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As many of you are familiar with my current book, Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles PoliceDepartment, one can see my historical interest in vintage photographs. For me, they all have a story to tell. As I am currently doing research for my next book, The Protectors: A Photographic History of Local Law Enforcement in the United States, I discovered an amazing photograph of an LAPD shooting in progress captured by photographer Scott Harrison of the Los Angeles Times in 1938. Photographs such as these are extremely rare during this period in law enforcement history.
This amazing image captures a moment in the midst of a standoff between Los Angeles Police and a barricaded suspect, George Farley.
The stand-off that is depicted so distinctly in the photograph began on a clear sunny winter day, Thursday, February 17, 1938, when Marshals T. Dwight Crittenden and Leon W. Romer, both 60, were at George Farley’s residence at 1516 E. 22rd Street to serve an eviction order for $67.50 for back rent. Farley, a 55-year-old day laborer, knew they were coming, as just the prior day he received a 24-hour notice to vacate the small-framed residence. But Farley had no plans to voluntarily leave his rented home—and armed with a high-powered rifle, he lay in wait. His wife, sensing trouble, fled the scene.
As the two unsuspecting marshals arrived, there was no indication that Farley was at home. Both men entered the house and started to pack up his effects. At the same time, an 18-year-old witness was standing across the street with his father, who had traveled to the location to watch his friends evict Farley. Then, accordingly to the teenager: “Suddenly there was a shot, and Mr. Romer came staggering down the steps. He sort of twisted and fell, sprawling on the lawn. He lay very still.” Marshal Romer had been shot through the chest and died almost instantly as he collapsed on the front lawn. In the photograph, he can be seen near the walkway in front of the home.
Seeing his partner violently shot, Marshal Crittenden ran from the residence, making it as far as the middle of the street before Farley shot him through the head. His body lay in the street during the subsequent events as depicted in the photograph. Calls quickly poured into communications division. Meanwhile, Farley calmly took a seat in a room near the front door with his rifle across his lap. He waited patiently for the reinforcements he knew were coming—he wasn’t leaving.
Answering the shots-fired radio call were Detective Lieutenants Robert Underwood and Elliott (no first name listed), who were the first to arrive at the location. As Underwood took cover behind the ambulance directly across the street from the house, he yelled for the suspect to come out and surrender. No sooner was the command given than Farley rushed to the front porch and yelled: “Here I is. Come an’ get me,” and fired at the officers, who promptly returned fire, hitting the suspect through his thigh as he was ducking back into the house.
As reinforcments arrived from Newton Street Station, Farley barricaded himself in the house. As Farley fired back, officers took up position around the house, hiding behind trees, cars and the wall of a nearby residence. For the next hour, officers fired volley after volley into the tiny home, blowing out windows and splintering the thin walls. Tear gas was called in and fired into the residence, as can be seen clearly in the photograph.
When the gunfire ceased, several officers broke into the house to find Farley slumped on his face in a rear room, shot five times in his thighs, arm and chest. Farley survived his wounds and was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in San Quentin for two counts of manslaughter. (I was unable to ascertain what happened to Farley after being sentenced.) Through this one frame of film, we get a peek back at 1938 LAPD and the sad circumstances of that bloody Thursday. Lest we never forget the sacrifices of Marshals T. Dwight Crittenden and Leon W. Romer.
Aug. 22, 1925: Oscar Bayer (sitting on right) next to Bertrand M. Steventon. Standing left to right are Claude R. Weaver, Charles Meyers and Jack A. Stambler. All photographs courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.
As a photographic historian, I am naturally drawn to old photographs. I marvel how a moment in time is frozen for eternity allowing later generations a peek back into a split second of history. When I first saw the portrait taken by a newspaper photographer of five Los Angeles police officers posing in a hospital, I was captivated and had to know: Why this picture?
My first observations were the differing facial expressions and how the officers are affectionately touching one another, like they are all part of the same family—brothers. It suggests what any LAPD cop comes to experience—that you are all brothers and sisters—which translates that you will do whatever humanely possible to ensure the safety for your partner as you all share that same bond of danger that penetrates each day you pin on your badge and take to the streets. So I wonder, why this photo, this moment in time? I would come to learn that the story begins and ends with the man sitting on the right, a sling tied around his shoulder, his uniform in disarray, as he gazes into the lens of the camera—Motorcycle Officer Oscar Bayer.
