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Birth of the LAPD

By Glynn Martin
Executive Director

In 1868, Cristobal Aguilar was the mayor of Los Angeles and had two officials in the city’s employ that were involved in law enforcement.  Mr. William C. Warren was the Marshal, and Mr. S.H. Bryant was the Overseer of the chain gang.  The records of late 1868 tell of Mayor Aguilar’s start of something bigger.  “On motion, resolved, that his Honor the Mayor appoint a City Police by and with the approval of the council to consist of four persons,” read the records that now reside at the city archives.

Records identify the four men who would join Mr. Warren and Mr. Bryant to form the first paid police force in early 1869.  Mr. J.E. Reese, Mr. Robert Dobson, Mr. Jose Redona, and Mr. Joseph Dye were all approved for appointments as Policemen.  They began drawing pay as the organized police force in January 1869.  The law enforcement function in Los Angeles had existed in a less organized fashion previous to this time.  The humble beginnings of a fully authorized and paid City Police force came about on January 4, 1869, with the issuance of warrants (paychecks) to those approved by the Common Council of the City of Los Angeles.

These were still the early days of Los Angeles.  There were no uniforms to distinguish the earliest officers from the remainder of the city’s horse riding residents.  Officers’ badges, eight pointed silver stars, were affixed to topcoats, vests, or shirts of flannel.  Neither was there uniformity in handguns or handcuffs.  No procedural manuals existed.  Bawdy houses and liquor establishments were the roots of crime on the unpaved streets.  This was a six-gun city now policed by a six-man force.  A police force that appears to have been officially born on January 4, 1869.