Unsolved: Three Cold Case Murders of LAPD Officers

(This is an excerpt from a book I am currently researching and writing, entitled: Unsolved: Cold Case Homicides of Law Enforcement Officers.)

In the long and illustrious history of the Los Angeles Police Department, tragically, there have been over 200 officers who have given their lives in the line of duty. The majority of these have been the result of gunfire. In nearly every case, the killers have either been captured or slain. Three cases however, remain open; cold case files where the suspects were never apprehended. The thought of these murder’s never having to pay for their crime, is an extremely hard reality to except—especially for those in the close knit LAPD family. By keeping these three men in our thoughts and speaking about their murders, there is always hope. Hope that someone might step forward, or a new clue uncovered that might lead to an arrest and bring peace to these three brother officers and their families.

The three brave men are Patrolman David Brooks who was killed in 1910, Officers Fred Early in 1972 and Michael Lee Edwards in 1974. In three comprehensive articles, I will look at each of their murders, identify the suspects and what the LAPD has done to find the killers. The search will never end. Lest we Forget should be the battle cry that never goes silent—never.

 

 

Patrolman David Brooksbrookslapd-patch

Los Angeles Police Department

End of Watch: Friday, April 8, 1910

Age: 38

 

Friday nights in Los Angeles have changed little in the past 106 years—it gets very busy for LAPD officers. So it was on that Friday evening, April 8, 1910 at 10:30 p.m., when two young gunmen, dressed in black clothes, black hats, and wearing black handkerchiefs covering their faces, entered Conrad Winter’s saloon at 3725 Central Avenue. John Edwards, the bartender, was the only man in the bar when he looked up and saw the masked men, with guns drawn, approaching him. “Throw up your mitts,” hollered the man who appeared to be the leader. Edwards, seemingly unfazed with two guns pointed at him replied, “Go to the dickens.” When the leader growled he meant it, the bartender quickly threw up his hands. As the leader keep his gun on Edwards, his accomplice went around the counter to the till and removed $50 in silver but missed $200 in gold which was hidden in a drawer.

As a result of numerous robberies in the area, Patrolman David Brooks, 38, a seven-year veteran out of University Station, working plain clothes, was walking his footbeat north of Grand Avenue, approaching 30th Street. It was less than an hour since the robbery and a distance that the suspects could have easily covered. As the two gunmen walked by a witness who was somewhat out of site leaning against a telephone pole, he overheard one of them point out that a man was coming and said, “let’s rob him.” The witness noticed they were both wearing all black.

Unknown to the bandits, the man they randomly selected was Los Angeles Police Officer David Brooks. As the suspect’s guns came out, Brooks was ordered to put his hands up. The street wise veteran complied, but only raised his left arm as his right went for his gun. With that motion, the officer’s jacket pulled back, reveling his badge pinned to his chest. “He’s an officer,” one of them yelled. “That’s nothing,” said the other. “Hold him up anyway.”

Patrolman Brooks began to pull his gun out. At the same time, both suspects opened fire at near point blank range. One round struck Brooks on his left side, just below the ribs, and exited on the right side, cutting through his intestines and liver, and severing an abdominal artery. The will to live and fight back was strong in Brooks. Although mortally wounded, Brooks fell against a telephone pole fired two shots at the fleeing bandits who returned fire. Loosing strength in his legs, Brooks fell to the ground but managed to empty his revolver at the suspects.

Quickly, there were 20 people surrounding the fallen officer. One was Dr. T.E. Taggert who had run to the corner after hearing the shots from his nearby residence. Dr. Taggert knew there was no time to wait for an ambulance, including LAPD’s, which was horse drawn. The Dr flagged down a passing auto and directed the driver to Central Hospital. This was the infancy of gasoline powered cars, and they were quite bumpy and slow. Despite being only minutes from death, Patrolman Brooks managed to utter what he was thinking in those fleeting moments. “If I had only been a little quicker,” he said between gasps, “I would have got those fellows.”

