Chief William H. Parker
Parker was born in Lead City but·raised in Deadwood, South Dakota. Like many Midwesterners, the Parker family·migrated to Los Angeles, California in·1922 for better opportunities, when the·city was advertised as the Òwhite spot of AmericaÓ during that period. Parker·originally wanted to be an attorney,·but later decided to join the Los Angeles Police Department on August 8,·1927. He served as an LAPD officer for 15 years before taking a leave to fight in World War II. He received a Purple Heart after being wounded during the Normandy invasion, and an Italian Star. As soon as he returned home he was re-assigned to basic patrol status with the LAPD.
Parker became police chief on August 9, 1950, and is credited with transforming the LAPD into a world-renowned law enforcement agency. The department that he took over in 1950 was notoriously corrupt. Seeing the old ward peacekeeping politics, with its heavy involvement by partisan groups in the police department and commingling of political circles with vice and corruption on the streets, led him to conclude that a different organized police force was necessary to keep the peace.
Parker's experience with military public relations in World War II was used to develop an effective media relations strategy for the Police Department. Through television shows such as Dragnet and a steady stream of good publicity from local newspapers, he was highly admired nationwide. Parker was a guest on the television program What's My Line? on August 21, 1955.
Under Parker's early term, the Los Angeles Police Department initiated a more professionalized force which institutionalized officers into an environment that was more answerable to administrative oversight than political representatives. Included in this change was a standardized police academy, more proactive policing methods, and less use of violence but more use of force in securing areas, practices very similar to military peacekeeping methods which he was exposed to during the war.
Under Parker, the LAPD faced heavy accusations of police brutality and racial animosity towards the city's African American and Latino residents, resulting from Parker's recruiting of Southern officers, most who had strong racist attitudes and served in the military. Parker allegedly supported the city's racist power structure, which he denied as late as the 1960s. Longstanding mistreatment towards its local residents eventually led to the Watts Riots of 1965. Some critics see Parker as the man responsible for ongoing tensions between the LAPD and minorities. Strangely enough, Parker was the first chief in LAPD history to desegregate the police force as the civil rights movement rose.
Another aspect of changes initiated by Parker which changed the police force from one of a walking peace-force to a more militarized mobile response force, was a reduction in the size of the police force, in relation to the population. The term 'Thin Blue Line' was coined by Parker. Parker's experience with the larger by per capita force of his early career led him to estimate that fewer but more professionalized officers would mean less corruption. Additionally, the strategy of changing the beat posture to one of mobility led to change from foot patrols to one which favored police cars. Not incidentally, this also furthered Parker's belief that isolating his officers from the streets would reduce opportunities for corruption. However, Parker recognized that certain areas of the city and certain functions of the police department needed to remain rooted in the more traditional form of police work.
Although Parker made reductions in police corruption and cleaned up the overall image of the police, certain sections of the police continued practices which lent more to an image of old semi-corrupt control of vice and petty crime. The vice squad and reserve force continued to remain controversial elements of the police force. Parker also used elements of the reserve force such as the Organized Crime and Intelligence Division of the LAPD to keep tabs on suspected politicians and their mafia syndicate allies as well as the notoriously corrupt and narcotic ridden Hollywood movie industry system and its celebrities. The novel and film L.A. Confidential provide a fictional depiction of the LAPD under Parker during these years.
Parker served on the Los Angeles County Civil Defense and Disaster Commission during the nuclear crisis in the early 1960s.
Perhaps his most famous quote was stated later in his career, about corruption, and police brutality cases within the department:
"We'll always have cases like this because we have one big problem in selecting police officers, we have to recruit from the human race.”
Helen A. Parker
Born Helen Amelia Schultz on January 15, 1909 in Pennsylvania, Helen was 19 when
she married then rookie patrolman Bill Parker in 1928.· Helen Parker supported her
husband as he divided his time between policing and studying at the Los Angeles College of Law, where he earned his law degree in 1930
In August 1950, Helen immersed herself in her role as the "First Lady of the LAPD."· Helen was extremely protective of Her's and Chief Parkers privacy through out his tenure. Upon his Death in 1966, Helen used Memorial Donations to fund the creation of the Parker Foundation.
Mrs. Parkers Generosity in the name of her husband created a Foundation supporting the Education, Training, and Equipment for the men and women of the LAPD.
Our pledge is to continue Mrs. Parker's giving spirit and continue to support the LAPD.