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LAPD'S dead, remembered in a new space that needs a new name [UPDATED]

October 15, 2009 |  5:00 am

LAPD memorial The new LAPD headquarters won't be dedicated until later this month -- more about the name of the building in a bit -- but when it is, the first official shift to show up for work will see some sadly familiar names.

The identities of the 200-plus LAPD officers who've been killed in the line of duty over 102 years are graven on brass plaques in a 5.5-ton memorial wall dedicated Wednesday night; replicas of their badges fill cases that visitors will pass to walk into the new building. Well, not quite fill; on the memorial wall and in the badge cases, there's room left for more names, more badges, as will in time follow.

For decades, a memorial fountain outside Parker Center did the honors for the dead officers -- it was dedicated in 1971 by Richard Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, who later served prison time for the Watergate coverup.

But that monument fell to pieces when it was being moved to make way for a new jail. The Los Angeles Police Foundation raised nearly three-quarters of a million dollars for the new memorials. 

The reception and the speeches before the dedication had to be moved inside because of unexpected rain. It was, said departing chief William Bratton, as if the memorial had been ''washed by God.'' When the crowd moved outside for the final ceremonial, and the families of the dead officers laid white roses on the monument, the evening skies had cleared and, across First Street, City Hall looked like an enormous white votive candle.

The dedication is the latest in a whole lot of events jamming into October before Bratton lays down his shield at the end of the month; the formal dedication of the building is on October 24.

Within the building's half-million square feet is a huge space for the COMPSTAT data tracking and management system Bratton introduced and swears by, and the tenth-floor offices taking the place of the sixth-floor command staff offices in Parker Center. Those halls are hung with pictures from the department and the city's history: Charles Manson in custody, actress Thelma Todd slumped in death in her car, a copy of a bank robber's cheery stick-up note, a somber black-and-white photo of investigators reenacting the ''Onion Field'' murder of officer Ian Campbell.

The chief's suite, with its own terrace, has a huge LAPD badge with four stars instead of a badge number carved into the double wooden doors of the chief's inner office, soon to be occupied by ... well, that's another big end-of-the-year event for the department: the naming of a successor to Bratton. Of the two dozen applicants for the job, about six will be interviewed by a civilian panel, which will give the names of three finalists to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is expected to decide by mid-November which one will walk through those double doors as the next LAPD chief.

At least that successor will have a name. I'm still thinking the new building needs a good handle. The old building was called the Police Administration Building for its first eleven years, until Police Chief William Parker died suddenly, and the city put his name on it. "Parker Center'' has some history and resonance; even if you don't like that history, it just sounds less drab and cumbersome than ''LAPD headquarters,'' which is why we need to do better than a name that sounds like it came out of a kit. C'mon, LA -- New York has ''One Police Plaza,'' and even though it sounds like a name dreamed up by a studio production design team, it's a whole lot better than ''police headquarters.''

Mayor Tom Bradley was a cop himself, but with his war with Chief Daryl Gates during his mayorship, he's  too contentious a figure to have his name on the LAPD's building. ''Parker Center'' is out of the question; the city would sooner name its new edifice after Pretty Boy Floyd. It's possible that in time, the city might name the building after Bratton, but I expect City Hall is pretty wary of going that route.

In the meantime, you know that if the city doesn't come up with a name, Angelenos will, on their own, find some nickname, and nicknames, once they stick, are almost impossible to get un-stuck.


Corrected, 4:15 p.m.: The original version of this post incorrectly stated that the Police Memorial Foundation raised the money for the tribute. The fundraising was done by the Police Foundation.

-- Patt Morrison

Photo: LAPD Captain Daryl Russell examines the Los Angeles Police Foundation Memorial to Fallen Officers in August. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

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