LAPD Detective John O’Toole Named Officer of the Month

June 22, 2007

Washington, DC: The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Detective II John O’Toole, the Los Angeles Police Department’s most senior officer, as Officer of the Month for June 2007.

The year was 1953. President Eisenhower was in the White House, and Elvis Presley was beginning his career as a truck driver. Fresh from serving in the military during World War II, an LAPD recruit by the name of John O’Toole was embarking upon a law enforcement career that would span over half a century – and continues even today. From protecting foreign dignitaries and Presidential candidates during the Cold War to responding to the Watts riots of 1965 and saving lives through emergency response and everyday traffic enforcement, John O’Toole has earned his stripes as a decorated and dedicated member of the law enforcement community.

A native of Los Angeles, O’Toole joined the United States Navy in 1943 at only 16 years of age. During his 10-year commission, the young man earned both a Purple Heart and Bronze Star after displaying tremendous bravery when his B24 airplane was struck by enemy fire. O’Toole also received the Air Medal for his completion of 27 air combat missions.

It was roughly 53 years ago when Detective O’Toole began his career as a police officer with the LAPD, in what is now known as the “Old Central Division.” During his first four years, Detective O’Toole served on patrol, until he was transferred to the Accident Investigation Division in March 1957. One year later he was transferred to the Metropolitan Division, a crime-fighting unit that responds to stakeouts, high-risk barricade situations, and security details. It was in this division that Detective O’Toole continued to distinguish himself and was promoted to Sergeant after only six years.

While assigned to the Metropolitan Division, Detective O’Toole was involved in some very sensitive assignments that have become part of the history of Los Angeles. In September 1959, he was appointed to the security team for Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev during the LA stop of his famous visit to the United States. A year later, Detective O’Toole was again assigned to another high-profile security detail, this time to a young U.S. Senator (soon to be Presidential nominee) John F. Kennedy, while he was attending the Democratic National Convention in LA. It is clear from these assignments that from the beginning, the LAPD considered Detective O’Toole a man of incredible trust, character and loyalty.

In December 1963, Detective O’Toole displayed tremendous calm and bravery, when the Baldwin Hills Reservoir began to crack. As the crack expanded, a surge of water began cascading down Cloverdale Avenue, washing away many homes in its path. Detective O’Toole responded to this disaster and was on-site working hard to save the lives of many. As a result of his remarkable service to the city of Los Angeles, Detective O’Toole was assigned to Van Nuys Patrol upon his promotion to Sergeant, on November 8, 1964.

When racial tensions flared into full-scale rioting and tragedy in the Watts community in August 1965, Detective O’Toole was once again called upon to help. Given his experience and reputation as a Sergeant, Detective O’Toole was loaned to the 77th Division. Detective O’Toole played a significant role in aiding to control the riots over the six-day period, when tragically 34 people were killed and more than 1,000 were injured.

In 1966, Detective O’Toole transferred to the LAPD’s Accident Investigation Division, beginning a long and distinguished career in the area of traffic safety. He transferred to the Accident Investigation Follow-Up unit in 1973, and a year later joined the Valley Bureau. In 1979, he became the original member of the Valley Traffic Division, where he remains today.

Detective O’Toole has excelled throughout his 53-year career, earning dual status both as a Sergeant and a Detective. In 1990, the LAPD presented him with its prestigious Detective of the Year Award. Throughout his career, he has received numerous awards for bravery and valor, not only for his work in the police force, but also for serving in the United States Military.

Detective O’Toole and his wife, Rita, have been happily married for 44 years are the proud parents of one child. The LAPD has been extremely fortunate to have had Detective O’Toole serve for the past 53 years. He has clearly made his mark on the police department and on the community of Los Angeles. In fact, it is no exaggeration to state that Detective John O’Toole has had more contacts with the community than any other law enforcement officer in the state of California, as a result of his many years on the job.

Located in the nation’s capital, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers. The NLEOMF established the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial in 1991 and is now working to build the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum.

The NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program, which began in 1997, recognizes federal, state and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty. Detective O’Toole and all of the 2007 Officers of the Month will be recognized during an Awards Luncheon next May as part of National Police Week.

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