Compton Police Department (California)
The Compton Police Department was the municipal law enforcement agency for the city of Compton, California until it was disbanded by the City Council on September 16, 2000. Effective September 17, 2000, the Compton City Council contracted with the County of Los Angeles for law enforcement services provided by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
In 2009, Mayor Eric Perrodin and Council members formed the Compton Police Services Feasibility Study Group to explore the possibility of re-establishing the Compton Police Department. The director of the project is Joseph T. Rouzan, Jr.--a former Compton police chief. After two years on March 8, 2011, Mayor Perrodin withdrew the proposal due to lack of support from his council colleagues.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Early Law Enforcement in the city of Compton
- 1.2 Everet A. West
- 1.3 Thomas J. Potter
- 1.4 William K. Ingram 02/01/53 – 01/03/73
- 1.5 Black officers join the Compton Police Department
- 1.6 Thomas W. Cochee 07/01/73 – 08/30/76
- 1.7 Joseph T. Rouzan, Jr. 10/01/76 – 06/28/81
- 1.8 James L. Carrington 01/08/62 - 10/07/85
- 1.9 Ivory J. Webb
- 1.10 Terry R. Ebert 06/01/90 - 08/01/92
- 1.11 Hourie L. Taylor 01/01/93 – 09/16/00
- 2 Controversy
- 3 Rank structure
- 4 Fallen officers
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
The City of Compton was the ultimate Los Angeles area middle-class suburban community and dubbed the Hub City because it is 11 miles from Los Angeles and as many miles from Long Beach Harbor. The city police was founded in 1888, when the city of Compton became incorporated. City of Compton police served the city of Compton and areas outside of its city limits such as the community of Willowbrook.
Early Law Enforcement in the city of Compton
Compton’s earliest settlers, much like its present residents, desired autonomy. A search of the records reveals that attaining such a goal was not always easy.
While the details are somewhat sketchy, available documents and journals show that the development of competent law enforcement in Compton developed in an evolutionary processes.
Three days after the official date of incorporation on May 14, 1888, at the first meeting of the Compton Board of Trustees, these newly elected officials recognized that the citizens did not wish to be obligated to the Los Angeles County Sheriff for police protection so they appointed a City Marshal. Named to the post was Asbury McComas, who also owned the local livery stable.
Two weeks later, on May 28, the Board of Trustees established the first committee on police matters and set the City Marshal’s salary at $100 annually.
It soon became apparent that something was wrong in the City Marshal’s office. After an investigation of some widely circulated allegations, a special meeting of the Board of Trustees was held on December 31, 1888, and formal charges were filed against McComas. The City Fathers had concluded that the Marshal was not turning license fees and dog taxes over to the City Treasurer as he was legally bound to do. He was asked to pay up and resign.
A week later, City Marshal Asbury McComas did formally resign. The records do not indicate whether he ever turned the taxes over to the city. One history of Compton, referring to the appointment of the first City Marshal, Police Judge and Street Superintendent, states that bonds of up to $5,000 were fixed for “principal officers”. It is not clear whether McComas was included among these, but if so, that would have been a means for the city to recoup its funds.
C.W. Lyman replaced McComas and the Marshal’s salary was raised to $15 per month plus 10 percent of the dog tax.
An entry to the minutes of the Board of Trustees for July 22, 1889 shows that Marshal Lyman was paid $1.95 for "taking care of an intoxicated woman."
In 1890, G.F. Willits replaced Lyman as City Marshal. Sometime that same year, the Marshal and other elected officials agreed to donate four months’ salary to make up a budget deficiency so that the city could purchase four fire hydrants.
Because of the lapse in local government from January 1891 to November 1906, records do not show when Willits left office. It is safe to assume that he served as Marshal until the Los Angeles County Sheriff took over local police duties in January 1891 at the request of the Board of Trustees.
With the return of local government in late 1906, a slate of candidates for the Board of Trustees, designated as the People’s Ticket was voted in without opposition. H.J. Mayo, the candidate for City Marshal, was swept into office along with the rest. Mayo served until sometime in 1907, when he was succeeded by Howard Peck, who carried the badge for about a year. Peck was replaced sometime in 1906 by W.J. Davis, who served until 1911.
Meanwhile, on April 7, 1908, the Marshal’s pay had been raised to include 1.5 percent of all taxes collected by him as ex officio City Tax Collector. On July 7, 1909, Marshal Davis was authorized to purchase two handbooks on street law.