When the driver of the car was unsure where the entrance to Central hospital was, he

central-640x443

Central station which also housed Central hospital where Patrolman Brooks was transported. Circa 1910.

stopped in front of Central police station. Captain Avery Bradish came running out and with help from others carried Brooks around the corner to the hospital entrance. As they carried the officer into the emergency room, a doctor asked what was going on. Captain Bradish said, “It is some private watchman, I guess. Shot somewhere by thugs.” But then, as if coming back from the dead, Brooks lifted his head and said in clear voice, “Captain, I am a patrolman, I belong to University Station. Brooks is my name—David Brooks. I am one of your men.” The captain quickly told the officer that indeed, he now recognized him, and taking his hand, calling him Davy, he tried to be positive and cheer up the stricken officer.

 

After just eight minutes on the operating table Brooks uttered his last words, “I ought to have got ‘em, but I was a little nervous—I was a little shaky, you know, I—.” His head fell back onto the table and Patrolman David Brooks was dead. LAPD detectives made several arrest, but after questioning, all of the men were released. The hunt for Brook’s killers continued in earnest for months but eventually all leads failed to reveal the killers. Over the years, the suspects were never identified and the case remains unsolved.

David Brooks was born March 6, 1872 in Ohio, the eldest of five children whose father was a farmer. Moving to Los Angeles in 1896, Brooks was working as a streetcar conductor. In 1898, he married and had three sons—David Jr., born in 1899; Walter, born in 1901; and Frederic, born in 1903 at about the same time Brooks joined the LAPD, assigned to University Station.

A month after his death, LAPD hosted a concert and ball to raise money to benefit his widow and the three children. Nearly 3,000 people attended including the mayor and Chief of Police Alexander Galloway. The event raised $4,000 which in today’s money would be $100,000.

Officer Brooks was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetery. His widow, Ottilie, died in 1948 in Los Angeles at the age of 71. She is buried next to her husband.

Any comments please email at jabultema@lapdhistory.com

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The Earliest Badge of the Los Angeles Police Department

Many years ago I came across a very early photograph of a uniformed Los Angeles police officer, standing proudly alongside his family. At first glance, it appears he is wearing the “Series One” badge that was first issued in 1876. But with closer examination, the unidentified officer is wearing a badge that has seven points as compared to Series One badge which has eight points. Why is this important you ask; because there is

policephoto174

A. C. Golsh cabinet card of an unidentified LAPD officer wearing the “1869” style badge and military uniform. Circa 1875-1876.

no official record of LAPD officers wearing a metal badge prior to 1876. Accordingly, this photograph is an extremely rare record of the earliest known badge worn by and LAPD officer.

In 1869, Los Angeles was being overrun by gangs, prostitution, gamblers, murderers and plain drunks. As one visitor stated, “The name of this city is in Spanish, the city of Angels, but with much more truth might it be called at present the city of Demons. While I have been here in Los Angeles only two weeks, there have been eleven deaths and only one of them a natural”

To combat these undesirables, the city council sought full-time police protection. This was a decisive moment in Los Angeles history as this allowed the establishment of a city police department. To lead the new department, the council hired William C. Warren who was the town marshal and gave him the added title of chief of police. (Warren was gunned down by one of his officers involving a dispute over reward money one year later.) The police department consisting of six officers were not paid a salary but were compensated with a commission for the collection of fees by serving writs, for arrests, and for returning stolen property.

With a budget of just $75 to furnish his office and pay rent, there is no record of any funds being allotted for uniforms or badges. So what is this officer in the photograph wearing? That mystery first began to be solved with the help of Policewomen Alice Stebbins Wells who most agree is American’s first paid policewomen. Wells served on the LAPD from 1910 until 1940 and died in 1957. In her later years of service, she was the department’s official historian. Years later, another figure entered the discussion, when retired Commander Keith Bushey was fortunate enough to steward a number of police badges from the estate of Wells. It was Bushey who saw the historical importance of the non-descript badge many others at first thought insignificant.

IMG_3061 (1)

The “1869” style badge. Photo courteous of Keith Bushey.

Bushey determined through his expertise as the predominant collector and historian on badges that this “City Police – 1869” was skillfully hand cut and fit the standard for metal badges worn during this era. The seven point star was used by police departments across the nation including cities in California such as San Diego, San Francisco and Sacramento. It only stands to reason, LAPD officers also wore some type of metal badge.

Bushey believes that a number of different types of badges were worn during this period from 1869 and the establishment of LAPD as a paid and uniformed department in 1876. Some were individually made such as this 1869 badge while others could have been ordered through the mail which were merely generic and had “POLICE” stamped on them.

