About policehistoryjamesbultema@gmail.com

Historian and former cop James Bultema knows about policing in America. He is the author of the acclaimed books, Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department and The Protectors: A Photographic History of Police Departments in the United States. Current LAPD Chief of Police Charlie Beck and former New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton thought so much of what Bultema had accomplished that they each wrote a foreword for these histories. For his new book, Unsolved: Cold-Case Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers, Bultema has compiled the first comprehensive national list of unsolved cases, including information on each fallen officer and, in many cases, an informed account of the officer’s murder. Unsolved is a touching tribute to these courageous law enforcement officers. Bultema is retired from the Los Angeles Police Department and lives in Arizona with his wife of 46 years.

What’s In a Photo: Tiger Woman

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Clara Phillips and her husband, A.L. Phillips, embrace at her arraignment on charges she murdered his mistress.

On July 10, 1922, Clara Phillips was in the market for a hammer. At her local five-and-dime she found the perfect one, but to make sure, she asked the clerk if he thought it was heavy enough to kill a woman. The clerk, playing along with what he thought was a joke, said, “Yes, it is, if you hit her hard enough with it.” The next day, the former chorus girl and sometime film extra spent the day at a speakeasy with a friend, Peggy Caffee. Clara was upset that her husband was having an affair with Alberta Meadows, an attractive widow. The two women developed a plan to go to the bank where Meadows worked and seek a ride to Clara’s sister’s house, which the unsuspecting widow agreed to. On a remote stretch of Montecito Drive, Clara accused Meadows of having intimate relations with her husband. When Meadows denied it, Clara punched her so hard she knocked her out of the car. Clara followed and smashed the 15-cent hammer into Alberta’s face so many times she broke the handle off. LAPD detectives would later say that it looked like she had been mauled by a tiger.

The name stuck, Tiger Woman. As a final despicable act, Clara rolled a 50-pound boulder onto the chest of Alberta Meadows. Peggy, who witnessed the carnage from inside the car, did not have to be told twice to keep her mouth shut.

That same night, happier than she had been in months, Clara came home drenched in blood and told her husband, “Darling, I have killed the one you love most in this world. Now I’m going to cook you the best supper you ever had.” The next morning, Mr. Phillips loaded his wife onto an eastbound train and drove to the nearest police station to tell them everything. Clara made it as far as Albuquerque, was arrested, and returned to LA, where throngs of reporters greeted the killer. Clara Phillips was tried and convicted of second-degree murder. Her husband paid the expenses.

In December 1922, she managed to escape from the county jail and fled to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. After four months she was arrested and extradited back to California to began her sentence at San Quentin. In the spring of 1935, she was paroled and told the press she was going to move to San Diego and become a dental assistant. She was never heard from again.

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Accused murder Clara Phillips is escorted to court by LAPD detectives and a prison matron.

Excerpt from: Gangsters and Cops-Prohibition, Corruption and LAPD’s Scandalous Coming of Age (Due out 2021). In my new book I call it “Snapshot.” It gives a glimpse into everyday life and cases that LAPD would have dealt with.

 

 

John “Two Gun” Powers Shooting

In researching LAPD history since the 1980s, I have interviewed over 50 cops. From African American patrolmen from the 1920s to every chief of police since Ed Davis. From the Gangster Squad to a reserve female officer that flew fixed wing aircraft for LAPD in the 1930s. But of all these interviews, the one with John “Two Gun” Powers is one I shall never forget. He was the epitome of what a police officer should be. The young Powers had wanted to be a police officer for as long as he could remember. His ambition came from the cop genes flowing through his body. His father served 36 years as a policeman, and his grandfather 21 years before him. Throughout his own 31-year career, Powers was a police professional who set high standards for himself and those around him. He understood the war against the criminal element:

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John “Two Gun” Powers (center) with weapons from a robbery gang.

The police are engaged in a hot war. There are no truces, and there is no hope of an armistice. The enemy abides by no rules of civilized warfare. The individual officer, when taking his oath of office, enters a sacred trust to protect his community to the best of his ability, laying down his life if necessary. All men return to dust.

Powers made sure it would be the bad guy who laid down his life. During his renowned career, he received 64 commendations and only one reprimand, which he issued to himself for crashing a police car. He was a hard-nosed street cop who made it to staff rank.