Effective June 7, 1910, the Marshal’s salary was raised to $15 per month plus 10 percent of license money and 15 percent of dog tax money collected.
On January 3, 1911, Davis asked to Board of Trustees for authority to hire motorcycle officers. Two weeks later, the request was granted. The officers were to be employed part-time for a 30-day period effective January 17. Their pay was set a 50 percent of all fines they collected, minus recorder’s fees.
Records show that L. J. Grout became City Marshal sometime in 1911 and resigned that same year. He was succeeded by J.W. Stone.
On February 21, 1911, motor police salaries were reconsidered. The board voted to pay the officers $6 from each $10 fine and 50 percent of the gross of fines above $10. Apparently, this arrangement was viewed as being biased in favor of the officers because the city soon found itself in its first recorded contract negotiations with the motorcycle policemen. On April 14 that same year, an agreement was reached whereby the officers were to receive $6 from each $10 fine and $7.50 from each fine over $15 until further notice.
On June 20, 1911, Compton’s first curfew ordinance was passed imposing a fine of $25 or a sentence of 25 days in jail, or both, for parents or guardians who allowed minors to go unaccompanied on the streets, or in alleys or other public places. The available record does not indicate the hours when the curfew was in effect.
On May 15, 1914, the Board of Trustees appointed a committee to conduct a study aimed at determining the need for a new city jail and the establishment of a chain gang. This was around the time when the city authorized the payment of $5 per month for gasoline for private automobiles used for city business.
In 1916, A.E. Kenoyer became Marshal, replacing Stone, who had held office longer than anyone else up to that time.
It took four years for the jail study to bear fruit, but on July 18, 1918, the Los Angeles County Grand Jury recommended abatement of the city jail and the construction of a new facility.
In 1920, Kenoyer was succeeded by Charles G. Davidson and in 1921, the Marshal was authorized to place a red light at the front of the police station, probably.
Everet A. West
Everet A. West joined the Los Angeles Police Department as a patrolman in 1912. For seven years, he served as a traffic officer, plainclothesman and detective. After resigning and going into business, he returned to police work in 1924, joining the Compton, California, force. He became chief of the Compton Police Department and served that post until 1932.
On September 28, 1934, the citizens of Manhattan Beach, California, were introduced to their fourth police chief, E.A. West, who was a well-known lawman. In 1935, scarcely a year after arriving in Manhattan Beach, he resigned because of “political meddling.”
Thomas J. Potter
Thomas Potter, who took over a force of 17 officers, seven of whom were assigned to traffic. The major responsibility for the protection of the lives and property of Compton’s citizens rested with the Police Department. The department, under Chief Thomas J. Potter, was divided into three major activities: traffic regulation and control, criminal investigation and patrol.
The traffic squad had ten officers assigned to it and concerned itself primarily with regulating and controlling traffic and investigating accidents involving motor vehicles.
The criminal investigation or detective bureau conducted the investigations on all crimes that were reported. It was the bureau’s job to gather and preserve enough evidence to apprehend and convict offenders. The bureau also handled juvenile offenders.
The majority of the force of the department was assigned to patrol activity. Patrol cars moved through the City’s streets twenty-four hours a day. Each car was assigned to a section of the City and two-way radio communication with headquarters was maintained at all times. The two-way radio communication was expanded to include machines of motor officers and fire equipment. A full-time radio technician maintained the equipment and built all new transmitters and receivers at less cost than they could be purchased. All radio equipment was in the process of being converted to ultra high frequency range for elimination of interference.
During the war period, the department worked without adequate manpower. The increase in the City’s population during and shortly after the war required the police personnel to almost double in size in 1940. The increase in activity and number of personnel necessitated re-organization. Efforts to organize the growing force culminated in the spring with the acceptance by the City Council for a plan for the ultimate organization of the Department. Chief Potter placed into effect the recommendations of the plan as quickly as possible.
At that time, the force consisted of 39 officers and men equipped with ten motorcycles, six radio patrol cars and one three-wheel motorcycle. Potter served as Chief of Police for almost 19 years. He was succeeded by William K. Ingram.
William K. Ingram 02/01/53 – 01/03/73
In 1949, problem juveniles and adults were common as in other cities and Compton was no exception. It did, at that time, have an exceptionally well-organized Police Department.
Under Police Chief William Ingram, the Police Department was organized into six divisions. These were the patrol division, the jail division, the detective division, the traffic division, the records division and the juvenile division.
Personnel in all departments were carefully selected and intensely trained. For regular police officers, this training began with six full weeks before they were qualified. Training continued after that through a regular schedule of in-service instruction. All officers took refresher courses from time to time.
