Bi-monthly Newsletter No. 33 January/February 2009


From a Century ago
The “Speed Squad” Turns 100

“There is no group of men whose constant work and every day routine calls in like measure for constant alertness, absolute coordination of mind and muscle; there is no other group within the Police Department whose constant devotion to duty has called forth such an amazing list of heroic deeds most of which have gone unnoticed and unsung.”

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Forties Motor Officer James Barrick
and his Harley

This passage appears in a small, undated pamphlet stumping for an increase in the size of the motorcycle contingent of the LAPD. It appears to be written in the mid to late 1920s and offers ample evidence to support such an expansion. The typewritten booklet has no appearance of being an official publication of the Department. Still, it contains artfully written passages relative to the use of motorcycles engaged in traffic enforcement.

The pages of this newsletter cannot fully detail the use of motors in LAPD history. The chapters of this story are entirely too lengthy and pleasantly colorful. Given the inability to share a linear history of this aspect of LAPD operations, it seems fitting to share some of the earliest known writings relative to motor service. The most recent WTD motor inspection provides the backdrop against which we can share some of LAPM’s then and now photos, they can be found on pages three and four. Some of the interesting passages from the LAPM files start here:

“Los Angeles, Cal, Oct. 10th. 1905.” The Board of Police Commissioners met today at 8:30 A.M… The Captain and Acting Chief recommending the purchase of two motorcycles to be used in catching

offenders of the speed ordinance covering the running of automobiles and motorcycles, upon motion it was ordered that the suggestion of the Captain and Acting Chief be adopted and that two motorcycles of the best and most approved pattern, together with appliances for noting speed at which vehicles travel in order to prove clearly a violation of the law, be purchased…

With the unanimous approval of this motion the motorcycle service of the Los Angeles Police Department was born. Within short order two Indian motorcycles were received, and almost immediately, their usefulness was acknowledged. The 1906 annual report, which was filed only months after the acquisition of the first two bikes, recommends the purchase of six more. Motor enforcement, it seems, was off to a roaring start.

The success of the early motor officers resulted in the 1909 formation of the speed squad. This detail is the predecessor of today’s organized motorcycle traffic enforcement efforts. While using motorcycles to enforce traffic laws, the Department clearly found an additional use for these machines.

By 1912, “call motorcycles,” were being used to respond to crime and service needs in the outlying areas of the City. Substations were opened in various areas to house the call cycles. Their success was logged in the 1913 annual report which reads, “This call motorcycle service has proved a great protection to outlying districts, where it has been made possible to have a motorcycle officer respond to a call and arrive at the scene of any disturbance within a very few minutes.” This early, alternative, use for motors most nearly equates to the rapid response teams of today.

The history of motorcycle officers in this city, and throughout the years, has included the ranks of talented men and women. Hazardous duty it is and always has been. It is our privilege to share these tidbits of your collective history in recognition of the important anniversary all of you will celebrate in the coming months. Congratulations on 100 years of dedicated service!


What’s Happening at
Old Number 11

By: Glynn Martin
Executive Director

So much of the early part of this year has been spent contemplating the previous 140 years. It is indeed a landmark time both for the Historical Society and the LAPD. Already this year, the Department has opened two new buildings. Station houses now number 21. A far cry from where this force started in 1869. This is going to be a year which sees not just history, but historic changes in the police department as more new and remodeled facilities are due to open than at any other time. Undoubtedly the centerpiece of all of this construction will be the unveiling of the new police headquarters building.

Scheduled for fall completion, the new building will be just to the east of the Los Angeles Times. It is a good position to monitor what is going on with that outfit. Unfortunately, this has been the Historical Society’s charge in the early days of 2009. LAPD history, most assuredly is alive, well, and intact at the Historical Society. The story at the Times, however, appears to be quite different. At least one important chapter of LAPD history was the subject of a Times re-write.

In a January 21st op/ed piece, Tim Rutten claimed Chief William H. Parker was a racist. At the urging of retired Chief Daryl Gates, the Historical Society began its efforts to set the record straight. After much haggling, a response from the Historical Society appeared in the Blowback section of the Times web page. Many others who were also acquainted with the accurate version of this story weighed in either online or via e-mail. We thank those that took the time to join us in our endeavor to correct the slight aimed at Chief Parker and the Department. For reference, the response is included on page 5.

Outside of our record-correcting exercises, the Historical Society has been busy mapping out the year, both in terms of Historical Society activities and events and in terms of lending assistance to the Department. First on the list was a panel discussion held at Cal Tech following the screening of “He Walked by Night.” This 1948 film inspired JackWebb to take LAPD to the airwaves. The following year, Dragnet was heard for the first time on radio. Now, some sixty years later, Sgt. Friday will be honored on a commemorative stamp. Look for it in August.

museum
Back here at the museum, we are busily preparing for the 20th edition of Museums of the Arroyo day. This May 17th event offers free admission to the LAPM museum and five other museums in the area. Free shuttle buses will link the facilities during the event.

