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.