The Department was well equipped with an up-to-date jail and with a considerable force of patrol cars and motorcycles.
Black officers join the Compton Police Department
Arthur Taylor began his service with the City of Compton on January 1, 1958. When interviewed about his years as the lone black officer in the Compton Police Department, he said that he was received without any fanfare. Taylor reported that no major problems occurred as a result of his hiring. This was verified by retired police lieutenant Kenneth Baguley, who was in the police academy class with Taylor. He said that he did not witness any problems at all. Baguley said, "Art Taylor was a true gentleman, treated all fairly and because of that he had no problems integrating into the department...He was a respected fellow officer..."
Taylor said that he was accepted by both the black and white community. The majority of the Compton population was white in the 1950s. Most black citizens were glad to see a black officer patrolling the streets and participating in the community.
Ten years later, he was promoted to sergeant on April 1, 1968—the first black to attain that rank in the City. In June 1971, Taylor graduated from The Traffic Police Institute, Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois, after an extensive nine-month training program in traffic administration. Also during that year, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in police science and administration from California State University, Los Angeles.
Taylor was also promoted to the following ranks within the Compton Police Department: lieutenant on January 16, 1972; captain on August 16, 1975; and commander on July 1, 1977.
Arthur Taylor retired from the Compton Police Department on February 1, 1979. During his 21 years of continuous service, Taylor worked in Field Services, Youth Services, Special Services and Investigations Bureau. At the time of his retirement, he was assigned to the Administrative Services Bureau as its commanding officer.
From July 9, 1979 to March 22, 1983, he served as a Los Angeles Superior Court Juvenile Referee.
Shirley (née: Dawson) Lidge Ferrell was the first female African American police officer and detective, in the City of Compton. Shirley was raised in the Compton/Los Angeles area, where she received her formal education at Gardena High School, and continued her education at Cal State Long Beach and USC to enhance her career.
Shirley joined the Compton Police Department as a Clerk Typist on May 2, 1966. Some two and one half years later after successfully completing the training and personnel testing processes, on November 6, 1968, she was promoted to the rank of Policewoman; thus entering into history in the City of Compton as the first female African American police officer in Compton law enforcement agency. Shirley met fellow Police Detective Josep Carl Ferrell and in 1978, they were married.
Officer Shirley Ferrell's primary assignment was in the Investigative Services Bureau as a detective in its Juvenile Division. She retired from the police force on August 21, 1984 after 18 years of exemplary service. Detective Ferrell received a City proclamation for this title.
Angelia Myles graduated from Compton High School and became a Compton police officer shortly after receiving a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Cal State Long Beach in 1982. She worked on patrol and in the narcotics unit before deciding to become a helicopter pilot.
On September 9, 1988, Chief James Carrington pinned helicopter wings on Angelia Myles. Thus, she became not just the first African American female helicopter pilot on the West Coast, but the West Coast’s first female helicopter pilot in law enforcement.
Myles started flying with the Compton unit in 1988, a year after the squad was organized to help fight crime in the city of more than 86,000. She was the only female helicopter pilot in the five-member Air Support Squad of the Compton Police Department. She was part of only a handful of female police officers in the Los Angeles area working as helicopter pilots.
Angelia is distinguished a “Whirly Girl #653” by Whirly Girls, the premiere organization of international women helicopter pilots.
Thomas W. Cochee 07/01/73 – 08/30/76
Compton’s first black police chief was Thomas W. Cochee, who succeeded Ingram in 1973. He was a former Los Angeles County Sheriff’s sergeant and was the first black to be appointed as a police chief in the state of California.
In July 1973, when the City of Compton was looking for a black chief of police, Thomas Cocheé was well-seasoned. He had had several years experience in police work, both in the streets and in offices. He had taught and lectured in various colleges and had developed some very definite ideas on how a police department should work. He had developed even more ideas on how to deal with lawbreakers in the ghetto. Even though he had a comfortable teaching job at Merritt College in Oakland, California, he applied and was offered the police chief’s job.
As the first black police chief in the nation’s most populous state, Cocheé knew the eyes of California were upon him. But he was not overly concerned by being “first” and was determined to run the department in his unconventional way as long as he was chief. He was cordial and folksy to all comers, even the most hardened criminals.
Cocheé wanted to change Compton back to its old status. Like most police chiefs, Cocheé had a busy administrative schedule which allowed him very little time to get actively involved in crime fighting and pursuing law breakers.
