I lost a good friend a few days ago who left an unknown legacy for the Black sworn personnel in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). That person was LJ Jones, a Retired Senior Detective Supervisor from LAPD. I met LJ in 1976, two years after I joined LAPD, at an Oscar Joel Bryant (OJB) Meeting. For those of you who do not know what OJB is, it is a Black Law Enforcement organization, named in the memory of Oscar Joel Bryant, a Black LAPD Police Officer, who was killed in the line of duty on the afternoon May 13, 1968.
LJ and I became close while serving together on the Board of OJB. In the latter part of 1979 I was elected President of OJB and LJ was elected First Vice President. When we took leadership, we started to address issues that made some members of the organization and some members of the Board uneasy. One area I want to share with the readers is when we addressed the lack of Black detective personnel working homicide units citywide in LAPD and the lack of Black LAPD Sergeant II’s, Assistant Watch Commanders, serving in those patrol positions, citywide. In full disclosure, there was one Black Assistant Watch Commander citywide who was light complexion, blue eyes, and curly to straight hair. We decided to invite LAPD Chief Daryl Gates to an OJB meeting to address these two issues, and Gates accepted the invitation. We informed the membership of the meeting, the agenda that was to be discussed at the meeting, and that Gates agreed to be present. The meeting was mid to late 1980.
The setting is the Fire Station on Vernon and Normandie, in South Los Angeles. The OJB meeting was packed with active Black LAPD officers and Black Los Angeles County Deputy Sheriff’s, all of different ranks and some Black LAPD retirees. As I was chairing the meeting, we could tell Gates was arriving, because of the sound of the Air Unit circling overhead, along with a cadre of Metropolitan Officers posted in and around the Fire Station. LJ requested that he take over that portion of the meeting involving Gates, and I relinquished that portion of the meeting to him. We had done our homework and our stats were correct. LJ laid out the concerns and stats which made Gates very uncomfortable. LJ’s presentation of the issues was flawless. We kept Gates there for over an hour discussing these issues. As a result of that meeting, I was assigned to 77th Division Homicide Unit the following Deployment period, and LJ was assigned to another Homicide Unit a few Deployment periods later.
LJ talked about that meeting every time we talked. We would ask the question to each other, do the Black detective personnel who work homicide in LAPD know how they got there? Do the Black Assistant Patrol Watch Commanders, Sergeant II’s, in LAPD know how they got to those positions? For the Blacks who attained those positions, you got there on the shoulders of OJB leadership and on the shoulders of LJ Jones. There is a rich Black History in LAPD that is mostly unknown by the current Black rank and file of the Department. In the voice of the late John Lewis, we made “good trouble” so you could benefit from our hard-fought battles. There were a few of us Black sworn that sacrificed so that the Black sworn LAPD Officers can wear the stripes and rockers on their sleeves and the bars and stars on their collar. LJ Jones must be remembered and honored for his sacrifice and his leadership.