Motorcycle Officer Oscar Bayer
A veteran of the Great World War, Bayer understood combat, having been wounded by an exploding bomb. He was a man who thrived by pushing the envelope. At the age of 23, Bayer joined the LAPD and two years later was in motors. The likable Bayer made headlines several times, including after a shooting with a burglary suspect he was attempting to take into custody. But it was the summer of 1925 that a young Bayer nearly lost his life while in pursuit of bank robbers in which one suspect and an LAPD police officer were killed. Four others were wounded after several hundred bullets were fired. The LA Times called it the “city’s most spectacular gun battle” ever.It was 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 22, 1925, when four hardcore criminals led by an ex-con bank hold-up man from Chicago, robbed the Hellman Bank in downtown Los Angeles at Ninth and Santa Fe Avenue. The suspects, all heavily armed with shotguns, revolvers and semi-automatic pistols entered the bank and ordered everyone to the floor before jumping on the counters and riffling through all the tellers’ drawers, taking more than $19,000.
While the robbery was occurring, a few blocks away, Motorcycle Officer Bayer was at Eighth and Santa Fe Avenue when his attention was suddenly drawn to a racing vehicle being chased by another car. As the two autos roared by, Bayer heard the driver from the second car scream, “Hold-up—stop them.” In the next few moments, Officer Oscar Bayer would display heroism seldom repeated in the annals of LAPD history.Gunning his motorcycle, Bayer was immediately in pursuit. At this time there were no radios, no help on the way—only phone calls from panicked citizens as the pursuit dangerously tore through downtown. As Bayer pursued the suspects, two of the robbers smashed out the rear window of their stolen car and immediately opened fire on Bayer, who heard the bullets as they whizzed by his head. Unfazed, he sped-up after the gangsters—“I was mad clean through.…I wanted those birds.” The suspects were struggling to lose the LAPD motor officer while making several sharp turns. They turned north on Alameda to Seventh Street heading west to Central. At the intersection of
Traffic Officer Wylie E. Smith. Killed in the shootout.
Alameda and Seventh, Traffic Officer Wylie E. Smith was just taking over traffic duties from Officer George P. Moore when they heard the gunfire and saw Bayer in pursuit. The bank robbers had to slow down due to traffic and, as consequence, Smith and Moore opened fire at the occupants of the vehicle. Seeing this, the suspects directed their fire on the two exposed traffic officers. Officer Moore had his hat shot off just as Officer Smith was shot in the chest. Smith would die from his wound the next day.
Traffic Officer Jack A. Stambler
As the suspect’s vehicle continued, other LAPD traffic officers became involved. Traffic Officer Jack A. Stambler observing the trouble Bayer was in, quickly commandeered a small auto and ordered the disbelieving driver to follow the pursuit. Standing on the running board, Stambler joined in the gun battle firing at the fleeing suspects. But Stambler soon came to realize, the car he seized was no match for the fast touring car of the bank robbers. So he ordered the civilian driver to stop and springing from the auto, Stambler spotted a faster car and once again took a position on the running board of the frightened driver who was ordered to join the pursuit.