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In keeping with the theme, even that day is one of Historical significance. Although we will celebrate it as Museums of the Arroyo day, the day also stands as the 35th anniversary of the SLA shootout. It is our hope to have the SLA exhibit opened by that time, so our current exhibit advancement efforts have been pointed in that direction.

This isn’t the only project under development, however. A working drawing of a storage building and vehicle shelter was recently created by Architect Les Lippich. In the coming months we will be moving forward with blueprints, and hopefully construction of this addition to the LAPM property. These improvements will allow us to better care for our rolling stock, and provide much needed storage space for some of the LAPM holdings.

A new addition to our holdings was recently brought in by Ad Vice alumni Doug Monteith and Russ Butts. The large hand-painted seal, created by Bill Westerman, was recently donated. It is a striking addition to the museum.

Finally, we know this will be the first Hot Sheet to reach our new members. For those of you that have responded to the Blue Line membership drive, or the outreach from Directors Keith Bushey and Carl Frank, welcome aboard, and thank you. LAPM also welcomes retired Lt. Mike DeCoudres and Samantha Stern, two welcome and talented additions to the museum staff.

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LAPM Response to the LA Times

It is truly sad that in his otherwise insightful Jan. 21 Op-Ed column about the progress of the Los Angeles Police Department, Tim Rutten needlessly labels iconic former Chief William H. Parker as a racist. Like many things in life, history is open to interpretation. Rewriting history, however, is a different pursuit entirely. It is from this standpoint that I take great exception with Rutten’s claim that Parker, who was LAPD chief from 1950-66, “stands exposed as the racist he was.”

While I struggle with this declaration, I certainly recognize that Rutten is entitled to an opinion. But his is a perspective that is not supported by history. The same is true of some of Rutten’s other claims about the diversity of the Los Angeles Police Department.

It is true that the LAPD is more diverse than it has ever been. Chief William J. Bratton has effectively delivered on this promise to Los Angeles, and credit is due to him for this accomplishment. History will show that he is indeed a tremendous innovator, an accomplished leader and the right person to guide the LAPD now.

History also shows that the chief has not been alone in his personnel endeavors. When the LAPD shifted to a paid police force in 1869, a Latino officer stood in its ranks; another joined a short while later. The LAPD hired its first African American officer more than 120 years ago, when other police agencies were not inclined to do so. And it’s been nearly 100 years since the LAPD hired its first female officer. Simply put, the LAPD’s diversity dates to its early years. Certainly things have changed in modern times, and Bratton has nobly embraced that change. But Rutten slights a whole series of past chiefs who also pursued the goal of racial diversity within the ranks of the LAPD.

Where would this movement be had Parker not desegregated the LAPD? Under Parker, African American officers were transferred to stations where they had never served before. This fact seems to be overlooked often, particularly by those who are quick to point a finger at Parker. Indeed,

like Bratton, Parker was the right chief at the right time. This was and is known, not just here in the City of Angels but throughout the country. Parker implemented a successful model of policing that we now know had some unintended consequences. His “professional” model of policing grew out of the historically small size of the department in comparison to other big cities. There weren’t enough cops to go around, so Parker sought a model of efficiency – in this case, military efficiency – as a means of service delivery. Unfortunately, race relations in some quarters soured. This was neither unique to Parker nor the city; it was a product of the times. Regrettably, the model insulated officers from their communities more than we cared to admit at the time. But nobody knew this then. Parker was sailing in uncharted waters. His model worked in terms of fomenting the necessary reforms that ultimately brought the LAPD onto the national stage. Parker was often consulted by other police chiefs and politicians across the country, and he was arguably the most wellknown law enforcement official in the U.S. after then- FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

Those who knew Parker, many of whom I have had the pleasure of speaking to, do not identify the chief as a racist. He faced the challenges of his time, and if he were a racist, we would have known by now. Undoubtedly, Angelenos had time to decide what Parker’s legacy would be, and a few years after he died in 1966, they named the police headquarters in his honor. I don’t interpret this gesture as the condemnation a racist would deserve.

Yes, there are old television news clips that show Parker using terms that we today consider racially insensitive. Parker’s words were the words of his time, a vastly different time in American social and cultural history and a period of profound change. For reference, look at the front-page banner headline of a Times edition published during the 1965 Watts Riots: “Negro Riots Rage on; Death Toll 23.” History won’t condemn The Times, its reporter or its publisher as racist. Such an undertaking would be an attempt at revisionist history. Yet the man who reformed the LAPD, who was wounded in combat in service to his country and then died in office while serving this city, is not afforded equal treatment.