But it was a shooting that has gone down in LAPD lore that sticks with me. John “Two Gun” Powers from the Shields police academy class of 1940 was involved in a bloody shootout that earned him the nickname of “Two Gun.” The shooting took place in 1941, long before officers routinely carried a backup gun for safety. Although the story has been retold by many officers through the years, Powers himself explained to this author the confrontation in detail. It all began when the officer and his partner confronted what they thought were two purse snatch suspects:

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John Powers talking with a detective describes the details of the robbery. His partner, Officer Hart is next to him.

So we see these two suspects on the sidewalk, and my partner gets out of the car and grabs each one by the shoulder and pulls one down and then falls on top of him. The other guy kind of stumbles out in the street. Meanwhile, I got out of the car and try to head off the suspect who went into the street, but he stopped and reached in his waistband and came out with a .45 automatic. When something like this happens to you, the adrenaline really gets going, and I think a lot faster. When that gun came out I could identify it as a .45 and it went through my mind, I wonder what the hell these people have been up to.

  

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One of the two suspects lying in the street after being shot by Powers with his second gun.

He fired that .45 and I didn’t even think, my reflexes just took over, and I drew my gun…and I emptied it at the suspect with the .45. He went down—he went down hard— and the .45 skidded out of his hand. I had hit him twice, so he was down and out. So I take a deep breath and I hear shots on the other side of the car….

 

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The second suspect who was “dead on arrival.”

I see Hart is shot in the leg, and the other suspect breaks loose and goes and runs into the driveway. He sees me and stops. He points his gun at me and fires four times. This is 10 o’clock at night with just street lights on—[the shot] looks like a blow torch. The bullet hit me on the side and went through and around and stopped on my spine. I thought, my God, this guy gut shot me, I thought, I got hit in the stomach and the bullet went out the back because it was like I got hit hard, and it knocked me to the right. I thought I could die, but it only took about a split second and I thought, if I am going to die, I will take this son-of-a-bitch with me.

   

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The scene of the shooting in which Powers (left) killed two armed suspects in a close quarters shooting.

So I put the empty gun in my left hand and I reached in my other holster and did a backhand draw and came out with my second gun. I thought, this guy is going to be surprised when he sees me come out with a second gun. It also went through my mind on the first suspect, I shot too fast and I shot too high, which is what you do when you fire too fast, you shoot high. So this time I really took my time. I firmed up my grip and I cocked the gun and took my time squeezing it off. I hit the suspect right above his heart, a fatal wound. He went down on his knees but hung on to the gun so I emptied my gun, five shots, and I fired those doubled action. I hit him two more times. He had 10 bullet holes, entry and exit in him. He was dead on arrival.

Like many officers from the Shields, Powers would later use his expertise and experience to teach young recruits what life on the streets was all about. The first thing rookies noted when Powers entered the classroom were the two enormous guns tucked under both arms. His presence demanded attention. When Two Gun Powers talked, people listened and learned. Powers emphasized the importance of training. He stressed the importance of reacting automatically to a life-challenging threat. He added, if you train extremely hard for the worst possible scenario, your body will respond properly.

Thank you, John Powers for everything you have done for the Los Angeles Police Department. May your memory never fade from the pages of our history.

Missing in Action

grantcoverYes, I have been missing in action for the past year and half. Where you ask. I have been writing another history book—not about LAPD, but of Ulysses S. Grant. More specifically, Captured: A Photographic History of Ulysses S. Grant is being published by Southern Illinois University Press and is due out next year. Captured is a photographic history of conceivably the most revered American of the 19th century. His life is told through stunning historical photographs enhanced with Grant’s own words taken from his correspondence. When combined, the reader is provided with the true image and character of a celebrated man.

But with that manuscript off to the editors at SIU, I have turned my attention back to LAPD on a book I started before Captured. This one you don’t want to miss. The title is: Gangsters and Cops–Prohibition, Corruption and LAPD’s Scandalous Coming of Age. This book will exam the out-of-control corruption and scandal in Los Angeles from the 1900s to 1950 before real reform finally found a foothold with the appointment of William H. Parker as chief. It was a no holds barred fight for LAPD to become one of the top law enforcement agencies in the world. Like Guardians of Angels, my in-depth history of LAPD, I will use numerous photographs from that era to illustrate the story. I believe you will find it most interesting.

