By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD
In 1950, William H. “Bill” Parker was appointed chief of the Los Angeles Police Department. He inherited a scandal-ridden, dispirited, and vastly understaffed department.
Within a few years however the department was considered a model of law enforcement efficiency. Now, LAPD illustrates a law enforcement axiom that a city that ignores or tolerates vice is (or will become) a corrupt city.
We had plenty of vice, but we were all over it. I was assigned to University Division Vice night watch—one of three divisions with the highest concentration of street walkers.
One six-block area on Western Avenue from Adams to Jefferson usually was home to six or eight strollers. One night, I personally counted 16. Most were seasoned veterans who worked the circuit from LA to Texas to Washington or Oregon. Lengthy rap sheets with dozens of arrests showed their travels.
The flaw in the system was not the enforcement, as our squad would bust 6-10 per night. However, they usually posted bail and were back on the streets before we finished our reports. The problem was the courts where they treated the arrests like traffic citations with the standard “twenty-five dollars or two days in jail.” On more than one occasion we arrested the same woman twice in one night.
It was akin to trying to empty the ocean with a teacup. A system designed to fail. I was not yet old enough to be cynical, so we plugged along. At night certain parts of the division were a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah and we were the clean-up crew. With that said you have a sense of the situation.
The arrests were either “offering,” a she said, he said sort of thing, a verbal agreement “sex for something of value” or “resorting” when you caught both parties in or about to commit the act.
I apologize here for being so graphic but there is no other way to set the scene for my tale.
One night, my regular partner Frank and I watched a couple enter a trick pad.
Waited a few minutes and we enter. The female usually took the pinch in stride as it was part of the game. As Frank prepared to walk her to the car, I questioned the male. For ID he showed me a badge and ID card for the LA Fire Department. I signaled Frank, conveyed the information and received an imperceptible nod. I satisfied myself the party was who he purported to be and walked him to the side yard.
Now, the law gives me discretion regarding arrests, so I told him I was going to turn my back for five seconds and did not expect to see him when I turned back.
That completed, I went to the car where the female, who was well known to us, wanted to know why we let that man go. And leave it to Frank. “We had to release him, he is the chief’s son.”
She asked, “What chief?”
“Chief of Police Bill Parker but you can’t tell anybody, understand?”
The idea of it causing a problem never crossed my mind. In a spirit of fairness (and we did actually play fair), we released her. The thought of arresting a fireman for a “$25 or 2 days” beef was never considered. An arrest would have cost him his job; maybe his marriage and screwed up the rest of his life all for a momentary lapse in judgement. We laughed about it for a moment, went to eat and promptly forgot about it
Several days later the sergeant gathered us all together and asked if we had heard any rumors on the street. Word was that one of “our girls” had “done” Chief Parker’s son.
Frank innocently stated, “I didn’t know the chief had a son.”
“Well, he doesn’t but that’s not the point. It’s a nasty rumor. Keep your ears open and see what you can find out.”
Try as we might, we never found the source.