Cold Case Homicide: Officer Fred Early

 

Officer Fred Early

This one is personal. As a young rookie police officer, just out of the academy, I worked West Los Angeles (WLA) division of the LAPD, on the same watch as Fred Early. Although we never worked together, we were on a lot of the same calls. I had heard of his reputation as a solid cop who had been in several “good” shootings in the South end of the city where several suspects were killed. Perhaps that is why he was transferred to one of the less active areas, WLA, which borders Beverly Hills.

I learned much from Early, just watching how he handled “hot” calls with the utmost professionalism, but primarily observing his officer survival skills. You knew if Early was on your call, you never had to look over your shoulder—he had your “6.” His nickname was “Crazy Fred,” and he lived up to that moniker. I recall one night after work, Early dangerously climbed a six-story tower next to the station and waved to us disbelievers down below—that was Early. After his death, many of us began calling each other “Fred” as a gesture of what he meant to us. I even named my dog after him. So how could an officer who survived so much be taken down by some burglary suspects while off duty? That is the story.

On Saturday, September 9, 1972, at 4:30 in the morning, Policeman Fred Early of the Los Angeles Police Department was on his way home after spending time with some friends. He was off duty, driving his personal vehicle near the northwest corner of National and Sawtelle boulevards, just off the 405 Freeway. Always attuned to his surroundings, no matter whether he was at work, Early observed a possible burglary suspect acting suspiciously near the closed Thrifty Drug Store.

Stopping his vehicle, he watched the suspect for several minutes. Believing this was indeed a burglary going down, he circled and parked his car at a service station at the southwest corner of the intersection to better keep the man under surveillance.

In an era with no cell phones, Early left his vehicle and went to a pay phone to request assistance. As he was talking to the operator, the suspect spooked and ran. At 4:30 in the morning, the city is just beginning to stir, and there would have been very few cars moving. It appears the suspect realized this and, seeing Early’s car stop, started running southbound across National. Early dropped the phone receiver in mid-sentence and pursued the fleeing suspect. He chased him west to an extremely dark parking lot at the rear of 11316 National Blvd. As he reached the parking lot, he was attacked from behind by one or more additional suspects and was shot twice through the left leg. The assailants beat Early, kicking him in the head and body until he lost consciousness. Leaving him for dead, the suspects escaped.

When he came to, he fired his revolver into a block wall to summon help. For the next several months, Early was in and out of the hospital for treatment of his numerous wounds. He suffered from blackouts and severe headaches. While undergoing treatment at UCLA Medical Center, he sustained irreversible brain damage and never recovered. He died from his injuries six months after the shooting. He was just 31.

Just after his murder, then-Governor Ronald Reagan took the unprecedented step of offering $10,000 in state money to find the men who had shot and beaten Early. Twenty-five years later, in 1998, city officials met to consider offering additional rewards. The Police Protective League, which had offered $10,000 in 1973, once again offered that money. The Los Angeles City Council offered an additional $25,000 for information leading to the arrest of the suspects. It was a positive move to crack the case, but no suspects have been arrested, and the case remains unsolved.

During his short life, Early often talked about his love for his four girls. At the time of his death, the kids were between the ages of 5 and 12. A quarter of a century after his murder, the four attended a ceremony to honor their father with LAPD’s highest measure of bravery, the police Medal of Valor. A tearful Michelle Bonnee, Early’s youngest daughter, said at a news conference “I have the burden of looking into my own 5-year-old daughter’s eyes and trying to answer the questions she has of her grandfather—a man I remember well but barely knew and whom she will never know.”

“We have nothing to lose is the way we feel about it,” Hollie Ashworth, one of Early’s daughters, said of the new round of rewards. “Not that [an arrest] would ever make up for my father. But there would be justice in finding the person who did this and some closure for the family. That’s the hardest part, knowing there is somebody out there that got away with this at the expense of four little girls.”

LAPD detective Roseanne Parino (now retired) summed up why the hunt must continue for the perpetrators of Early’s murder and all the suspects out there who have gotten away with the murder of a police officer. “People become more mature, have more of a sense of mortality. I think just the time and distance from the act may bring people out who at the time were reticent, for whatever reasons, to speak.” To give peace to Early and all the other victims of the hundreds of unsolved police murders, we can only hope and pray this happens often.

If you have anything to add to the Early murder, please contact me so I can add your thoughts and comments to this article, or just leave a reply on this site. Thanks.

Jabultema@lapdhistory.com or 928.607.1210

 

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Cold Case Homicide: Officer Michael Lee Edwards

(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 murderers never having to pay for their crime, is an extremely hard reality to accept—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.