In addition, I will get back to work on this blog and include some interesting articles such as the Adam-12 story and others I know you might appreciate. So, I believe this officially removes me from the Missing in Action file and allows me to get back to work writing the history of the finest Police Department in the land—the Los Angeles Police Department.

Be safe.3dbook_gangs_1-29-2019

Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department Anniversary Edition, 1869-2019

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On January 9, 2019, the Los Angeles Police Department will celebrate 150 years of protecting and serving the community. I am excited to release an updated version of the original Guardians published in 2013 just in time for this historical year-long Department celebration. The new Guardians of Angels has a foreword by Chief Moore with new chapters and segments to bring it up to date. Here is a brief synopsis of the book,

For 150 years, LAPD officers have pinned on a badge, holstered a gun and traveled the corridors of history, leaving behind the rich traditions that are today’s LAPD. Guardians of Angels is a penetrating history of the Los Angeles Police Department since 1850. Thoroughly researched over eight years, containing scores of interviews and illustrated with hundreds of rare photographs, this book details how the department evolved from six officers administering frontier justice to today’s high-tech professionals. It brings to life the accomplishments and disappointments of the men and women who unselfishly gave of themselves as the Guardians of Angels.

An excerpt from the new introduction,

For LAPD to walk tall as a leader in law enforcement, the department first had to learn how to crawl. With wide-open vice and conditions that made Los Angeles the mecca for criminal activity, the common (city) council needed to act. It did in late 1868. “On motion, resolved, that his Honor the Mayor appoint a City Police by and with the approval of the council to consist of four persons.” Mayor Cristobal Aguilar, who spoke very little English, appointed four men (which quickly became six) on Jan. 4, 1869. The city could not afford to pay these officers a salary, so they were paid a commission from the collection of fees, which included serving writs, returning lost or stolen property and arresting fugitives.

The first paid police department was led by William C. Warren, who split duties as city marshal and chief of police. Warren had a knack for law enforcement. He had been the town marshal for the previous three years and a deputy marshal for several years before that. A hard-headed farmer from Michigan, Warren was killed by one of his officers, Joseph Dye, in an argument over the reward money for a Chinese prostitute. With guns blazing in the middle of Main and Temple (next to where city hall is today), Dye killed the chief and subsequently won the battle in court when he was found not guilty on the grounds of self-defense. LAPD was off to a rocky start.

Some reviews of Guardians of Angels:

Guardians of Angels – A History of the Los Angeles Police Department is an unprecedented glimpse into those stories and how they became intertwined to create the collective history of the Los Angeles Police Department. Through his use of vivid imagery, historical accounts, and rare photographs, James Bultema presents a comprehensive history of the Department, its dynamic changes, legendary leaders, public missteps, and unparalleled pursuit of excellence.

LAPD Chief of Police Michel Moore

As you can well see we are a Department of deep contrast and that is what is captured so brilliantly in the writings of James Bultema. He’s captured the history of this great organization and brings it to life on the pages of Guardians of Angels – A History of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Former LAPD Chief of Police Charlie Beck

As a retired LAPD officer (commander) and serious student of that department’s history, I can say without contradiction that Jim Bultema did a GREAT job. The photographs were superb, and the description of the events was absolutely spot on. I had the opportunity to work with Jim when we were both on the job; he was a great cop and he is a great writer and historian. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in the Los Angeles Police Department. WELL DONE!!

Amazon Customer Review

This is a very well-written and thoroughly researched book on one of the greatest police departments of the world. The book takes you from some of the earliest periods in Los Angeles, when vigilantes administered “justice,” to volunteer town Marshals, the establishment of a small police force, paid on commission, to the actual establishment of a real police department and concluding in our present time. It candidly acknowledges and even explores long periods of political interference and the need to have a police chief who isn’t beholding to self-serving politicians. The work is lavishly illustrated with dozens of period photographs. It is by far the most comprehensive book on the history of the LAPD to date.