Traffic Officer Bertrand M. Steventon
Traffic Officer Bertrand M. Steventon noticing Officer Stambler commandeer another car took over the small vehicle and once again the driver was ordered to pursue the bandits. As the three officers thundered through the streets, bullets were flying. People on the streets were diving for cover, store windows were being shot out, other cars were being struck, but the determined LAPD officers would not give up.The unwavering Bayer, leading the chase, would not be deterred. As he pursed the suspects down Seventh Street, a bullet struck him in his right breast nearly knocking him from his motor. Fortunately, much of the impact was stopped by his traffic citation book. Dazed, Bayer shook his head to keep conscious. In quick succession Bayer was again struck by a fuselage of bullets, one going through his sleeve and another round hit just below his hip. He would later comment just how much the wounds “stung.” Bayer did not dwell on his injuries, he just became more enraged. With his gun empty, Bayer did the unbelievable. While still receiving fire he somehow managed to reload his revolver while speeding after the criminals. Squealing to a halt at Seventh and San Pedro due to traffic, two of the bank robbers jumped from the touring car, while two others ran from the scene. Traffic Officer Claude R. Weaver hearing
Traffic Officer Claude R. Weaver
the deafening gun fire at his intersection, opened fire on the suspects. Meanwhile, Motor Officer Bayer observed that each suspect was armed with guns in each hand as they were determined to rid themselves of this troublesome motor cop. With bullets flying, Bayer took careful aim and killed the leader of the gang. With only one bullet left in his gun, Bayer took cover behind another vehicle and fired at the second suspect striking him in the arm. Bayer’s gun was empty but the suspect was preparing to fire again.Taking a calculated risk, Bayer pointed his empty revolver at the wounded suspect and yelled, “If you don’t surrender, I will kill you.” The ruthless suspect looking into the determined face of a man who refused to quit, his uniform covered in blood, gave up and surrendered.A block away Officer Steventon was in foot pursuit of one of the two suspects who had fled the scene as their getaway car was stuck in traffic. As Steventon ran after him, the fleeing suspect turned and fired several rounds at Steventon, who returned fire until he ran out of ammo. The suspect managed to get away after he carjacked a vehicle at gunpoint. Sometime later both suspects were apprehended in different parts of the country.
Motor Officer Bayer would quickly recover from his wounds and eventually was promoted to Detective-Lieutenant. Officer’s Oscar Bayer and Wylie Smith were awarded the Medal of Valor for their involvement in the Hillman Bank robbery incident. Sadly, in his eighth year on the department, Oscar Bayer was killed off-duty, piloting a civilian aircraft, as he was preparing himself to become part of the rumored LAPD aero-bureau. He left behind a wife and four young children.
So it was from a single photograph, taken just after the shooting, that this story was discovered chronicling the type of individuals who wore the badge of a Los Angeles Police Officer during the 1920s. Today, their brother and sister officers are faced with new challenges and yes, some of the old ones. But one can take comfort knowing the sacrifices that were suffered in Bayer’s era help shape the officers of today and make LAPD a leader in law enforcement across the Nation. As this chronicle attests, the men and women of LAPD are all brothers and sisters—insuperable in protecting one another and the citizens of Los Angeles.
Editor’s note: The following article is printed with permission from Michael Sellars, editor of The Rotator, The Newsletter for LAPD Reserve Officers, Volume 11, Winter 2012. The photographs are from this author.
1973 AMC Matador as seen on Adam-12
Jack Webb was a stickler for detail and authenticity in his television series Dragnet and Adam-12. For Adam-12 (which ran from 1968 to 1975), the inside of the Rampart station was duplicated exactly on the Universal sound stages, right down to the doorknobs. Mark Galoustian, a specialist with the Corps, is equally meticulous when it comes to the refurbished Adam-12-era car he owns and carefully maintains.
He describes the inside of a “shop” during those days:
“The ‘Hot-Sheet’ (the latest off of the teletype at the start of the shift) would slide
behind the Plexiglas and was illuminated by two small bulbs from behind at night. Your partner would scan the sheet for stolen or wanted license plate numbers. The shotgun was locked in front of the front seat and an additional shotgun rack was in the trunk. There were handheld spotlights and a four-channel Motorola radio (Ch. 1—dispatch, Ch 2-4—‘tac’ frequencies). You could not hear other officers talking to dispatch; you could
not talk to other officers in the field without switching to a tac frequency; and you could not hear dispatch when switched to tac. At the time, there were no ‘rovers’ either. Officers would hang the mic out the window during stops in order to hear the radio. The batons were slid into radiator hoses on both front doors that MTD installed. The supervisor cars had a second or third radio installed to monitor other channels at one time. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that the standard patrol cars had ‘cheater’ radio installed. The cheater would allow officers to still hear dispatch while talking to other units on the tac ( a second speaker was mounted on the rear deck above the rear seat).
