Finding the Road to Self-Respect
It was January 1948 when Ron commenced his duties as a Special Officer. Although his employer of record was the Metropolitan Detective Agency, his ultimate license came from LAPD; for only the department possessed the authority to determine who was "fit and proper" to serve. Nor was that authority in any way a rubber stamp, for as Los Angeles Police Chief W. H. Parker had declared, "You cant be too tough when you give a man a badge and allow him to carry a gun." Moreover, no Los Angeles police officer could walk a more challenging beat, i.e., the notorious Central Division in what is still the citys dark heart.
Encompassing about seventeen square miles beyond First and Main Streets (wherein lived but thirteen percent of the citys population) the Central Division generated nearly a full third of all Los Angeles crime. That is, in less than one twenty-fifth of Los Angeles came roughly thirty percent of all burglaries, robberies, murders and assaults. Causes were complex, but obviously included a large transient population the area was littered with one-night flophouses and a certain degree of racial tension. In particular, Central Division lay between a growing Hispanic community and the northwestern perimeter of the African-American. There was also, of course, much in the way of gang violence, and that which had no real explanation at all.
Ron offers several pointed anecdotes to underscore the desolation: An intoxicated Native American threatens to kill the occupants of a Main Street bar for failing to serve him a drink. (The man is only mollified when LRH sits him down and convinces him a shot glass of water was the smoothest vodka in the civilized world.) Determined to resolve a quarrel with a friend, an equally intoxicated Alvarado Street resident attempts to snatch Rons side arm from the holster. That LRH never actually bothered to load the weapon was immaterial ("The cartridges are heavy," he quipped). The poor wretch perceived he had been wronged and wanted revenge, and only after what amounts to a heart-to-heart talk with Special Officer Hubbard, does the offender finally conclude one did not shoot ones friends. On the other hand, Ron observed, there also was what LAPD police officers dished out in the name of law enforcement, including billy club beatings and forced confessions, inevitably driving petty offenders to increasingly more serious crime . . . Until, as LRH so descriptively put it, life on these streets became "completely lost from all creation".
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