Amazon Customer Review

I just completed reading this informative, interesting and fascinating book about the History of the LAPD. It held my attention and answered many questions I had about how the Department weathered the century of its existence. I learned the background and obscure details about people and incidents I had heard about during my 27-year career with the LAPD. This should be a primer read for every recruit joining the LAPD. I worked with James Bultema while we were officers on the job, so good work partner.

David Twitchell

The new updated Guardians of Angels will be released January 9, 2019. Both books come with free shipping and are signed by me. You can email me with any special inscription you would like. All Books are 8 ½ X 11, 360 pages, with hundreds of rare photographs. Choose from:

  • Collector’s Edition: Hardbound in color for $69.95
  • Softbound black & white for $29.95

You can order from my website: policehistorybyjamesbultema.com (author signed) or email me at policehistoryjamesbultema@gmail.com. The book will also be available at: LAPRAAC, Amazon.com., Barnes & Noble and independent book stores.

A Kid’s Appreciation of a Street Cop

In doing research for my next book, Gangsters & Cops: Prohibition, Corruption, and LAPD’s Scandalous Coming of Age, I came across a posting in the LAPD Police Bulletin. During the first half of the 20th Century, the Bulletin was the principal form of communication to the rank and file from the chief’s office. The daily posting was usually quite dry listing special orders and wanted suspects. But on February 15, 1923, Chief of Police Louis Oaks, could not resist writing a commendation to one of his officers based on a letter he received form a little school girl. Here is the posting as it appeared:

Appreciation

    The Chief is in receipt of the most impressive letter of appreciation of the consideration shown by a police officer that has ever been received by him. The letter in question refers to Officer R.N. Amos of the University Division, and is evidently written by a very small school girl, who is just learning to read and write. For your information, the letter will be printed in the exact words and spelling of the writer.

Following is the letter:

 “Dear Chief of palice

There is a nice traffic afficer at Vernan and Maneto ave. we children of Vernan school do love him veary much. he is so kind to us he caries us accoss the stree whin it raining. want you please Mister Chee let him stay their always. what will we do if you should take him away. there is a 8 on his badge.

yours lovngly

Lucy Jane Fualk

3807 So. Hill”

     Officer R.N. Amos is hereby commended for his attention and courtesy to the school children, and if he has been removed from the crossing at Vernon and Moneta Avenues, his division commander will immediately transfer him back.

L.D. Oaks

Chief of Police

The Swivel Chair

When I heard earlier last month that Mayor Eric Garcetti fulfilled one of his most important duties by selecting Michel Moore, a 36-year veteran, to be the next chief of the Los Angeles Police Department, it reminded me of a time in LAPD’s history when the transition was not nearly as tidy. Since 1969, nearly a half-century, LAPD has had only six chiefs of police. This is quite an accomplishment, especially when compared to one six-year span during the 1920s, when LAPD went through eight chiefs in bewildering succession. To better understand where the department is now, and the level of professionalism having been accomplished, one must look at what was overcome to make that steep transition to today.

During the 1920s, LAPD officers were more concerned with keeping their jobs than chasing down vice offenders.

America in the 1920s was a land of prosperity. The new heroes were movie stars such as Charlie Chaplin and aviators like Charles Lindberg. Washing machines were in, while the automobile provided a new sense of freedom. Farmers put away the plow and moved to the city. The nation’s total wealth more than doubled and across the country, Americans were living it up.

But getting in the way of the fun and hoopla of the Roaring 20s came two national struggles that would shape not only the United States, but also LAPD’s destiny for the next two decades. One was the prohibition of alcohol, which made criminals of almost the entire population, and the second was the great economic depression of the 1930s. While the police department has suffered through seemingly endless decades of corruption and political meddling, for the next 20 years, both continuing hindrances pushed LAPD into the nadir of its existence.

The quick succession of chiefs began with Lyle Pendegast who did not come from within the police department but was a deputy city prosecutor. As the new chief was quick to point out, he had been executive secretary to four chiefs during the “old days” between 1905 and 1910. He knew first-hand what to expect when pinning on the chief’s badge. Pendegast had a vision for the LAPD. He hoped to decentralize the force, double the number of patrolmen and install a merit system to better rate each officer’s performance. He also asked the city council to pay for the cost of new uniforms. The tawdry city council refused his request because the city could not afford it.