He and his family lived in a Compton apartment. He hoped eventually the entire police force would be made up of Compton residents. He had strong feelings about this and he planned to make it a rule.
The name Cocheé is French, but the chief denied being Creole. He insisted he was just Afro-American. A product of New York City, Cocheé was nine years old when his grandmother put him on a train and sent him to his mother and stepfather in Los Angeles. He married at age 16 and dropped out of high school. With a family on the way, he found it necessary to work at various odd jobs. He learned the maintenance business and by time he was 21, he opened his own janitor service.
Young Thomas Cocheé went back to class and earned his high school diploma. He had decided he wanted to be a policeman. After high school, he landed a job with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as a deputy sheriff. For 16 years, off and on, he attended colleges and universities earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and a master's degree in public administration.
During the 1965 Watts riot, Cocheé was a sergeant in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. He worked the community relations detail on the streets of Watts. While on this assignment, he saw some very shoddy police work which opened his eyes to a desperate need of better police techniques. “I saw policemen standing around not enforcing the law,” he recalled. “It was a completely open town.”
Shortly after the Watts riot, the young sergeant quit his job with the Sheriff’s Department. He complained, “There were no black lieutenants on the force and I was ambitious.” He then became an investigator for the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s office.
Like a Gary Cooper / John Wayne movie-type lawman moving into a Wild West town, Tom Cocheé came to Compton to take over as police chief of the city one of the highest per capita crime rates in the nation. But in contrast to the cowboy “High Noon” epics, Cocheé adopted a crime-fighting stance unlike past or even the then present law enforcement officers.
For one thing, Tom Cocheé was a cop who was sympathetic to robbers, who understood how the economic conditions blacks faced so often drove them to criminal acts, who believed in enforcing the spirit rather than the letter of the law. The maverick police chief spoke out candidly in saying youngsters without jobs add up to youngsters with criminal records and incensed many by proclaiming: “The term ‘law and order’ has anti-black overtones built into it.”
His main concentration had been among juveniles since it was among youth where crime was most rampant. The median age in Compton was 19.6 compared to 25 nationally, and Cocheé well knew that those youngsters, when they were not working, were bound to get into trouble. He could do nothing about finding them jobs, but Cocheé spoke to them and one of his first steps was to call a meeting of gang leaders.
Much of Cocheé’s time was spent in studying and analyzing the conditions in his city which contributed to crime and in developing new methods to deal with them. He firmly believed that in order to fight crime effectively, it was necessary to understand the causes.
Chief Cocheé argued, that contrary to a popular myth, a city does not become dissolute because blacks move. “What is happening in Compton happens in any community that has a low socio-economic status,” he maintained. “It happens not only in black communities or in brown communities but in poor white communities too.” Cocheé was convinced that the main contributing factor to crime in Compton was economics. He expounded on the fact that the low economic status of the city manifested itself in many ways, among them unwanted and unloved children and countless vacant houses.
With a population of 78,000—90 percent black — Compton was in the black poverty corridor that stretched from downtown Los Angeles south for some 15 miles, cutting through the middle of a cluster of white blue-collar suburbs. More than one-third of the city was on welfare. Its school children had the lowest reading score in the state. Unemployment was 40 percent among young people who represented more than half of Compton residents.
“Crime in Compton had reached the unbearable level. The law-abiding residents of Compton lived in homes with bars on windows and double locks on doors. They felt as though they had been imprisoned while the criminals roamed free.” That grim, foreboding assessment was made in 1975 by the Los Angeles Grand Jury (headed by a black foreman for the first time) to sum up the critical situation faced by what was termed “the most crime-infested city” in the U.S. What was most dismaying was that Compton was 99 per cent non-white with a black mayor and a black police chief. More than any place in the nation, the California city dramatized the growing concern of blacks about black crime and how to stop blacks from victimizing other blacks.
In Compton, unemployment and black-on-black crime grew so bad in 1975 the NAACP asked the President to declare the city a disaster area.
However, Tom Cocheé did not coddle criminals. He went after crime right where it began: in the home, in back alleys, in gang hangouts and he talked honestly to offenders. His strategy paid off and offered a dramatic example of crime-fighting methods to the increasing number of cities with black mayors faced with the problem of combating black-on-black crime.
Cocheé had aroused some anger from vigilante-minded people by his stress on crime prevention, which he feels is more important than law enforcement. “Unfortunately,” he complained, “there are policemen in this department and in other departments around the country who think you prevent crime by beating people up. I don’t believe you change human behavior for the better by being physically abusive of people. This is my theory which I have to instill into the officers in my department. Some of my officers have good rapport with gang members and with the people in the community, in general, but, some of the other officers do not have a good rapport. We’re trying to work on that.”
