The Los Angeles Police Department, or LAPD, is one of the largest and most famous police departments in the world. Its fame can largely be attributed to the local motion picture and television industry, which has frequently made it a subject of police and crime dramas (from Dragnet in 1951 to Bosch in 2020). Besides what has been portrayed on film and television, the department has much to be proud of (for example, introducing the first American woman officer and one of the first African American woman officers). It has, unfortunately, also grabbed international headlines for infamous incidents such as the video-taped beating by officers of motorist Rodney King.
In 2019, the Los Angeles Police Department handled 979,592 calls for service during the year. The five-year annual average of calls for service from 2014 through 2018 was 929,176. The 77th Street Area accounted for the most calls for service, with 66,243 (or 7 percent) of the city-wide total. This was followed by the Pacific Area, accounting for 56,509 (or 6 percent) of all calls. Central Area came in third with 56,312 (or 6 percent) of all calls.
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Source: Los Angeles Police Department
Parker Center at 150 North Los Angeles Street, served as headquarters for the LAPD since 1954. It was named for Chief William Parker. The new headquarters building, just south of City Hall with half a million square feet of space and a $437 million price tag, was dedicated on October 24, 2009.
In 1910, the nation was introduced to its first policewoman, LAPD officer Alice Stebbin Wells. Her duties included enforcing laws dealing with dancehalls, picture shows, penny arcades, and watching for “unwholesome billboard displays."
The motto, "To Protect and to Serve" is credited to LAPD Officer Joseph S. Dorobeck who submitted it in response to a 1955 contest for a motto for the police academy. The conditions were that "the motto should be one that in a few words would express some or all the ideals to which the Los Angeles police service is dedicated. It is possible that the winning motto might someday be adopted as the official motto of the Department." The academy adopted Officer Dorobeck's entry as the official motto. Through the years, it became the slogan for every officer coming through the academy. In 1963, the Los Angeles City Council directed that this motto be placed alongside the city seal on LAPD patrol cars.
Two persons who served as Chief of the LAPD in the last 20 years previously headed major East Coast police departments. Chief Willie Williams (1992-1997) served as Police Commissioner for the Philadelphia Police Department. Chief William Bratton (2002-2009) served as Police Commissioner for New York City and Boston and Chief of the New York Transit Police. After his tenor at the LAPD, Bratton later returned to serve as Police Commissioner for the NYPD.
The LAPD deploys a fleet of more than 4,700 motor vehicles. It's patrol vehicles have been painted black and white since at least 1938.
Pre-black and white LAPD patrol car, 1930s. Photo from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA Library.
The LAPD deployed its first helicopter in 1956. Today, it operates the largest municipal airborne law enforcement operation in the world. Its rooftop heliport is the largest in the nation.