With the election of George Cryer as the new mayor in 1920, there was going to be change within LAPD. It was a known fact in city government that the real power behind the police force was with the man with the smug smile sitting in the nicest office in city hall. As the Los Angeles Times pointed out, “The mayor appoints the police commission: the police commission appoints the chief of police. Everybody who knows anything about municipal affairs knows that the mayor is the real head of the police department and that his word is the law.” And with the election of Cryer, the new mayor brought with him a new chief of police. Although he tried to improve the department, Pendegast, having served for just eight months, was never allowed an honest opportunity, before he was shown the door.

Mayor Cryer appointed Detective Sergeant Charles A. Jones to command the police department. At the time, it was considered solid political sense. Although Jones had 20 years on the job, his low rank was a plus. In these corrupt days, the higher the rank the greater the chance of political preferment. Low rank meant the man owed no one—but to the mayor who appointed him.

Jones was ordered to close-down vice in the city—something that each previous chief had been charged with for decades. When the leader of the Morals Efficiency League described the disgraceful vice conditions on North Spring Street that included open gambling and where women and liquor were abundant—the newspapers ran with it. In stories dominating the front page, it was bluntly pointed out that gamblers had arranged the transfer of the Central Division police commander because he actively enforced the anti-vice statutes. The captain was replaced with the vice lords hand-picked man and the mayor ordered it done.

When accused of not shutting down vice in the city, Chief Jones aired it out: “No one can run the Los Angeles Police Department. There are too many meddlesome so-called reformers and others who interfere. The job isn’t worth the grief that attends to it.” After just six fleeting months, the former detective turned chief was out.

As he prepared to announce his next chief of police, Mayor Cryer acknowledged the police department has been a “storm center for many years…one police regime after another has crumbled and fallen.” His next choice would only reinforce his proclamation. The next man was not an “insider” or an “outsider,” but a retired army colonel with absolutely no law enforcement experience. But what he lacked in knowhow and political savvy, the battle-hardened veteran more than made up with his vigorous, forceful demeanor—he was in charge and no one close to him would dare question that. As Chief James W. Everington took office he proclaimed his penchant for vigorous, forceful command. He pointed out he had no strings attached, no axe to grind and only one order: “succeed.”

Everington immediate abolished courtesy cards and honorary police badges which citizens flashed for any encounter with a police officer. No more fixing of tickets, which by many accounts, occurred in 50 percent of all traffic tickets. The chief didn’t win over many in the department when he described new recruits as “brainless” and remarked that good men apparently retired early while the stupid ones remained on the force.

Chief Everington quickly announced his intention to close all lotteries, speakeasies, brothels and casinos even if they were in splashy country clubs. When he ordered the elimination of commercial vice and his three top commanders asserted that it could not be done, he fired them. The subsequent police commission hearings soon turned into an examination of vice in Los Angeles. Accusations flew through the air like a flock of birds. Certain judges were labeled corrupt and accused of protecting a ring of attorneys that defended prostitutes. Everington was accused of mishandling of the department allowing criminals free reign.

During testimony, one senior LAPD captain took the stand and exposed the inner workings of the 1920s police force. “A policeman must play policy….I do myself. If I didn’t I would have to look for another job.” The captain further pointed out that the department was completely disorganized. The working cop’s main concern was keeping his job. Vice he said, could never be cleaned up because the powers that controlled it were too powerful. “Bookmakers told me if I didn’t quit arresting them I would be transferred.” The captain was transferred the next day and was never given a reason by his boss.

Chief Everington could not fathom how he was being used and not allowed to do his job. The press boldly stated that Everington was inept and was grossly mishandling the department. Like the fighting soldier he once was, the colonel, now chief of police, fired back. He labeled the mayor and police commissioners as “spineless jelly fish…weak-kneed creatures of expediency.” Even some of his supporters were not exempt from his wrath. He referred to them as “the soft heads and saps who have showered me with resolutions….I have told them all to go to hell!”

After just four months in office, Chief Everington was fired. His parting words, not much different than those before him declared, “I haven’t run this department since I was appointed; an honest man can’t do that.”

