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Who was the 1st LAPD Chief of Police?

April 25th


My co-worker just asked me, who was the 1st LAPD Police Chief?

Do you know the answer to this Q?

Thank you,

Deborah Wisniewski
Los Angeles


Reply: from Bill Murray - - LA Community Policing
Re: Who was the 1st LAPD Chief of Police?

Dear Deborah:

Good question ...

I didn't know, but I've done some research for you.

There have been 54 LAPD Chiefs of Police, going back to the mid 1800s. Some have been less than stellar (little more than gunfighters) and others have really stood out.

The City of Los Angeles had a variety of "law-enforcement" groups prior to the selection of the first officially recognized Chief of Police, Jacob T. Gerkins, who served for about one year, 1876-1877.

The following information is from LAPD's official website,

Los Angeles managed to survive without what could pass as a bona fide police department until 1869 when six officers were hired and paid out of funds collected, for the most part, from fines and fees. They were led by City Marshal William C. Warren, who was gifted with $50 to furnish his headquarters and $25 a month for rent. The City Marshal also served as dog catcher and tax collector, and was paid 2 percent of all tax money he collected. Gambling and prostitution went unregulated, but in 1871 entrepreneurs were required to pay license fees.

Of all the violence prior to a day in October 1871, none was more tragic than a hanging of 19 Chinese by a mob. Denied protection under state law, the victims were easy prey to the frenzied crowd. Eight suspects were arrested and sentenced to San Quentin for two to six years. All were set free in 1873.

In 1875 the first horse patrol trotted down the unpaved streets. Personnel were paid $95 a month for their services, $5 more than the foot patrolmen and only $10 less than the City Marshal. The Department continued to deploy mounted officers until 1916.

The City Marshal and his staff had something less than the happiest of relationships. He was shot and killed by one of his subordinates. That occurrence may have led the City Council to appoint the first Board of Police Commissioners and select Jacob T. Gerkins as Chief in 1876. With Chief Gerkins came the first regulation uniform: a hip-length, blue serge coat and felt hat. Officers bought their own silver, 8-point badges for $6. Emil Harris, who assumed office after relinquishing the management and part ownership of a saloon, succeeded Gerkins in 1877.

Here are a couple of other links you'll find interesting:

LAPD Chiefs of Police pictures

History of the LAPD history

The current information on the History page is broken out into sections that deal with the years 1850-1900, 1900-1925, 1926-1950, and then by recent important Chiefs: Chief Parker, Chief Davis, Chief Gates, Chief Williams and Chief Parks (but it ends in 1998, shortly after Chief Parks was appointed).

Here's more current bio information on Bernard Parks, who served for 5 years and has recently became a City Councilman representing Council District 8:

Chief Parks LAPD biography

Chief Parks was followed by Martin Pomeroy, who was briefly brought back from retirement to take over during the selection of our current Chief:

Chief Pomeroy LAPD biography

Finally, here's the link to the page about the current Chief of Police, William Bratton, who was appointed in October 2002 as LAPD's 54th Chief of Police:

Chief Bratton LAPD biography

All Chiefs of Police since Willie Williams took office have been appointed to 5 year terms, and each is eligible for a second, and final, 5 year stint. Thus far, none have been re-appointed.

By the way, there's an LAPD Historical Society about which LA Community Policing is currently writing an article. Assistant Chief Jim McDonnell, currently second in command at LAPD and a Member of the Historical Society Board of Directors, has expressed his gratitude for our interest.

Look for it soon here on, our website.

The Historical Society has restored the old Highland Park Station located at 6045 York Boulevard in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles. This station was built in 1925 and is a registered National Historic landmark. It's well worth a visit.

Thank you for your excellent question, and for giving me the opportunity to bring this to the community.

Yours in service,

Bill Murray

LA Community Policing

....... "Community Policing ... it's everyone's issue"