Compton's crime had by no means ended. But the City’s murder rate had been cut in half and other statistics, had leveled off. “Compton's reputation is worse than actual experience,” contended Cocheé, “although there’s still enough crime in this city that citizens are justified in their feelings.”
Cocheé stated, “If any officer is identified who has been arbitrarily or maliciously abusive of a person, the punishment can go all the way from a written reprimand to termination from the police department depending on the severity of the abuse. Since I’ve been chief here, I’ve given suspensions without pay for five or six days and, even, two weeks.”
The chief also took a firm stand also against unnecessary shootings. He instructed his men to never shoot unless it was to protect a human life and that a fleeing suspect must never be shot no matter what crime he has committed. “Due to our personnel needs and my budget,” he grumbled, “this department does not do as much crime prevention as I would like to see.”
There were, of course, some officers in the department who resented Cocheés approach in dealing with law breakers. Some felt he was too soft and others felt he was just plan unrealistic. There were also some members in the Compton city government who disagreed with the chief’s methods.
“I will never be a hard core law and order man,” he insisted, “nor will I stand for the type of law enforcement that title has come to represent in recent years. I’m trying to enforce justice in the city while, at the same time, sensitizing the people in Compton to the underlying reasons for crime.”
“The way I perceive the police chief’s job,” continued the chief, “is that he is the man in the middle. He is the mediator between the police department and the community. He’s a message carrier and coordinator. The exact opposite philosophy is that the chief should be untouchable.”
Cocheé’s refusal to be a law-and-order man has brought him criticism and he admitted: “There are some white officers who have chosen not to speak to me, but then one doesn’t run a police department on friendship.” He noted that he has about 150 policemen working in his department “made up of all different kinds of people.”
From city manager Daniel L. Lim disagreed with Cocheé when he criticized the law-and-order approach during a speech Cocheé gave at the University of Southern California. “This is a predominantly black city,” argued Lim, “and the crimes committed within the city are committed, mainly by blacks against blacks. So, I can’t see how a stressing of law and order in Compton could have any racial overtones, whatsoever. Cocheé is more concerned about the connotation brought on by the anti-black history of the term than its actual meaning", he explained.
Due to Compton's revenue situation, Lim denied Cocheé some of the things he asked for to deal with the city’s crime problem, particularly more patrolmen on the force and hiring of civilian youth gang street workers to help in counseling gang members and to assist in goal redirection.
On the other hand, Lim praised the chief for his dynamic personality and strong leadership ability. After some differences between Cocheé and the Compton City Council in August 1975, Lim fired the chief, but Cocheé was rehired a month later. To fire Cocheé, the City Council made seven charges against the Chief, all relating to insubordination. Cocheé fought the action and regained his job when people in the street rallied to his support after he proposed a public airing of the charges against him of mismanaging law enforcement funds. Cocheé blamed “Political jealousies” for the move to oust him.
There was also the matter of some resentment from white officers, since one of Cocheés first drastic moves in Compton was his “salt and pepper” policy. With the city being 90 per cent black and the ratio in the department was 40 per cent white, 50 per cent black, and 10 per cent Chicano, he decided that each patrol car should be integrated with one black officer and one non-black officer. This, he reasoned, would reduce tensions and resentments among the citizenry.
Cocheés consistent aim was to achieve some balance between recognition of the racial facts of life and those who turn to crime to combat the results of racism. He told a Jaycees meeting: “People of color should be sensitive to the injustices of our system, but at the same time we are being ripped off by people who are victims of a bigger system.” And he issued this warning to youthful criminals: “To the kids who are carrying guns, “I’ve told them if they fire their guns, there’s no guarantee that the police will not fire back with shotguns.”
In August 1976, he marked his third year in office in Compton, which was one of very few cities in the country with a female mayor (Doris Davis) and the only city in the state of California with such a distinction.
When asked what he hoped to accomplish as Compton's police chief, Cocheé replied, “By 1985, we want to change Compton's image and make it the safest city in the state.”
Joseph T. Rouzan, Jr. 10/01/76 – 06/28/81
In 1976, Rouzan was appointed Police Chief of Compton, California. He served from 10/01/76 – 06/28/81. There are many facts and statistics about the career of Joseph T. Rouzan, Jr., a career that spans more than five decades.
