By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Still, from the age of 12, he dreamed of becoming a policeman -- of being LAPD. He graduated from La Puente High School, enrolled at Cal Poly Pomona, then transferred to Cal State Long Beach, where he earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. He absorbed the lessons of "differential association theory."
"This may sound simplistic," he says. "We share common societal values. Certain people don't do well in that system. They find another value system. For example, I would be no good as a gang member, because I look at it this way: They give little or nothing to society. They take and take and take. That doesn't go with my background. So what these people who chose to reject society's values do is get together with others. A young gangster sees how to steal cars, he is rewarded by becoming an expert at grand-theft auto. He appreciates these new values. Do I apply these theories? No. My basic concern is whether somebody committed a crime, not why they did it."
If you were to meet Ureña off duty, say, in a burger joint in Pomona, near his two-story, four-bedroom tract house for which he paid $136,000 four and a half years ago, you would not guess that he's LAPD. His Oscar De La Hoya good looks and sparkling chocolate eyes throw you off. Ureña's quick, broad smile and tranquil composure, along with the fact that he does not have a mustache, give the impression of a schoolteacher, hardly an ill-at-ease cop. He has a scrubbed, unused seminary face. He speaks so softly at times that you've got to strain to hear him. These qualities carry over into his on-duty demeanor, causing some people to openly compliment him on his manners. Usually, they are disarmed to find that he isn't a stiff, or a roughneck.
Perhaps this has to do with Ureña's upbringing. He was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and he spent the first two years of his life there. His father, Pablo, a house painter, moved the family -- Ureña's mother, his older brother, Pablo Jr., and younger brother, Bulmaro -- to La Puente, where three sisters were born. But his parents' village, Totatiche, a Nahuatl area on the northern border of Jalisco, has been a kind of magnetic south for Ureña and his family. (In Nahuatl, Totatiche refers to "the place of our beloved and revered parents.") Every five years, the Ureñas would drive to Totatiche and stay on a ranch outside town. He still makes regular pilgrimages to the settlement of 4,000, joining in the Sunday tradition of "dando la vuelta," a promenade of jóvenes around La Placita, the town square, in which the young men move counterclockwise and the young women clockwise, in a choreographed ritual of courtship.
"Every Sunday, after 7 o'clock mass, the band plays in the gazebo, and if you see somebody that catches your eye, you'll ask them if they'll grant you a turn. If they say yes, you start walking and talking. And that's how a lot of boyfriend-girlfriend relationships start over there." This is how his brother "Moro" met his wife, whom he brought back to Pomona, where they live in Ted's house, and where Spanish remains the vernacular.
In other words, Teodoro Ureña, like others out of Wilshire Division Watch 7, looks and speaks a lot like the people whose neighborhoods -- rugged, ramshackle intersections like 21st Street and 10th Avenue -- he patrols. Elsewhere, among L.A.'s show-biz liberals, who make princely sums off dramatic TV series depicting "realistic" cops, then clean their consciences with a tithe to the ACLU -- the LAPD might be regarded as an army of occupation. But in Ureña's view, he is taking the bad guys -- the brutalizing husbands, the carjackers, the armed robbers -- off the streets. His view is that simple. He says, "We may not make a difference in any given crime, but even if it is just a couple of minutes with a righteous victim, somebody who's an innocent victim, who didn't contribute to what happened to them, we bring them a little peace. A lot of times you go back to the car, you kind of sit in the car for a split second, and you smile and you say, 'That was all right, that was okay.'"
He is a realist, with a core of idealism. "A lot of the time, our job is to put a Band-Aid on problems, and I'd be a fool to believe that I'm going to solve the world's problems. But maybe it is the way my parents brought me up not to be cold-hearted. Last week I caught two suspects in a stolen car, and when I got them in the back seat of our cruiser -- one was from Guatemala, the other was from Mexico -- I asked, 'Is this really why you came to this country?' You try to talk to them. I'd rather do that than use profanities against them. Perhaps I'm forgetting the victim. But it is better to give them a couple of words, and hopefully they'll think about it.