The Los Angeles Police Department has officially bid farewell to its Parker Center headquarters at 150 N. Los Angeles Street and will soon occupy a new ten-story administration building at First and Spring Streets in downtown L.A. Chief Bratton very graciously invited retired command staff to attend a tour of the new building and take a last nostalgic look at what remains of Parker Center. It was an eye-opening event in many respects. There’s no denying the new structure is impressive both in size and technological advances, but with everything that’s been gained something irreplaceable has been lost. From a writer’s perspective, I can’t help but feel if the walls at PAB could talk there’d be enough material there for at least a hundred good books. The new building is your basic gerbil warehouse motif with a network of long sterile hallways and cubicle space for everyone from clerk typists to the commanding officers…the higher the rank the bigger the cubicle – civil service nirvana with no danger of fascinating, outrageous stuff going on behind closed doors. Not much chance of that happening these days anyway. In this era of political correctness and robotic professionalism, the survival rate for command mavericks is very low. Every department leader seems to have had a revelation sometime within the last seven years that police work can’t be accomplished without the social service component. Police officers are by nature do-gooders. We want to assist and will hold out a helping hand to anyone who needs it as quickly as we’d pull out the handcuffs. For that matter, community policing is not a new concept. It goes back to Ed Davis, and it’s irritating to see an organization become like Stepford wives to do what it has always done. The social consciousness of the department mirrors the world around it. Officers come from the general population and as tolerance grows in the community the LAPD reflects that change in its ranks and philosophy. The fear of being an individual appears to be the only prejudice that thrives in today’s policing force. How long I wonder would an independent thinker survive in this new environment. More impressive than the new police building was the collection of retired staff and command officers who attended the tour. Although a number of the active officers including Chief Bratton bragged about the state-of-the-art hi-tech in the new headquarters, no one thought to make simple name tags for the attendees. Too bad. I knew a lot of those men and women, chiefs, commanders, innovators and individual leaders who held the reins of power for many years, making the rules, fighting the battles, making mistakes, for sure, but keeping the LAPD the best police department in the world. Some had been retired a long time and weren’t easily recognized. It would have been nice to know who they were. Some should have been acknowledged by the chief of police but weren’t. Their contributions deserved better, but the oversight wasn’t all that surprising. The LAPD’s greatness is founded in its history. The future is important but it’s critical to remember the past and honor those who served and led. There are few left who can or are willing to do that. That’s the saddest part about leaving Parker Center. The new LAPD headquarters is symbolic of the redefined role of policing in LA…it’s big, nondescript, and historical perspective and individuality are not encouraged within its labyrinth of corridors. The new chief will come from inside the department, but he can’t think like an insider or for that matter think at all. He must criticize the old and promise to follow the path of his predecessor or there’s not much chance he’ll get or keep the job. Maybe this kind of department is more efficient, but I’ll wager it isn’t as motivated as the one I remember. Inspiration goes a long way in creating greatness. Bratton was a capable manager. Parker inspired.
It seems as if there’s always something on the nightly news or the morning papers that reminds me just how difficult it is to be a police officer in today’s politically correct climate. Recently, the President of the United States called a Cambridge police sergeant stupid for doing his job and essentially equated the sergeant’s reasonable behavior with that of a foolish, out-of-control professor. Several weeks ago, I read an editorial in the L.A. Times by one of the paper’s regular contributors who may have surpassed both the professor and the president of the United States in allowing prejudice to cloud her judgment. “All the colors that make blue” was a piece by Sandy Banks. She had attended a graduation at the Los Angeles Police Academy and was gushing about her delight in what the L.A. police department had become. Banks saw racial and ethnic diversity and the ability to deal with people as some new kind of policing. She had this revelation while “passing down the row of cadets, checking the ‘function and lubrication’ of each graduate’s gun.” Having carried a gun for nearly 27 years while an active police officer, I’m not certain how you’d check the function and lubrication of a gun by just looking at it, but that comment fit nicely with the rest of her insights. In her article, she quoted an assistant chief who claimed “the Neanderthal, knuckle-draggers are going the way of the dodos in this department,” and applauded the chief of police who had “embraced the concept of community policing and surrounded himself with like-minded brass.” Sorry, but I found those comments pathetic and insulting. Even before the department started hiring and promoting people based on their color and gender and not exclusively on their ability to do the job, there was some professional, intelligent, and