Mrs. Lucy Thompson Gray , in 1888, became the first woman to enter Los Angeles Police
Department employment. Her duties largely concerned female prisoners. Mrs. Gray was
successful in reforming female offenders and the prevention of juvenile delinquency. She
established her residence within the City Jail. In 1910, Alice Stebbins Wells became the
first female anywhere in the world to join the ranks of sworn personnel. She retired after
30 years of pioneer service. Minnie Barton was the Department's second policewoman. Ms.
Barton founded the Minnie Barton Home for Girls in 1917 which was to become the present
Big Sister League. In 1929, Rose V. Pickerel was the first female officer assigned to walk
a beat. There were no females sergeants in the Department until 1945 when Leola Vess and
Laura Churchill attained the distinction. The first rank of sergeant was awarded in 1950
to Vivian Wilson Strange. The extreme changes that have occurred since the days of Alice
Stebbein Wells find over 900 females officers presently in the Los Angeles Police
Department. This was a result of the adoption by the Department of its Unisex policy.
In 1895, Robert William Stewart was the City's first Black officer. Georgia Robinson
made history in 1916 as the Department's first Black policewoman. The first Black female
sergeant was Vivian W. Strange. Willie L. William, former police commissioner of
Philadelphia, was sworn in on June 26, 1992 as the first black chief in the history of the
Los Angeles Police Department.
The actions of LADP resulted in two major riots, the Watts riot and the riots of the
Rodney King verdict. The Watts riot was one of the most violent social events to confront
the Los Angeles Police Department occurred on August of 1965. For seven days the south
central Los Angeles community of Watts was engulfed in rioting and looting. The worst riot
in the United States in the 190's erupted in Los Angeles on April 29, 1992. In five days
of violence, looting and arson, more than 50 people died and hundreds more were injured.
The rioting was ignited by the verdict in the case of Rodney G. King, a black motorist who
was beaten in March 1991 by four white Los Angeles Police Department officers after a
high-speed pursuit. A bystander videotaped the beating, which was shown widely on
television, attracted national attention.