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Book Reviews

Domanick, J. (1994).To Protect and Serve. Pocket Books. Reviewed by Jeff Patterson, (SLP-6).

To Protect and Serve is the organizational history of the Los Angeles Police Department from the mid-1920s to the mid 1990s, trying to explain how & why the Rodney King incident & riots could have happened to such a renowned "Professional" organization. Although written by a reporter for the LA Weekly & various other "alternative" newspapers, on the whole it seems to be a well-balanced account. Some of the points made are as follows:

  • Twenty years of scandals over graft & bribery led the post-World War II reformers to focus almost exclusively on eliminating financial corruption--which for all intents and purposes was achieved--but neglecting other kinds of police misconduct.

  • A series of short-term chiefs, along with scandals over political corruption of the police department by mayors, led the same reformers to focus on job security and political independence for the police chief--which they achieved. (Interestingly, William Parker & Ed Davis were also police union leaders before becoming chiefs, and they were largely responsible for the civil service reforms of the 1940s.)

  • As a result of the strong civil service system, the same generation of leaders--the academy class of 1940--ran the department for 45 years, from the late 1940s to the early 1990s: Tom Reddin, Ed Davis, and Daryl Gates (who actually was the class of 1949, but was part of the same class for all intents and purposes.) And all were basically the second generation of the modern LAPD, all personal disciples of William Parker, chief from 1950-1966, venerated as the "founding father" of the organization. And Parker did not share power or develop his second generation: his assistant chiefs & deputy chiefs were known, inside the organization, as "the Seven Dwarfs."

  • The city's population grew 10-fold, from 300,000 to 3,000,000 in a half century or so, and changed from an almost exclusively white Protestant community to one of the most culturally diverse in the country, leaving behind the police power structure, which remained loyal to its 1940s roots in the former.

  • A series of fairly whacky mayors--Sam Yorty for one--made it perhaps a good thing that the PD was insulated from City Hall. But because Tom Bradley was former LAPD (21 years, retiring as a lieutenant, class of 1940), he carried with him organizational-generational rivalry with the police leadership, and baggage over having been one of only 2 African-Americans to make it as far as lieutenant in the days when the department was as segregated as any deep-South organization. That aggravated the animosity between the political leadership of the city and its police department until it reached an intolerable level.

  • The turning point in the direction of the organization was when William Parker was named chief over his top rival, Thad Brown, whose personal styles and philosophies of policing were very different. Parker would definitely be an advocate of what has become known as the professional model; Brown more of a community model.

  • Willie Williams, as an outsider in the LAPD culture, was doomed from the start, whatever his abilities. First, there was a deep-seated organizational "us-them" culture--Daryl Gates used to say in speeches to the graduating academy classes that other police chiefs in the country were not fit to be LAPD cadets. And second, when the second-tier of leadership found they could not become chief--something they had been jockeying and maneuvering toward for 30 or 40 years--deep resentment was inevitable.


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