Having learned nothing from earlier experiences just a year and half earlier, Mayor Cryer pushed through another Detective, this time Louis Oaks, 40 years of age from Missouri. Only on the job for 12 years, his biggest accomplishment was his work in solving a high-profile kidnapping case. His greatest value from the politician’s point of view was that Oaks was just a good ole flatfoot with no agenda—a man they mistakenly assumed would take orders from city hall.

When George Cryer was elected mayor in 1921, insiders attributed his victory to one man, Kent Kane Parrot. An attorney and leading underworld figure, Parrot was considered the “boss” of municipal politics in Los Angeles. Consequently, the mayor earned the nickname as “Parrot’s Puppet.”

With his fingers holding the strings of every branch of the city, legal and otherwise, Parrot soon tightened his control over the police department. The boss bribed vice supervisors and assigned a “bagman” to handle the payoffs. It was understood that Kent Parrot’s word was law, because he owned the law.

Chief Oaks was often called to Parrot’s fancy digs at the new Biltmore Hotel. The topic of conversation was usually to tell Oaks on how to run the department and how selective transfers should be made. Parrot wanted his cronies where they could do the most good for his financial well-being. The proud chief refused Parrot by exclaiming “Neither you nor anyone else is going to use the police department for political purposes.” This was only a minor hindrance for Parrot as he simply went around the chief to his susceptible subordinates.

To further ensure his orders were being adhered to, Parrot had the mayor assign his secretary, H. H. Kinney to the office of the chief. Although he fought each directive, Oaks was forced to make transfers. Heading the list was the captain of Central vice. Kinney confirmed who was in charge and eerily presaged in third person: “No one had better question Kinney’s honesty. When they do, Kinney will strike back, and when he strikes, he will strike first.”

When Chief Oaks fired the captain of Central Division, a handpicked man of Parrot’s, all hell broke loose. With determined documentation, Oaks was prepared for the police commission hearing. But just one day prior to his testimony, Chief Oaks was unceremoniously fired by the mayor. There was no change at Central and all charges were summarily dismissed against the captain.

The Los Angeles Times who was firmly behind most of the men who led the department blamed everything on the “swivel chair” located behind the large oak desk in the chief’s office:

Being of the swivel variety, this seat revolves. The speed of rotation, according to the laws of science, is dependent upon the swill of the manipulator. However, there’s something uncanny in the mechanism of that piece of official furniture. Five times within the past three years it has attained a velocity so high that the occupant thereof has been hurled out of the room and the job.

The swivel chair in question was in constant rotation until 1950, when Chief William H. Parker took command and destroyed everything that oak chair stood for. Today, newly appointed Chief Moore can look back and thank his forebearers for the sacrifices they made into making today’s LAPD a world-wide leader in law enforcement.

*Excerpt from my next book coming out in 2019: Gangsters & Cops: Prohibition, Corruption, and LAPD’s Scandalous Coming of Age

NOW AVAILABLE-MY NEW BOOK: UNSOLVED COLD CASE HOMICIDES OF LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS

I am excited to announce the release of my newest book, Unsolved: Cold-Case Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers. Here is an excerpt from the back cover:

“Ripped from today’s headlines, Unsolved is the first book to examine the sacrifices made by American’s heroic law enforcement officers who were murdered while their killers escaped justice­. Left behind are devastated loved ones and a law enforcement agency hunting down the assassins. Bultema, a former LAPD cop, puts a story behind some of the names etched on police monuments across this country.”

What works best if you order it from my website, I will sign it for you (and include any comments you might request). Click on https://www.policehistorybyjamesbultema.com/ to order for $19.99 with free shipping.

Also available for the same price on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and if you want to support your local bookstore, go to the website: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780997425116 and you can pick your local store and order it from them. Many thanks for all your support.

Jim

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The Hat Squad

“Word went through the underworld that they were tough. No question about it. They were intimidators just by their appearance. The hat was their trademark.”  Lt. Dan Cooke in 1987.