There would have been little standardization on the fledgling department as officers were required to purchase their own equipment, uniform, and sidearm. Consequently, officers equipped themselves as best they could and with what they could afford. The fact that the 1869 badge has a “2” would suggest that there was also a number “1” badge. The “1869” on the badge is significant. It was a time in Los Angeles that the formation of a police department would have been the talk of the town. Going from volunteers attempting to enforce the law to a force of six armed officers and a chief of police, would have been something to document, in this case, inscribing the “1869” as the centerpiece of the badge.

As Bushey quantified: “In the case of this [1869] badge, the evidence is very compelling that this badge was used prior to the standardization of the uniform in 1876, and may in fact be representative of a Los Angeles Police badge design that had not been previously acknowledged.” I would agree. In doing my research for Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department, I found no documentation of the “1869” badge until I located the rare photograph of the LAPD officer wearing just such a badge. In conjunction with Bushey’s research, his acquisition of the “1869” badge, the likely history of the department’s first badge comes to light. It is an important discovery as it pre-dates the Series One badge of 1876 that historians steadfastly attribute as the first metal badge worn by members of the LAPD.

To bolster this argument, it is important to qualify the cabinet card photograph as a LAPD

golsh

Officer Frank Lemon wearing the regulation uniform and Series One badge. Photo by Golsh. Circa 1879.

officer. The image was taken by A. C. Golsh, an immigrant from Prussia. Golsh settled down in Los Angeles and established a photographic business in heart of Los Angeles at 411 Main Street across the street from the now famous Pico House. The cabinet card style was first introduced in 1866 and had its peak in the United States from 1875 to 1895. Golsh was active in Los Angeles from approximately 1870 to 1893. Photographing policemen was not new to Golsh as evidenced by an outstanding cabinet card of Officer Frank Lemon with a detailed view of the Series One badge. Based on the style of the image and other factors noted, I would date the image circa 1875-1876. At this time there were 12 officers on the LAPD.

The uniform the officer is wearing is most likely military that he either wore during the Civil War or bought from a military surplus dealer. Note his series “1869” styled seven point badge on his jacket. Collectively taken with Bushey’s research, his seven point badge, in conjunction with the photograph of this LAPD officer wearing the early badge, we have the best evidence to date of the transformation of the Los Angeles Police Department from 1869 until 1876. It allows a rare peak into what at least one officer choose to wear until standardization of equipment took place in 1876. Please contact me with your comments and thoughts, I would enjoy hearing from you-jabultema@lapdhistory.com.

 

What’s in a Picture: 1938 LAPD Shootout

As many of you are familiar with my current book, Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department, 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.

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.

Band of Brothers: LAPD Officers’ Shootout against Four Bank Robbers in 1920s Los Angeles

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

 

 

1911 LAPD: A Leader in Technology … Well, Sort Of

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."

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!

What’s In a Picture: The Entire Los Angeles Police Department 1904

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

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.

“Who’s on First?” Once and For All, Who Was the First Policewoman in the United States?

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.

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

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

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

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.

Local Williams author chronicles the stories behind the Los Angeles Police Department in new book

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
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.”

More information about the book is available at http://www.lapdhistory.com.

Article from the Williams News, Williams, AZ. (12-24-2013). http://williamsnews.com/main.asp?SectionID=1&SubSectionID=1&ArticleID=13922

 

Foreword to “Guardians of Angels” by LAPD Chief Charlie Beck

FOREWORD

chief_beck[1]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!

Charlie Beck

National Radio Interview

bill

LAPD Historian James Bultema on Bill Martinez Live – Tuesday, Oct. 29th at 9:47 AM ET
Duration: appoximately 9:47 AM ET to 10:10 AM ET (appoximately 25 minutes)

Topic:  Guardians of Angels-A History of the LA Police Dept. from a police insider on the LAPD including:
  • Frontier Justice – LA Style – when Los Angeles justice dispensed with niceties
  • How a Chief of Police was gunned down by one of his cops over reward money
  • The “Man from Mars” bombing that almost leveled Central Station
  • The Dirty 30´s-gangsters & corruption
  • Christopher Dorner Rampage
  • The Simpson-Goldman Murders
  • Bultema on Mark Fuhrman, the OJ Trial and its effect on the LAPD
  • Rodney King Beating & Riots-20 years later and what needs to be told