“The two ‘can lights’ on the roof were used by LAPD from the early 1950s until 1978. The early lights were made by S&M Lamp Co. (Model 757) and were red/red. California did not adapt the rear amber light requirement until 1964. That year, S&M Lamp Co. went out of business, so Trio-Sales Co. made the lights for LAPD as Model T-2 lights with flashing ambers to the rear and steady red to the front. To be ‘LAPD correct,’ the ambers flashed separately: They didn’t want a shop to go out of service for a burned-out flasher, so each light had its own flasher. On Adam-12, the lights alternated the flash. These can lights eventually had to be replaced due to side warning issues. Also, the Olympic Games were coming to Los Angeles, and the international visitors typically recognized blue as emergency vehicle lighting. Most of the old can lights were scraped, making them hard to find and thus priced at a premium.” The “Hot-Sheet” desks were also scrapped, and Marks says he knows of only four or five that are still in existence.
“This era car had no A/C, no power windows, a bench seat (bad news if the driver was shorter than the passenger), bias ply tires (no metal reinforcement) and no power steering.”
In 1911, the Los Angeles Times warned “Lawbreakers Beware” as the Los Angeles Police Department was at again. You see, LAPD loves technology—whatever it takes to get one-up on the bad guys. Seemingly always outnumbered, the department of 1911 had to be inventive; so as they would throughout their history, its leaders instinctively turned to technology.
An LAPD officer trying out the “Power Skates.”
With the benefit of cutting-edge devices, the modern LAPD patrolled the entire city in the early 20th century using automobiles and motorcycles, leaving the old, dependable foot beat cop in the dust. The new machinery only seemed to emphasize the slowness of patrolmen. But the street-smart cop was not about to fade away like his four-legged friends.
So when a local citizen came to then Chief Charles Sebastian (1911-1915) with an invention to literally propel the foot beat cop as fast as those in the new automobile, the chief quickly ordered a field trial of what Mr. Herbert Chamberlin termed his “Power Skates.” According to his design, these specially created skates would allow properly equipped foot beat officers to “speed past” their motorized colleagues. There were two types of these skates: One had two wheels and was a “high-speed” design that would allow the cop to reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour; the other had four wheels for each skate and was for regular, slower foot beat duty. The skates were propelled by the weight of the officer stepping forward as if walking; a worm gear “commuting the vertical to circular motion” drove the officer forward—or so it was promised.
As history would have it, the “Power Skates” were not approved, possibly saving hundreds of days of lost time from injuries—as the one big drawback of the design was clear: no brakes!
This particular photograph of the entire Los Angeles Police Department, taken circa 1904, has continually been mistakenly marked as being snapped in 1890. To photo historians, this 14-year error is important to correct. The image was taken at the entry to the newly constructed Los Angeles County Courthouse at Broadway and Temple Street. The building was completed 1891.
The entire Los Angeles Police Department in 1904
If one was to accept the date of 1890, then I would argue, where is Chief John Glass (1889-1899), who was never absent from any LAPD group photograph during his tenure. No one in the photograph has the stars of the chief of police displayed on their uniform. They all wear the series two badge that was worn from 1890 to 1909.
Those present for this official portrait of the LAPD lends itself to identifying the year of the image. Standing at attention, with his trademark long, drooping mustache, is Walter Auble (front row on left), who was chief of police from 1905 to 1906—a year after this photo was taken. The chief of police in 1904 was William Hammell. Why he would not be present for this significant image is not known, but he is nowhere to be found.
The two ladies present give substance to the date of 1904. The diminutive Lucy Gray and her daughter Aletha Gilbert (1902-1929) are given the prominent position of being framed by Auble and the Detective Bureau. Matron Gray died in March of 1904, eliminating the date of 1905 when Auble was chief.
Chief Walter Auble would serve one year as chief and would later be gunned down by a burglary suspect. Lucy Gray died of pneumonia shortly after this photo was taken. Aletha Gilbert became LA’s first “City Mother” and served the LAPD until her retirement in 1929. The iconic Los Angeles County Courthouse was torn down in 1932.
For younger readers, “Who’s on First” was a hilarious baseball comedy routine made famous by Abbott and Costello during their vaudeville days in the 1930s and remained popular into the 1970s. Not so comical is the continuing disagreement concerning who was the first policewoman in the United States. To read the differences, one would assume there is a lot riding on the outcome. And perhaps there is. If history has a persona, it surely would not allow loose ends; if the facts are there, history would ensure the question would be answered—hard and fast. Time to tie loose ends.
