Gates. We were also honored to have Kent McCord and Mrs. Opal Webb. Director Danny Staggs assembled a great program which was well received by all in attendance. Another of our well-received undertakings was our museum exhibit at the County Fair. Thousands upon thousands made their way through our exhibit space. Some stopped to climb aboard our newest acquisition, the Peacekeeper. The 1978 Plymouth Fury started more than a few conversations among fairgoers. Our staff, volunteers and Directors Dave Dalton and Dallas Binger pitched in to staff the exhibit, and ensure another success. As far as museum business goes, well, we have suspended operations for a bit to accommodate the taping of a television pilot. The building has been rented for the entire month of October to create a two-hour production based on present day police work. The various spaces of the museum have been made up to appear as an active police station. This is a great fund-raising opportunity for the museum. We ask everyone’s indulgence while this goes on.

oct_06_2 His newest book will be on sale, and the author will be on hand to talk about the book and autograph copies for his readers. We continue to support many Department events. We recently taught history classes to citizens’ academies in West Bureau and Valley Bureau. Vehicles from the historical society fleet have recently appeared at the ALERT conference, the 10-4 parade, and a number of other functions including recruitment events. We have also been working with Air Support as they prepare to celebrate 50 years of rotary wing flight. We are proud to support all of these worthy events. As we support these, we sometimes receive some notable support. A generous donation worthy of a great amount of thanks came our way recently. Reserve Officer Terry Kosaka made a substantial donation that we thank him for. It is the thoughtfulness of donors like Terry and Jack Halstead that help us present the great history of the LAPD.

Public Servants and Private Eyes

continued from page 1
an early exit from the LAPD. Undoubtedly proud of their law enforcement roots, this interesting collective of one-time cops have both written and been written about. Some have done legal writing and some have literature to their credit. Most of them served through the latter part of the 20th century. One of them served at the turn of the century, and for the past century has offered detective work to the private sector. Nick Harris came to the department with quite a story of his own. Harris was a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times in the early 1900s. While covering his news beat, Harris was credited with solving, or assisting with the solution of a number of crimes. At the urging of Captain A.J. Bradish, Harris joined the department, but only held on for about two years. Harris struck out on his own, forming the Nick Harris Detective Agency in 1906. Interest in the private eye business was brisk. The Nick Harris Professional Detective School was formed the following year. Training to be a PI pre-dated the Department’s own formalized training by many years. Harris worked as both investigator and instructor as his business grew. One of the investigations he undertook brought home a Detective Agency great notoriety.

Early into the roaring twenties the wife of a prominent banker was held for ransom by a pair of cousins. The much publicized Witherell case involved the top echelons of the department who mobilized its resources in an effort to ensure the safe return of the victim. As the tips flooded in, much time was spent following-up empty leads. The sheriff’s department lent its assistance. Phone traces led to the capture of one of the abductors. After a lengthy pre-Miranda interrogation, the location of Mrs. Gladys Witherell and her captor was revealed. Nick Harris along with members of the LAPD and LASD stormed the Corona Hills hideaway, rescuing Mrs. Witherell and arresting her captor. The Witherell case was but one of a number of cases that kept the Nick Harris Detective Agency in the headlines during the twenties and thirties. Harris’ popularity in law enforcement work, albeit private, prompted a run for Mayor in 1929. His aim to rid Los Angeles of outlawry, we now know was ill-timed. Harris didn’t win. It wasn’t until some decades later that a former LAPD officer would be elected Mayor.
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