It seems like not so long ago I was sitting on the couch with my brother and two sisters, all of us young adults. Our faces were full of smiles with the thought of bright futures ahead of us. I look at a picture of this time where it shows my brother and two sisters sitting with me on a couch. I’m going to show you this picture. In background of showing this picture, it should be noted of where I was at in life. I had been a Los Angeles police man (that was still back in the day when a badge could read police man or policewoman) I just come out of patrol and was assigned to the vice unit in the San Fernando Valley. This was the first time in my life that I grew long hair and a beard. Prior to this, even in high school, I maintained short hair and clean face to allow myself to participate in the many activities at the school. In those days young men were clean-shaven with short hair that was until the Beatles came along at which time the schools allowed longer hair.
The Los Angeles police department only allowed officers to work divisional area vice units, that is to say that the officers who worked in the local divisions or precincts, for 18 months. I don’t know if they thought that this kind of assignment would make an officer go to the dark side if they work their longer. And so for the first time in my life I grew longhair and a beard. The hours I worked varied from day-to-day. It allowed me my first up close view of such activities as; prostitution, gambling, pornography, child pornography, horse racing and lewd conduct in public. I would have considered myself a very naïve white boy from a small Midwest town. Suddenly I was dumped into a world of use the abuse of human beings. I had been raised in church and so my morals were high and my view of those who engage in vices were that they were despicable. During this assignment I found myself changing my views and being less optimistic about the plight of men and women. I discovered that prostitution, which is has been around forever, was not a victimless crime. Young men and women, when I say I talk about young I talk about 14 to 16-year-olds, would leave their homes in a search to be independent. Many claim to come from homes of abuse while others just came to California to become a movie star. I’ve even talked to young men and women who had come from other countries to Southern California in hopes of becoming rich and famous as a movie star. Within months or even weeks the children found out what it was like to live on the street. This caused them to do many things as they were not proud of, the most common was prostitution. After each arrest, if the arrestees would speak to me, I would ask them how they got to this moment. The story covers all social and economic variances. But all of their stories involved abuse from the people who handle them on the street. Call them pimps call them madams; their methods all seemed the same. I also found out that a majority of the population likes to gamble. California, at that time, had few places for people to go and gamble. There were a few card casinos around the city. If you want to gamble had a go to Nevada. Not everyone could afford to go to Nevada and I found myself watching people roll dice on the street corners and in the alleys. I would be kicking down doors of so-called high-stakes poker games in the garage of working men and women. However, I also found that failure to the unwritten rules would result in broken bones, torched cars and ransacked homes. The most disgusting part of that assignment concerned lewd conduct in public places and child pornography. I do not know if I will ever get over the disgusting parts that assignment. I arrested hundreds of people for lewd conduct in a public park. Their occupations covered almost every occupation there is; from priest to the president of the company. There were even the arrest of a policeman and then a fireman and then the teacher. On one day I arrested city bus driver who left his bus full of riders on the street with the bus running while he ran into the public bathroom performed a lewd conduct, which he was arrested for. I had to call the city bus company and asked them to send another driver to take the bus and its riders to their destinations.
I can understand why the department kept the assignment in vice to 18 months. A good friend of mine who also worked child pornography took his own life at the end of his assignment. I knew that I wanted out of the assignment at the end of 18 months.
I mention all of this to try and give you a picture of what my life was like at that time and hope you appreciate all the other police officers will work in those same areas. I was then a changed man and this began my complete distrust of all humans. It took several years for me to get out of that frame of mind. There are many good people in our communities and they too fight the same vices as I did.
So let me get back to the picture that I’ve shown you. My face is still full of hope and confidence and I thought I was a snappy dresser by wearing white pants and a maddress shirt. The shirts are actually popular for a while. I would also show you a picture of me two years after the first picture but I could not find any. All I have been told was I was in a dark mood and I looked a lot older.
Note – when I started this blog my son told me that this would be therapeutic for me. I have rarely shared my police stories with anyone. So this is a step in that direction.