By the 1840s, women were becoming involved with local law enforcement agencies. Their primary duties included the care of female prisoners and young children. They were not sworn officers nor did they have arrest powers. Their appointment was significant because they constituted the first official recognition of the idea that women were necessary for the proper handling of female and juvenile offenders when in police custody.
Matron Lucy Gray, the first female to work on the LAPD, on the right, with her daughter, Mrs. Aletha Gilbert, who would follow in her mother’s footsteps.
Just prior to the dawn of the 20th century, the duties of early female officers were more of a social worker. None of these women had the same status as the men working as police officers. However, these women did endeavor to open the door of opportunity for other women to join the ranks for a career in law enforcement. Without question, they were very successful in laying the groundwork for today’s women working side-by-side with their male counterparts.
The problematic ingredient to the issue of who was the first policewoman in the country is defining what constitutes being a sworn female police officer. I suggest she must meet three distinct criteria: She must be appointed to a law enforcement organization, be provided the department’s badge or shield and have the corresponding powers of arrest. Now the controversy. Should she be identified as a policewoman no matter her specific assignment within the organization? If she just worked one narrowly defined assignment, should she be given the title of policewoman? I would argue she should as long as she meets all the other criteria. It is no different today, with some officers going through their entire career working just one or two assignments.
When I was in the police academy and listened to the instructor discuss the history of the Los Angeles Police Department, (and later when I taught the subject), LAPD’s Alice Stebbins Wells was always proclaimed to be the first policewoman in the United States. No instructor cited any documentation to the effect; it was just put out there—and has been for generations. But today, modern research techniques have challenged earlier assumptions. Facts that were obscure and buried in the massive depths of history can now be resurrected.
Armed with these newly discovered specifics, one can, with near certainty, fill a void in this historical caveat. Now, I realize that dates, as they relate to history, are boring, but bear with me—they are important in this discussion. Let’s look at the contenders for Who’s on First—in chronological order.
Marie Owens, Chicago PD
1891: Marie Owens, Chicago Police Department
The first date, which was just recently uncovered and lends itself to our established criteria, is in 1891—19 years before women were even given the right to vote. Contemporary research brought to light the exploits of Mrs. Marie Owens of Chicago. A refugee from the Irish Famine, Owens moved to Chicago with her husband. But her spouse died in 1888 of typhoid fever. Left with five children to raise, the tall, solidly built women with flowing black hair found a job with the Chicago Health Department working as the lead factory inspector, tasked with enforcing child-labor laws.
Many children at the time, some as young as 7, were subjected to work long hours and paid only pennies a day, slaving in ghoulish working environments. Public outrage was growing and politicians were forced to take action. Consequently, the city hired female inspectors to investigate and cite violators. Not standing by ideally, the business owners soon out-flanked the inspectors by demanding a search warrant before allowing Owens and her staff to enter. Since the inspectors were without powers of arrest, they were hampered in their investigations.
The Chicago Police Department (CPD) soon became involved and, in a bold move, had the foresight to hire Marie Owens. She was given powers of arrest, the title of detective sergeant and a police star. But her duties were limited to just child labor law violations.
Regardless, she became well known through the press, which followed many of her exploits. Sergeant Owens left little doubt as to her perceived position in the police department:
When the work first began, a woman wearing a police sergeant’s star was a novelty. Manufacturers, in some cases, were not inclined to admit me to their work shops. But, armed with the strong arm of the law and the will to do good, I soon found that, in most cases, the merchants met me half-way and rendered me great assistance.
The owners of the big plants were not the only ones to take notice of a woman wearing a badge. Owen’s supervisor summed up her capabilities: “Give me men like she is a woman and we will have the model detective bureau of the whole world.” Owens retired in 1923 after 32 years with the Chicago Police Department. Her parting words were:
“In my sixteen years of experience I have come across more suffering than ever is seen by any man detective.”
Lola Baldwin, Portland PD, Oregon
1908: Lola Baldwin, Portland (Oregon) Police Department
The second woman in our three-officer race for being credited with being the first woman cop is Lola Baldwin of Portland, Oregon. On April 1, 1908, Baldwin was sworn in as a “female detective to perform police service” for the city of Portland. Her background included working for the Portland Travelers’ Aid Society to ensure that juveniles and young women did not fall into “moral pitfalls” as they worked at the Lewis and Clark Exposition in 1905. The exposition was like a World’s Fair and brought in single lumbermen, laborers and miners who might influence the young people of Portland.