Chief Rouzan is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana. After serving two years in the California National Guard and four years in the United States Air Force, Rouzan returned to Los Angeles in 1955 and subsequently joined the Los Angeles Police Department, where he served for 21 years, serving the last three years as the commanding officer for Personnel and Recruitment, Central Detectives and the Police Commission commanding officer. As a senior grade captain, he also served as the first affirmative action officer for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Mr. Rouzan’s education includes an Associate of Arts degree from East Los Angeles College, a Bachelor of Science Degree in public manager from Pepperdine University and a master's degree in business administration from Pepperdine University.
He holds a lifetime teaching credential from Los Angeles Unified School District for teaching police science and police management. In addition, he holds an Executive Management certificate from the FBI Executive Management Institute and a Police Chief Executive Certificate from the State of California Peace Officers Standards and Training.
In 1979, he was appointed as the City of Compton’s assistant city manager. The mayor and city council appointed him as city manager in January 1980.
James L. Carrington 01/08/62 - 10/07/85
The first black Compton Chief of Police to come up through the ranks was James L. Carrington. He served from 01/08/62 to 10/07/85.
James Louis Carrington was born on January 16, 1929 in Cairo, Illinois to Albert and Carrie Carrington. He grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois and graduated from Washington Technical High School.
At the age of 18, he joined the United States Army and became a commissioned officer after attending Officer Candidate School in El Paso, Texas. “Jim” served as a Command Post executive officer at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, California, concluding his military career after ten years of service.
Upon moving to Charleston, South Carolina, he worked as a civilian for the United States Navy for six years before transferring to California naval shipyards at China Lake and Long Beach.
During his career, Jim earned a Lifetime Teaching Credential from California Community Colleges, a Bachelor of Science Degree in the Administration of Justice from California State University, Los Angeles, and a Master of Arts Degree in Management from the University of Redlands. He also completed post-graduate studies in psychology at Loyola Marymount.
Carrington was the first black Compton Chief of Police to rise through the ranks. He began his law enforcement career in 1960 with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. In 1962, he joined the Compton Police Department.
He left Compton Police Department as a lieutenant after serving 13 years when he was selected by the City of Irvine to be a charter member of its management team in establishing and developing a new police agency. Jim was respected by his peers while at Irvine Police Department.
After three years in Irvine, Jim returned to Compton as a police commander. In 1980, three successive promotions saw him become Director of Police services, Assistant Chief of Police, then Chief of Police. Jim’s 21 years of service with the City of Compton, of his total 25 years in law enforcement, concluded with his retirement on October 7, 1985.
In February, 1982, the subject before the Citizens Action League was crime. The group complained to the Compton City Council about “the problems of crime and poor police performance”.
Upstairs in the press room overlooking the crowded council chambers, Chief Carrington took a slightly different approach to the subject. Carrington was in the press room to be interviewed while the council handled routine agenda items. Like the protesters downstairs, Carrington admitted to being overwhelmed at times by the extent of the crime problem. Sometimes, he said he feels as if he is “trying to fill the Grand Canyon with a shovel”. “But I love my job and I feel good about what I do,” he quickly added.
Carrington had been in charge of the Compton Police Department for two years, first as acting chief, then chief. The strain from those two years was beginning to show. Although he said he was not aware of any physical effects, those closes to him say they could see a change. “I don’t know what’s happening inside here,” he said, indicating his chest. “This doesn’t help it any,” he said indicating the group downstairs. But when a spokesman for the citizens’ group addressed the council, the chief paused to listen.
“We, the citizens of Compton, do not fell protected by our police . . . we get poor response when we call for police action. We’re afraid to walk the streets,” the spokesman told the council. “Some crimes go unreported because we feel the police can’t do anything about it,” he continued. The citizens group—about 150 strong—had marched on City Hall the previous week from an earlier meeting at the Compton Unified School district boardroom.
Several members of the group had spoken at that meeting and told of burglaries and muggings and complained of slow or no police response. One member of the league alleged that police told crime victims to “forget it” and not file complaints.
Carrington acknowledged that complaints about slow police response were sometimes justified. “I can’t say all our cars are hot to the minute. We don’t ever get there as fast as we’d like. I never have enough officers. However, allegations that citizens are told ‘forget it’ when they try to report crimes are ‘ridiculous,’” Carrington said. “We don’t tell anybody to forget any crimes. That’s ridiculous. We report every incident we get and investigate it. We’re one of the few cities that is still responding to any and all calls,” he said.