It has been said “you are what you drive.” Perhaps, but for four Los Angeles Police Detectives, it was the hat you wore. In the late 1940s and into the early 1960s, the “Hat Squad,” out of Robbery Division, had a reputation that had the knees of robbers and mobsters, knocking out of fear of these sizable men. All were over six feet tall and collectively they weighed more than half a ton. All would become legends on the LAPD. As one hard-nosed detective said, “They were the most impressive group I ever knew in my 25 years with the department. They were tough with criminals but very compassionate people, respected in the underworld.”

The Hat Squad had its genesis when Clarence A. “Red” Stromwall and Max Herman began wearing identical snap-brim straw hats to work. A few years later, in 1952, detective’s Ed Benson and Harry Crowder joined the team and donned their hats. Eventually the fedoras became a cause, and anyone who dared to wisecrack about them were met with a glaring stare which put the fear of prison in many a criminal.

Their reputation was not unlike one that ran the gamut across the United States in the 1920s and 30s. It was then that a robber in New York could be talking with with a robber from Chicago, and if either mentioned, the “Bucket of Blood” the other knew he was referring to the small room in Los Angeles where robbery squad detectives used to hold discussions with hold-up men by punctuating each question with a punch in the mouth. Those days are gone; replaced by four elite men who used their size and intimidating stare that left most criminals begging to sign their confessions.

For all those years together, these four men remained inseparable. Where one went, they all went. Even the Korean War could not separate them. All four went on active duty with the 40th Infantry Division and served in the same battalion. Herman, Crowder and Stromwall were company commanders; Benson was a first sergeant. Stromwall remained in the reserves and retired a full colonel. He later became a Los Angeles Superior Court judge. His father, Albert, was a L.A. cop from 1924 to 1948.

Harold “Harry” Crowder also went into law and retired from the Los Angeles Municipal Court as a judge who handled Hollywood, his old stomping grounds.

Max Herman died in 1987. At his funeral, Detective Morgan Rodney praised Herman as “the strongest of the strong, the toughest of the tough, the gentlest of the gentle—always a giver, rarely a taker.” As an attorney later in life, it was said of the old hat squad member, that of the 30 men he defended for homicide, no one was ever convicted of the original (more serious) charge.

Edward Benson, the forth member, died of natural causes in 1970. He had played football for Fordham University and later earned $100 playing for the New York Giants. Benson also boxed professionally. He was a paratrooper during World War II making jumps in Italy and France.

As time continues its relentless march forward, it is easy to forget the contributions of these four remarkable men. For me, a chance for just one more shout-out to four more legends of the Los Angeles Police Department.

policehistorybyjamesbultema.com / policehistoryjamesbultema@gmail.com

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The Hat Squad (from left) Red Stromwall, Ed Benson, Harry Crowder and Max Herman.

The book is at the printers, due June 15, 2018–Thanks for all the reviews!

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For the past two years, I have been hard at work doing research for my new book: Unsolved: Cold-Case Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers. It is the first time in law enforcement history, a book has addressed all the unsolved police homicides in the United States. Here is a short synopsis:

“Law enforcement officers make their living fighting crime. The death of an officer killed while on duty presents the most heartfelt crisis a department can face. Agencies make it their highest priority to solve the case and bring the murderers to justice. But it is not a perfect world and sometimes, they are not successful. Unsolved: Cold-Case Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers brings attention to this national tragedy. Building on two years of comprehensive nationwide research, Unsolved includes information on each fallen officer, his or her department and in many cases, an in-depth account of the murder. Unsolved is a touching tribute to these courageous law enforcement officers.”

If you might be interested in writing a review, please let me know at: policehistoryjamesbultema@gmail.com. I will send you an electronic copy of the book and if I use your review, I will be happy to send you a signed copy of the book when it comes out on May 15, 2018. Thank you and be safe.

The Running Gun Battle

Los Angeles in 1930 was a society gone wrong. The Great Depression was in full swing, putting a death grip on the entire country. Many Americans depended on the government to feed them, and long bread lines weaved their way through the streets of the nation. The Dust Bowl winds blew many to California and into Los Angeles. With unemployment rates at 20 percent, businesses closing and no work to be found, many turned to crime. However, some, such as Joe Luby, had been career criminals even during the good times. The ex-con was wanted in Detroit for a double homicide committed during a robbery. Avoiding the law in Michigan, Luby was in LA checking out banks—his specialty.