To counter this onslaught, city hall, along with the police chief, formed a force of social workers, headed by Baldwin, who were given temporary quasi-police powers for the length of the exposition. Baldwin and her squad of women were so successful that the same politicians made her position a permanent one. Consequently, in 1908, Baldwin was hired by the Portland Police Department to serve as the “Superintendent of the Women’s Auxiliary to the Police Department for the Protection of Girls.” Thus began her 14-year law enforcement career with a badge and powers of arrest.
Lola Baldwin never thought of her position as one that was the same as that of the uniformed men of the department. Her duties emphasized crime prevention and social work rather than law enforcement. She did not carry a gun or wear a uniform. Her office was not in police headquarters, but at the local YMCA.
Alice Stebbins Wells, LAPD
1910: Alice Stebbins Wells, Los Angeles Police Department
Two years later in 1910, 37-year-old Alice Stebbins Wells was a determined woman who took notice of the lack of women in law enforcement. She was a seasoned social worker who wanted to take her profession to the police department. Wells was not waiting to be asked to join the LAPD; she took her case in front of the city council.
She argued that society was changing and there was a definitive need for a women’s presence on the police department. She reasoned that children and abused and sexually assaulted women needed a female police officer to confide in; most women, she pointed out, were extremely uncomfortable in reporting crimes to male officers. The city council agreed, and a transformation took place on LAPD. On September 12, 1910, Wells was designated as the nation’s first female policewoman with arrest powers. The Herald ran a headline of the freshly badged “officeress:”
“NEW POLICE OFFICER ASSUMES HER DUTIES-‘PATROLMAN’ WELLS GIVEN STAR.” If you happen to be prowling around the streets late at night in a suspicious manner and are arrested by a women who informs you in a gentle voice she is an officer of the law and then flashes a star on you to make you believe it don’t be alarmed or ask any questions, but give an explanation, for it will be Alice Stebbins Wells, the only woman on the department of Los Angeles.
Unlike the two other earlier pioneers mentioned, Wells worked a foot beat with a senior juvenile officer. The male officer showed her “the different penny arcades, skating rinks, dance halls, picture theaters and other places frequented by minors.” Once Wells had her assignment, the department promptly issued a directive:
No young girl can be questioned by a male officer. Such work is delegated solely to policewomen, who, by their womanly sympathy and intuition, are able to gain the confidence of their younger sisters.
Wells went on to found the International Association of Police Women and later the Women Peace Officers Association of California. Alice Wells was appointed the department’s historian and curator in 1934. She presented her first policewoman’s uniform to the archives. After 30 years of service, she retired in 1940 and died in 1957.
There you have it, three pioneering women who, no matter who was first, laid the foundation for the women officers of today. Arguments can be made for each woman. Rather than proclaim my choice now, I want to open it up to an Internet vote. Encourage your friends to vote and let’s see, according to you, Who’s on First. I will post the results soon.
Jim Bultema displays his new book “Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department.” Bultema spent eight years researching and writing the book. Ryan Williams/WGCN
WILLIAMS, Ariz. – After eight years of research, local historian and former police officer James Bultema has published his first book about the history of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
Bultema, a Parks resident, published “Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department” this month.
The book provides a chronological history of the department, starting in 1850 when Los Angeles became a city. Bultema explains how the department evolved from a volunteer organization to a professional organization in about 1871. He also highlights key people like the first African American and women officers in the department and several major investigations the department dealt with, including the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the Rodney King incident and the OJ Simpson case. “But the philosophy I used is not what happened in 1865, da da da, but we take somebody from that era and let them tell their story,” Bultema said.
The idea for the book came while Bultema was serving on the LAPD and doing a history project in 1984. As part of that project he spoke with Arthur Hohmann, who was the LAPD chief from 1939-1941. “I had an opportunity to spend two days with him interviewing him, and that just really got me excited about the history of the department,” Bultema said.
