By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD
A few weeks ago, I asked forty cops, “Why did you become a cop with the LAPD? Who influenced you to join?”
Twenty-four responded and these are what they said. BTW, This survey didn’t conform with any recognized rules for surveys or polls but it’s a whole lot more accurate than the polls for the last presidential election!
My last Ramblings described how I became a cop and now I’m about to describe how twenty other LAPD cops joined the finest police department in the world. I’m a little prejudiced.
I’m going to bunch a few of these responses together because they’re very similar. The cops who responded came from different eras. The earliest joined in 1956 the latest 1998. So there were different economic situations. I’ll use only first names to save any embarrassment.
The number one reason: guys were getting out of the military and looking for a job. Quite a few were married with small children and needed to support their family. The majority of the respondents were fresh out of the jungles of Viet Nam—some were drafted, others joined. Doug liked the military but not Viet Nam. Surprisingly, a lot of them were Marines. A few were in military police and infected with being a cop.
Quite a few had low paying jobs and saw no future in their current employment. Skip was earning $1.75 an hour and found that he could be a police student worker (Definition: they work at a police station, filing paperwork and doing odd jobs. They are exposed to cops and their stories, probably closer to a police cadet. They’re usually under-aged to go to the academy) for $2.25 an hour. Brad wanted to be a park ranger or marine biologist but found out the pay was pretty low. Cops get paid better. He was also a police student worker.
The second highest response was they watched Adam 12 and Dragnet on TV. Ed, the oldest, said he listened to Dragnet on the radio, a real generation gap from the rest of us. My son and I used to watch Adam 12 together. He’s also an LAPD cop. I’ve worked with many young officers whose dads and mothers were cops. Keith watched Adam 12 and read Joseph Wambaugh books. [As did I. My father was an MP in the Army then his retirement job was as a Deputy US Marshal. Some law enforcement blood there. Adam 12 was a big show in our house. Years later, the dispatcher, Shaaron Claridge, who did the broadcast in the show opening, was my model for radio procedure. There was no formal training other than OJT-on the job.–Thonie]
Another multiple response was they were acquainted with a cop and listened to their cop stories. The cops’ stories get to everyone—exciting and dangerous. And cops also had good benefits! Jim replied that he lived three houses away from a LAPD sergeant and the sergeant encouraged Jim to take police science classes. Roger was in a dead end job at Douglas and wanted to join Santa Monica PD. They required a AA college degree so Roger attended classes. The instructors were LAPD and told great stories. Roger never did work near the beach after thirty-eight years with LAPD.
Come back to read the third and last installment of “Why Be a Cop?” on Sunday, February 19, 2017.