Near the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard. and Normandie Avenue, was the Security-First National Trust and Savings Bank. During the 1930s, it was the practice for banks to close for an hour at lunch. Security-First was no exception. The bank manager, Mr. W.H. Garland, and four tellers were just getting ready to enjoy a peaceful lunch—or so they thought, when Luby, aware of bank practices, walked in. The harden criminal “coolly” approached Mr. Garland, pulled a revolver and demanded cash. With the gun pointed at his chest, Garland walked over to the teller cash drawer and nervously fumbled to pull out $500 in bills ($4,400 in today’s money). With the cash lining his pockets, Luby slowly backed out of the bank with his gun swinging back and forth keeping everyone in their seats. As he reached the door he whirled and jumped into his car. Garland quickly sounded the bank siren.

hwd2

Hollywood Boulevard, circa 1930s

Sitting in his personal car not more than 100 feet from the bank was Los Angeles Police Sgt. A.A. Campbell. Looking up when he heard the deafening siren of the bank, he saw a man run out and jump into a roadster. Campbell quickly grabbed his revolver and ran directly toward the man as he got into his stolen car. As Campbell approached, the suspect fired several rounds, which the sergeant would later recall “went screaming past his head.” Campbell fired three quick shots back at Luby, who slumped forward in his seat. Campbell was confident he’d got him. But no sooner had this thought appeared than Luby jammed the car into gear and roared off.

Sergeant Z.Y. Gruey happened by in his car at the exact time that Luby took off. Campbell jumped into Gruey’s car, and they squealed off after Luby. The two sergeants followed Luby north on Normandie and then east on Franklin but soon lost him in traffic. As they searched for Luby, Gruey pulled up to a call box and let Hollywood station know what was going on. According to Campbell, “Then we picked up Officer E.G. Brown and thinking the suspect had driven toward the hills, we drove north on Catalina street.”

Traveling just a short distance, the trio of LAPD officers caught sight of Luby driving just in front of them. As they were catching up to him, the armed robber slammed on his brakes and jumped out of his car, tumbling down the side of a bushy ravine. Campbell picks up the story: “Just before he vanished over the brow of the hill, he whirled about and fired several times. Both Brown and myself answered the fire.”

The three officers went in foot pursuit. The men could hear the suspect crashing through the thick brush, and as if in some arcade game, they shot at Luby every time he reached a clearing. As the suspect reached the bottom of the gully, Campbell and Gruey ran back to the car, believing they could drive down, and around, and head Luby off from the far side of the ravine. They left Brown behind to put pressure on the suspect. As they drove off, they heard more shots being exchanged. As the two officers glanced over their shoulders, they saw Luby duck behind a house.

A few minutes later, Luby was driving off in a small truck that he had stolen at gunpoint from a local Japanese gardener. The suspect headed to Vermont Avenue. Meanwhile, the two sergeants had reached the bottom of the hill and were driving along Los Feliz Boulevard when they spotted their man “careening down” Vermont. Reaching the intersection of Vermont and Los Feliz, the suspect smashed into a parked truck. Campbell said, “We drove up alongside, and I held my gun on him. He cried out: ‘I give up. Don’t shoot. I quit.’ But as I was within a few feet of his car, he suddenly pointed his gun directly at me. Before he could pull the trigger, I let him have it.” This time when Luby slumped over; it was for real, he was dead.

Luby’s rap sheet was long and violent. In 1920 he had been arrested by LAPD for robbery, which was reduced to vagrancy. In 1921 he was sent from Chicago to the Illinois Reformatory for 10 years to life. In 1926 he was arrested in Chicago for grand larceny. In 1929 he was arrested again in Chicago for robbery. Bail was set at $7,500, which Luby jumped. In February of 1930, Detroit police announced a reward of $500 for Luby’s capture on the charge of the murders of two special agents of the Western Union Telegraph Company during a robbery at which time he also wounded a Detroit policeman.

Two weeks after the bank robbery, the three brave officers received checks for $500 as a donation from the Security-First Bank. Assistant Chief of Police Finlinson proudly presented the checks in a ceremony given for the officers “for their valor in chasing and slaying a bank bandit at the climax of a spectacular running gun battle.”

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