By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD
After slightly less than a year at the jail, I had the opportunity to transfer to “University Division.” A division in L.A.P.D. terms is a designated geographic area containing a police station and providing all manner of law enforcement. Back east it would be a precinct. I had no idea what/who or where the university was, but I soon found out. The area was due south of downtown L.A. and was approximately 45 blocks north to south and about 60-65 blocks east to west. It was a low income area with a very high crime rate. Smack in the middle of this morass, sat two gleaming islands—the Memorial Coliseum and the campus of the University of Southern California.
The station house on Jefferson Boulevard looked to have been built in the latter half of the 19th century. Judging by the architecture it had the stone fortress look. The interior contained all manner of gee-gaws and jim-cracks common to the time period. The building had as the saying goes “seen better days” and was “on its last legs.” The building itself was two stories tall and took up one half of a block with the balance given over to the parking lot. For some unknown reason there was a former hamburger stand glued on to one end of the building [more on that later]. Rumor had it the building was sinking into a subterranean cavern. This was partially borne out by the fact that most of the interior doors would not close properly. Round objects such as pencils rolled off desks and the elaborate and ornate interior stairway had separated from the wall about half way between floors, leaving a gap of about 4-6 inches and giving the stairs the appearance of “floating in mid air.” The department of building and safety however was “Johnny on the spot” putting up a barricade at the separated place with signs warning users to use the outer edge of the stairs only. It was like that when I arrived and like that when it left two and a half years later. I thought however, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen because finally I was on the street and going to learn how to become a police officer.
Except for a few youngsters such as myself most of the uniforms and detectives were WWII vets who had “been there” and seen it all. I was lucky; I had been assigned with two of the best.
Check in next Wednesday, August 24th for the next of three installments.