That experience inspired Bultema to write a script and produce a documentary film about the history of the LAPD. After six years of research, the six-hour documentary “Badge of Honor: An Insider’s History of the Los Angeles Police Department” came out in 2002.
“About two years ago I was just thinking to myself, maybe I should take that script and write a book because I did all that research,” Butlema said.
So he completed two years of additional research, during which he started writing the book. Bultema interviewed more than 50 people as part of his research, including about 10-12 police chiefs and several officers who worked in the department from as far back as the 1920s. The book contains many italicized sections, which are quotes from those interviews. “I used a lot of first person documentation because they lived it and experienced it so let them tell the story,” Bultema said.
The book also contains information from old newspapers and numerous old photos. Bultema considers himself a photographic historian. “So the whole book, whenever I put a photograph in, it really complements the narrative that’s going on at the time,” Bultema said.
The most interesting thing Bultema learned while writing his book was how corrupt the LAPD was in its early days. “I don’t duck any of those issues. It’s all there,” Bultema said. “And it just shows our history and what we built from, from being one of the most corrupt to what I consider to be one of the most professional law enforcement organizations in the U.S.”
Bultema’s interest in law enforcement was sparked when he was growing up in Michigan, where his uncle was a police officer and sheriff. Bultema said “just hearing (my uncle’s) stories and being around him” had a strong influence on him.
During the Vietnam War, Bultema served as a police officer in the Air Force. As soon as he got out of the Air Force, Bultema started the police academy. He worked for the LAPD for 26 years.
Having been an officer himself helped Bultema when writing the book for readers unfamiliar with the police department. “They’ve got to understand some of the mentality that goes on that police officers have, how they approach things and what their mental attitude might be,” he said.
However, Butlema said being a historian was even more helpful in writing the book. Bultema has a history degree from California State University at Northridge. “I really haven’t touched on that I was a police officer that wrote (the book) because I don’t want people to think it’s a complimentary, a puff piece if you will, on the department and that I didn’t show any of the black eyes,” he said. Bultema’s time serving on the Board of Directors for the LAPD Historical Society and editing the organization’s quarterly magazine, The Link, also helped him in writing the book.
Bultema hopes his book will give people an idea of what it’s like to be a police officer in a major city. However, he said the book is about more than law enforcement. “I just think it puts the person in the different eras of the history of Los Angeles and gives them insight into the things that were happening,” he said. “Because really, this book is a history of LAPD, but it’s also a history of Los Angeles, because you can’t have one without the other. They complement each other.”
The Los Angeles Police Department has a long and storied past that is intertwined and entangled with the history of the great city it serves. From a sleepy pueblo by a river that was protected by a force of six officers to America’s second largest city patrolled by ten thousand officers, the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Police Department have grown up together. That growth has resulted in a city that is uniquely situated as a global leader in commerce and entertainment as well as being the pathfinder for cultural trends worldwide. It has also produced a police department that is seen as a world leader in law enforcement. The strategies and practices of the Los Angeles Police Department are emulated by police agencies around the world.
But there is a darker side to the history of both the City and its police department. Just as we have been heralded as leaders in community policing we have also been at the center of the controversy which caused two of the largest riots in our nation’s history. We are well known as being the architects of the professional model of policing under Chief William H. Parker and in contrast have been characterized as America’s most corrupt police force during the reign of his predecessors. Our use of force policies and techniques are copied worldwide but we are still haunted by the specters of brutality raised during the 1990s.
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. I know because the history of this police department is my history. From the experiences of my father who joined the force in 1950 and rose to the rank of Assistant Chief, to my own time serving in every rank up to and including Chief of Police. I have been a student of this place and lived its history. I now see it through the eyes of my two children who are Los Angeles Police Department officers and you can bet that I will encourage them to read this book so they have a sense of where they have come from and where we need to go. But I think the ultimate praise comes from my Father George Beck. I asked him to read the draft copy I was provided and to give me his comments. He is a direct man who chooses his words well and his comment was “I think he got it right.” Enjoy your reading!
The interview went very well on “Bill Martinez Live,” so well; Bill asked that I return to the show on at least two more occasions to discuss Guardians of Angels. He reported how much he enjoyed the book and he could appreciate all the work that went into the research. I will post future dates for the next interviews.