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 boast of (for example, introducing the first American woman police officer and one of the first African American woman police officers). It has, unfortunately, also grabbed international headlines for infamous incidents such as the video-taped beating by officers of motorist Rodney King.
In 2020, the Los Angeles Police Department handled 1,016,238 calls for service during the year. However, this high number does not reflect a tsunami of horrific crime. In 2020, the L.A. Times analyzed a decade's worth of LAPD calls for service data and found less than 8 percent of these calls were due to violent crime. The Almanac's own quick review of just 2020 data suggests even a lower percentage than that. The vast majority of calls for help to the LAPD were due to less dramatic issues such as traffic accidents, disturbances, tresspassing, disputes, traffic stops, etc. Source: LAPD Calls for Service.
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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, came at a price tag of $437 million and provides half a million square feet of space. It 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 modern history also headed major police departments on the East Coast. Chief Willie Williams (1992-1997) served as Police Commissioner for the Philadelphia Police Department (1988–1992). Chief William Bratton (2002-2009) served as Police Commissioner for New York City (1994-1996) and Boston (1993-1994), and Chief of the New York Transit Police (1990-1994). In 2014, Bratton went back to serve as Police Commissioner for the NYPD.
The LAPD deploys a fleet of more than 4,700 motor vehicles that register a combined annual odometer average of 56 millions miles. It's patrol vehicles have been painted black and white since at least 1937.
A 1934 Ford pre-black and white LAPD patrol car. Photo from the L.A. Times Photographic Collection at UCLA Library.
LAPD police vehicles (Ford Model 48), bearing 1937 license plates. This is the earliest image known to the Almanac of LAPD patrol cars with the black and white color scheme. Los Angeles Almanac photo of display image at Los Angeles Police Museum.
The LAPD deployed its first helicopter in 1956. It was a Hiller 12J model and flew primarily to patrol L.A.'s freeways. Today, LAPD's air unit, known as Air Support Division since 1974, is the largest municipal airborne law enforcement operation in the world, operating 17 helicopters and 1 fixed-wing twin-engine aircraft. Its rooftop heliport is the largest in the nation.
1960. LAPD Officers Donald Miles, left, and Boris Newstetter prepare for flight. Photo from Valley Times collection at L.A. Public Library.