Chief Carrington pointed out that some police departments took reports by telephone for less serious complaints such as barking dogs, graffiti and petty theft instead of sending officers to the scene. “The Compton Police Department, he said, is considering following the lead of those other departments. It’s overkill to send an officer out on minor offenses after the perpetrators have long gone. That officer needs to be keeping someone from getting his skull split open,” he said.
Carrington suggested that the citizen group may be putting too much of the crime problem at the door of the police department and ignoring or rejecting such factors as poverty, illiteracy, substandard housing and unemployment that may be considered the root causes of crime. “Those are social things that impacted on all of us,” he said. He said that it was an old myth that painting crime blue—saturating a community with police officers can solve all of the problems. Crime was on the rise and it was coming from all fronts. However, he said most of it is being perpetrated and committed on private property in our own homes. The crimes were occurring not by immigrants, but by our relatives, our kids, our associates. Domestic violence was on the rise—this was between people living under one roof. Police can’t impact on that at all.
Carrington called crime a “two-pronged affair”—opportunity and desire. “Police along with block clubs may have had some degree of success in reducing opportunity, but how do we impact on the desire?” he asked. At block clubs Carrington told people the things they were complaining about are their children, their family members, their neighbors. It was their responsibility, Mr. Homeowner.
Carrington was alarmed to see that we had a generation that was just waiting to step into the shoes of their predecessors—thugs and criminals. He stated we have to do something with them and for them. There was an over dependency on the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is a step along the say he said. “The police department doesn’t create, commit or condone the crimes. The police department has become overburden in the last decade or so with all those societal forces. We’re winning some battles but we’re losing the war. It’s not just in Compton, it’s everywhere. The Pope wasn’t gunned down in Compton. The President wasn’t shot in Compton. Neither were John or Robert Kennedy or the Turkish ambassador,” he added.
Carrington complained that his officers were not given the credit they deserved. Some of his officers put their lives on the line to do their jobs. He said that there’s not enough money to pay them for that. They do it out of commitment. We give our utmost.
Chief Carrington said he took over a good department and he thought the city council was pleased with the job he and his officers were doing. He stated, “We’ll not be dissuaded by Citizens Action League or any other group name. Tomorrow, I’ll come back and try again.”
Ivory J. Webb
Ivory J. Webb Sr., spent his police career that spans nearly three decades with the Compton Police Department and the last 4½ years as chief. Beginning his career in 1963, Ivory Webb began to advance through the ranks of the Compton Police Department becoming a sergeant in 1968, lieutenant in 1969, commander in 1977 and achieving the pinnacle of his career as the Chief of Police on January 31, 1986. He spent his police career that span nearly three decades with the Compton Police Department.
An active member of several professional organizations, Chief Webb was a consummate law enforcement professional who has set goals and priorities for his officers as well as himself. Through strategic planning to ensure a safe and secure community for the citizens of Compton, Chief Webb gave Compton innovative programs.
Compton Police Department Annual Report 1988: Message from the Chief
"On May 28, 1888, Compton’s first police officer was appointed to duty just 17 days after the new City of Compton was incorporated. Compton at that time was a very small, very quiet farming community of less than 400 people.
Now in our centennial year of 1988, over 100 years later, Compton is a community of over 90,000 people, sometimes not so quiet; certainly, not so small. We have gone from a white to predominantly black community and some say very soon to be mostly Hispanic. The City has seen two World Wars and the Korean War fade away, to just a memory. The City, along with the nation survived the pathos of the Vietnam War and the historic Civil Rights Movement. Perhaps we are still recovering from the shattered effects of the turbulent 1960’s.
As we approach the end of the 1980s, we are just a decade away from the dawn of a new century. Compton, much like the rest of the nation, it troubled with drug abuse problems and street gang violence.
The Police Department has grown from one police officer in 1888 to 138 in 1988. Just as the City and the police department has grown, so have the crime problems it was organized, trained and equipped to fight. The question is, are we winning the fight? We believe we are.
Since inception of my administration in January 1986, we have organized a Narcotics Task Force, a Street Gang Suppression Unit and a Traffic Enforcement Unit, consisting of police motorcycles. Yes, we are winning. We have decentralized some police operations by placing police substations in two of the four councilmanic districts. Plans are being developed to build three more throughout the City in districts one and three. These substations have, and will, provide highly visible police presence in every residential community where they are located. Additionally, we have organized Compton’s first Police Helicopter Patrol Unit and Police Canine Unit. Yes, we are willing.