yes, compassionate police work going on in the City of Los Angeles. Banks also quoted this assistant chief as saying, “good police work is about understanding the human factor.” I give up. What exactly does that mean? I’ve always believed good police work was about knowing the law and enforcing it. Police officers can’t change the social make up and dynamics of a community. They have little lasting impact on crime trends, and all the talk at crime stat meetings won’t change that. They aren’t social workers, priests, crossing guards, babysitters, or mommies. They carry guns and handcuffs because they should be concentrating on preventing crime, catching the bad guys and protecting the people they serve. If they do that really well, they create an environment for good things to happen in a community. Throughout the history of the LAPD, a lot of brave men and women of all races and backgrounds died doing just that. Their uniform was one color – blue, and I can’t remember one of them hesitating or walking away because the victim they had to protect was a particular color or economic status. It’s ignorant and offensive to say that today’s LAPD officers are somehow better than those that came before them. I know for a fact there are a lot of dedicated, hardworking officers in the department today, but it’s a different time with different problems. Maybe today’s officers won’t have to deal with a time like the sixties, a couple of riots, the SLA, the Weather Underground, gang wars, or rampant indiscriminate killing over crack cocaine, etc. I hope not. But don’t use today’s standards to judge those cops who came before and got the job done under incredibly adverse conditions with several thousand fewer officers to back them up. They weren’t Neanderthals, and they weren’t knuckle-draggers. There have always been a few bad cops, and there always will be; they’re human, but the majority of the department was and still is extraordinary. There was a time when the LAPD was considered on the cutting edge of policing. Other agencies came to Los Angeles to see how it worked and shamelessly copied this department. Dragnet and Adam 12 didn’t glorify NYPD. Every law enforcement publication had an article by the chief of police or some member of the department’s command staff. How often do you see that now? Team policing, senior lead officers, SWAT weren’t notions that came from cavemen. Those were progressive crime-fighting ideas that worked. Police officers should always be held to high standards. Diversity is important and necessary, but it isn’t everything. Merit, innovation and excellence are concepts from the past worthy of retention in the “new” LAPD.
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Publisher: The Permanent Press Publication date: June 2010 Available for purchase: immediately Synopsis: Detective Mike Turner hates dirty cops worse than criminals. He’s back in LAPD’s Internal Affairs, assigned to a special surveillance squad where he encounters a trio of uniformed thugs who prey on the city they’ve sworn to protect and serve. Despite interference from department supervisors and betrayal by those closest to him, Turner pursues the dangerous, heavily-armed renegades until they target him, and it nearly costs him not only the job he loves but his life. He’s a veteran street cop who follows a trail of death and violence from the environs of Los Angeles to its bloody conclusion in the mountains of central California. Genre: Police/Crime
Publisher: The Permanent Press Publication date: June 2009 Available for purchase: immediately Synopsis: Jim McGann, a deputy chief with the LAPD, goes out for his morning jog, only to find a cop car parked in front of his house. In the trunk is the mutilated body of Alexandra Williams, a police officer who had been having an affair with McGann. It’s a disastrous situation for the department brass, who would like to keep it from the public and quickly find the culprit. It’s also an opportunity for Sergeant Mike Turner of the Internal Affairs Division to get back to what he’s liked most about police work; following clues and his instincts to get to the bottom of this case without falling afoul of the upper echelons of the department. Genre: Police/crime
Publisher: Benfatto Books Publication date: June 2011 Available for purchase: immediately Synopsis:The Mayor of Dupont Street is Connie Dial’s first book in the Amanda Cleveland mystery series for young adults. The novel published by Benfatto Books is available on Kindle and in paperback now. The story is set in 1901 San Francisco and opens with the discovery of a grave on Market Street containing three dead Chinese men. Twelve-year-old Amanda, whose father is the chief of detectives at the Battery Street police station, is fascinated by crime and criminals. She skips school with her little brother Peter to view the grave and begins an adventure that leads to the disappearance of Peter and a frightening excursion through the underworld of Chinatown. In the process, she discovers a shocking secret about the dead men that nearly destroys her family. There are twenty-two original black and white illustrations by Patricia Milazzo in the book depicting San Francisco as it appeared in the early 1900’s. The clothes, Victorian mansions, Chinatown, and the streets of that city are represented in amazing detail. Genre: Young adult mystery
Publisher: Heinemann Publication date: 2004 Available for purchase: 2004 Synopsis: A collection of fifty-nine monologues with tips on auditioning with a monologue. My monologue on page 34-35 is titled “Circles.” An old woman sits in her bedroom remembering her life and sometimes disappointing relationship with her deceased husband. Genre: Anthology