“Who Executed Mike?”    edwardsphoto

Tobie Edwards, an innocent 6-year-old, was playing in her grandma’s backyard after her father, Michael Edwards, dropped her off one Friday. It would be the last day they were ever together. On the next day, her play was interrupted by two uniformed Los Angeles Police officers who were dressed just like her daddy. As she later learned from her grandparents, the news was devastating. Tobie’s father, Officer Edwards, had been found shot to death, execution style. There were no suspects in custody, and 42 years later, there still aren’t. The motives and theories for the murder of Edwards are as plentiful as evidence markers at a crime scene.

The 26-year-old officer was last seen alive on May 10, 1974, enjoying some buddy time with other cops at the LAPD Police Academy bar in Elysian Park. It was Friday night, and Edwards was celebrating his final stint on the anti-gang unit, CRASH, and looking forward to his upcoming vacation to Hawaii.

At 10:30 p.m., Edwards said goodbye to his friends, telling them he had a date in Long Beach. The guard at the entrance to the Police Academy substantiated the time as he watched Edwards’ gold Ford Pinto drive past the guard shack. From there, he drove to 77th Street Station, where he was assigned. Afterwards he was observed at a nearby hospital. After leaving the hospital, Edwards was never seen alive again. From here, the mystery begins. It is a whodunit in epic proportions and has haunted detectives, friends and loved ones for over four decades.

Through the years, scores of detectives have worked the Edwards case. Many are deceased, most are retired. Today, one active detective, Daryn DuPree, of Robbery/Homicide Division, has the cold case file on Edwards and says he is actively investigating it. His examination of the case adds to the generations of LAPD’s elite detectives who have preceded him. Here is what is known.

In some way, after leaving the hospital, Edwards was forced or was transported to an abandoned, burned-out apartment building at 122 W. 89th Street, in South-Central Los Angeles. It was here that he was shot six times, execution-style, with a 9-millimeter handgun, which for identification purposes has six lands and grooves with a right-hand twist, Lands .085. His underwear (some have stated it was not his) was pulled over his face, and he was handcuffed. His car, his personal .38- caliber Smith & Wesson Airweight revolver, and some money were missing.

1974_0616_michael_lee_edwards

A little more than a month after Officer Michael Edwards’ murder, LAPD detectives issued this police bulletin seeking help in locating the people responsible for his death. They are still looking four decades later.

Fifteen hours after his body was discovered, police located his Pinto about 10 miles from the murder scene at 1034 W. 186th Street in Los Angeles. The location was near the old Ascot Raceway, a frequent drop spot for stolen vehicles. Divorce papers from his wife were on the passenger seat. The keys were in the ignition. A handkerchief was found in the car, but no suspect prints were uncovered. No one has come forward who witnessed the actual shooting.

edwards3

Fifteen hours after his murder, Officer Edwards’ gold Ford Pinto was found abandoned at this location on 186th Street.

In 1981, Edwards’ revolver was found, and detectives were hoping this would provide the one clue to blow the case wide open. In Las Vegas, the police department had been broadcasting PSAs to encourage citizens to turn in their firearms. A woman and her fried surrendered a revolver that turned out to be the gun that Edwards was carrying on the night of his murder. LAPD was promptly notified. After an in-depth interview, the two were cleared of any wrongdoing. “We tried just about everything we could do at that time,” said Tom McGuine, one of the original detectives on the case. “We had the people power, we had the time, we had everything going for us. But sometimes you get to a point where you just don’t get the answer.”

The 1970s were turbulent times in the nation. Not since the 1920s, have so many officers been killed. Radical groups such as the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army) committed bank robberies, committed murders, planted bombs under LAPD cars and kidnapped newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst. Just days after Edwards’ body was discovered, six SLA members died in a firefight with the LAPD SWAT team. Some thought there might be a connection between the execution killing of Edwards and the SLA. Investigators tested the weapons used by the SLA but could not connect them to the Edwards murder. The SLA was subsequently ruled out.

In 1999, detectives from LAPD and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department established a team to reexamine unsolved slayings of LAPD officers and sheriff’s deputies. Included on the LAPD team were detectives Dennis Kilcoyne, Rosemary Sanchez and Paul Coulter. After solving a sheriff’s cold case homicide, they turned their attention to the Edwards case. As a starting point, detectives reexamined prior evidence and what the prior detectives had done. They looked over possible suspects and witness statements. They established a $15,000 reward and even went so far as to send out press releases while posting billboards that read, “Who Executed Mike?”

The joint detective task force sent out letters to officers, both retired and active, who might somehow reveal evidence they missed the first time. They had the FBI retest fingerprints, with no luck. They revisited the crime scene and interviewed friends and family members. Although they received numerous calls and clues, nothing substantial was added to the case files. The cold case remained just that. It was at this point that detectives began to focus on Edwards as a man, rather than as a police officer. “It’s usually not the Sunday night mystery,” Kilcoyne said. “It’s usually something blatant right in front of you. You just overlook it.”

