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The Bum Blockade, Zoot Suit Riot and Bloody Christmas 

An anecdotal history of the LAPD

Wednesday, Sep 4 2002
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1877 — The LAPD emerges as a full-fledged police department. Patrolmen are required to remove weeds and to inspect sewers, among other tasks.

1902-1909 — Corruption scandals force the retirement of five L.A. police chiefs.


1910 — Twenty-year labor struggle against the Los Angeles Times culminates in the dynamiting of Times printing plant by strikers, killing 21. Using the bombing as a pretext, the LAPD initiates a staunch anti-labor stance that continues for decades.

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1922-23 — More than 100 members of the 1200-man department are discharged for brutality or corruption.

1926 — Chief James Edgar Davis forms a 50-man "gun squad," and says of the city's gangsters: "I want them brought in dead, not alive."

1929 — As big business and religious reformers demand a "pure" city, the LAPD responds by arresting 50,000 people that year.


1936 — Seeking to halt the "invasion" of dust-bowl Depression refugees, Chief Davis usurps the state's power, declares a "Bum Blockade," and sends LAPD officers to all major entry points into California to bar the entry of the migrants. The Los Angeles Times favorably compares Davis to England's 16th-century Queen Elizabeth, who "launched the first war on bums."

1943 — Sailors from the Chavez Ravine Naval Base riot and assault Mexican-American teenagers. The LAPD reacts by arresting the victims. The Zoot Suit Riots follow.


1950 — William H. Parker, the iron-fisted creator and intellectual father of the modern LAPD, is sworn in as chief. He transforms the LAPD into the national model for "confront-and-command" policing.

1951 — Bloody Christmas. Seven young Latinos are brutally beaten by LAPD officers while in custody. Eight officers are later indicted. The re-creation of the beating is a major scene in the 1997 film L.A. Confidential.

1962 — Eight years after the U.S. Supreme Court orders the desegregation of American schools in Brown v. Board of Education, Chief Bill Parker orders the desegregation of the LAPD.

1965 — Sparked by a controversial LAPD arrest, the Watts Riots burn for six days through South-Central L.A. Thirty-four die, more than 1,000 are injured, 600 buildings are destroyed, burned or looted, and 4,000 are arrested.

1965 — California Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown names ex-CIA Director John McCone to head a commission to examine the causes of the rebellion. Critics denounce the commission report as a whitewash of the LAPD.

1967 — Ten thousand anti-war demonstrators peacefully march in Century City but are met by 1,300 LAPD officers in riot gear. As violent confrontations erupt, Mayor Sam Yorty comments: "Of course, some of those people smeared themselves with red paint to make it look like blood."


1967 — LAPD unveils the nation's first SWAT team.

1974 — Symbionese Liberation Army kidnaps Patty Hearst, comes to L.A. and holes up in a South-Central bungalow. The house goes up in flames, and six people are incinerated on national TV during a firefight with LAPD officers.

1975-1982 — Fifteen people die while being subdued by LAPD officers employing the "chokehold." Over the same period in New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas, only one chokehold death occurs in each city.

1979 — Eula Love, a distraught 39-year-old South-Central housewife, is shot and killed by LAPD officers after she brandishes a bone-knife on her front lawn during a dispute over an unpaid gas bill. Her case becomes the cause célèbre in publicizing similar police shootings of unarmed or lightly armed suspects.


1981 — The Coalition Against Police Abuse, the ACLU and 120 others sue the LAPD for illegal spying by the Public Disorder Intelligence Division branch of the department. Six thousand pages of released documents reveal that the LAPD had been spying on L.A.'s mayor, City Council members, a state senator, a U.S. congressman, the governor and attorney general of California, the National Organization for Women, the Beverly Hills Democratic Club, and religious, civil rights and environmental organizations — more than 200 individuals and organizations in all. The PDID is dismantled and replaced by the Anti-Terrorist Division.

1982 — As the deindustrialization of Los Angeles accelerates, the Bloods and Crips build up their gang networks. The LAPD responds with an increase in anti-gang units.


1985 — Chief Daryl Gates uses an armored personnel carrier with a 14-foot protrusion known as the battering ram to smash a gaping hole in the wall of a reputed gang drug house. He finds only kids eating chocolate-swirl ice cream, and one-tenth of 1 gram of cocaine. No charges are filed.

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