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.