It was just a few days after the murder that investigators learned that Edwards may have been involved with an African American woman who worked near 77th Street station. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2002, Detective Kilcoyne pointed out that former detectives on the case believed Edwards would have not dated a black woman. “That’s hard to swallow now, but in 1974, the mind-set of society was totally different.” At that time, detectives thought that tip might be the key to solving the case. As it turned out, another dead end.

Another individual who thought the murder of Edwards was personal and not related to his position as an LAPD officer, is his daughter, Tobie Edwards—the little girl who was playing in the back-yard so many years ago. Over the ensuing 40-plus years, Tobie has worked tirelessly in her personal attempt to find the killer of her dad. Much of the following information comes from an interview conducted by this author in December, 2016.

She believes to the core of her being that it was a “love triangle” that got her father murdered. Mike Edwards was then separated from her mother, Penny Sue, and was dating a woman from Long Beach who wishes to remain anonymous out of fear for her life. This woman had previously dated another LAPD cop by the name of Bill Pearson before she had started dating Edwards. It was this woman that Edwards was on his way to visit the night he was killed.

The other slant to the triangle was Pearson, a disgraced cop who had been fired by the LAPD one year earlier, in 1973. Those who knew him, saw the downfall for Pearson occur exactly one year after the death of Edwards when Pearson was arrested for felony vehicular manslaughter. He was found guilty of DUI and speeding and causing an accident that killed a 16-month-old boy and seriously injured the parents. He was sentenced to one year in jail.

LAPD detectives questioned Pearson at length over “the possible love triangle.” He told investigators he had been “experiencing blackout spells” on the night of the murder and “could not state whether or not he had been involved,” blaming it on his memory lapses. Police conducted lengthy interviews with those associated with him but were never able to account for his whereabouts around the time of the murder.

 

edwards-autopsy-sketch-img-v2

The official report from the Los Angeles County Coroner detailing the bullet strikes to the body of Officer Edwards.

During the subsequent years, officials have repeatedly interviewed Pearson about the Edwards murder but have not gotten anywhere. “Honestly, right now we’re still at ground zero on this case,” said the current detective on the case, Daryn DuPree. Regarding Pearson, “What he remembers I’m not going to say,” commented DuPree, but he made it clear officials are still looking at him as a suspect in the murder of Officer Edwards.

Tobie Edwards just wants peace and closure, not unlike what her mother and grandparents wished for—all who have since passed and never gotten an answer. “I have heard that Pearson is very sick, and when he dies, then what?” She went on, “My only wish is to know why and who killed my father.” You are not alone, Tobie; you have a family of LAPD officers who want to know the same thing. No brother left behind.

Anyone with information is urged to call the LAPD Robbery/Homicide Division at (213) 486-6830 and ask for Detective DuPree. Talk to your friends about the case and post on social media to keep the memory of Officer Edwards alive. One never knows where this might lead.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

“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.

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

Why Guardians of Angels?

John Powers, while waiting for an ambulance to arrive, describes the details of the shooting to a detective, his wounded partner next to him.

  • John Powers, while waiting for an ambulance to arrive, describes the details of the shooting to a detective, his wounded partner next to him.

Everyone and everything has a history. Yet for the Los Angeles Police Department, it has been more than 75 years since the last in-depth historical account was written about—75 years since anyone has chronicled where the department has come from and what makes today’s officers who and what they are. I thought it was time for a new comprehensive examination of the LAPD. Not some boring factual account of its history, but engaging stories told by the men and women who lived them.

Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department details how the department started with just six hard-fighting, Wild West cops transformed over the next 160 years into the modern, technologically advanced LAPD of today. With the use of hundreds of rare photographs and scores of interviews, the book brings the history of the department to life—turning readers into time-traveling witnesses into the very essence of what makes LAPD such a major player in the world of law enforcement. When Chief of Police William Warren is gunned down in the dirt streets of Los Angeles by another officer over reward money, you can almost smell the smoke in the air from the gunfire. It’s the stories that make history so fascinating.

Guardians of Angels uses many first-hand accounts taken from either the person making history or from primary documents of the time. When John “Two Gun” Powers talks in detail on how he earned the nickname of “Two Gun,” he gets your attention:

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

That’s the power of first-hand accounts. When Powers told me what happened that fateful day, I could visualize the suspect firing his gun and being hit with return fire. I could see him go down and watched as the .45 noisily skidded across the payment. This is want I want the reader to experience throughout the entire book—a 3-diminisional history coming to life right before your eyes. This is what Guardians of Angels is all about.

While its badge has varied—from a tin star of the 1800s to the most recognizable police shield in the world today—the symbol of the LAPD has always carried the same promise, just as the wearer carries the same responsibility. Each officer who has pinned on this badge, holstered a gun and traveled the corridors of history has left behind the rich traditions that are today the Los Angeles Police Department. The chronicle of the LAPD is the story of these men and women who have committed themselves as the guardians of the city of Angels.