None of these measures would be effective without the wholehearted support of all the men and women on the Compton Police Department who have joined with me in building a first class police organization. Most of all, my administration has been fortunate to have a very proactive law enforcement-oriented Mayor, City Council and City Manager, who have, along with more than 150 community block clubs in the City, joined us in the battle against crime. Yes, most assuredly, we are winning."
Terry R. Ebert 06/01/90 - 08/01/92
Terry R. Ebert served as a Compton police officer for 23 years—his last two as Chief of Police from 06/01/90 to 08/01/92.
In April of 1993 he was charged with grand theft for stealing $5000 from the police department's drug enforcement "buy" money.
Hourie L. Taylor 01/01/93 – 09/16/00
Hourie L. Taylor served as Compton Police Chief from 01/01/93 – 09/16/00. Chief Taylor led a department that saw an increase in the number of minorities in the department. There were 125 officers on board out of the authorized 135 positions. Additionally, there were 120 civilian personnel who worked in the department.
Hourie Taylor is a native Californian who was raised in Compton and graduated from Compton High School. He received an Associate of Arts Degree in Police Science from Compton Community College. He attended teaching and supervisory techniques courses at El Camino College in Torrance, California. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from California State University, Long Beach. He also completed accounting and computer courses at Cerritos College and the Master’s Program for Public Administration at California State University, Long Beach.
Chief Taylor was a 31-year Compton Police Department veteran. He worked a variety of assignments including Uniform Patrol, Special Services Center, Crime Scene Investigator, Narcotics/Vice Supervisor, Adjutant to the Chief of Police, Juvenile Division Supervisor, Supervisor of Technical Services, Adjutant to Bureau Commander, Watch Commander, Gang Unit Supervisor, Special Investigations Division Commander, and Investigative and Support Services Bureau Commander.
Chief Taylor received numerous awards and recognition throughout his years of service. He has lectured extensively to over 15,000 criminal justice personnel and private persons across the nation on the subject of Los Angeles-based street gangs. Such agencies included the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, State of California Department of Justice and California District Attorney’s Association.
During Taylor’s tenure with the police department, he saw an increase in the number of minorities that predominate the department and the department became much more sensitive to the community. The police department was no panacea to the problems of society. There were a lot of economic issues that played a major factor in police affairs because there was no bottomless pit for taxpayer revenues to support police services. He said they had to scrutinize how funds are used and what was best for the community.
Taylor’s areas of expertise during the first 20 years as a police officer were gangs and drugs. He had been a part of an outstanding and team of individuals at the Compton Police Department that made the law enforcement work effective in dealing with gang members and illegal drug use.
As Chief, one of the major changes made were efforts to become more sensitive to the needs of the community. The police department implemented a community policing philosophy and became more responsive to the needs of the community in order to reduce crime.
Late in the 1960s, racial tensions were running high throughout the U.S. This and the Vietnam War were turning some Americans against their own government. Protests and riots were common. These fueled a controversial decision around 1969 by the City Council to remove the American flag from display in Compton's Council Chambers. The long-time tradition of saluting the American flag at the opening of city meetings was abandoned. This, coupled with controversial editorials in the local press about police officers, was not without its consequences, and caused at least one member of the Compton police department to leave the city.
The Compton Police Department has been criticized for employing officers who were allegedly involved with street gangs and subsequently treating certain street gangs with leniency.
- POLICE CHIEF
Under direction of the City Manager, to plan and organize the activities and direct personnel of the Police Department, in the enforcement of laws and the prevention of crimes; to direct police work in connection with crimes or incidents of a serious nature; and to do related work as required.
- POLICE CAPTAIN
Under general direction of the Chief of Police, to assist in the overall direction of the police department; to direct and coordinate the work of operational, investigative, special services and administrative units; to act for the Police Chief in his/her absence; and to do related work as required.
- POLICE LIEUTENANT
Under direction on an assigned shift, to coordinate and direct the activities and personnel of the police department in crime prevention and law enforcement work; or to direct the work of the detective division in reviewing, investigating and analyzing criminal complaints, and obtaining evidence for prosecution; and to do related work as required.
- POLICE SERGEANT
Under general supervision, to supervise the activities of assigned personnel; to participate in patrol, traffic enforcement and/or investigation, recordkeeping and criminal investigation work; and to do related work as required.
- POLICE OFFICER
To perform law enforcement and crime prevention work; to regulate traffic flow and enforce state and local traffic regulations; to assist in criminal investigation and identification work; and to do related work as required.
- POLICE RECRUIT
Under immediate supervision, to attend a police officer training academy certified by the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) and receive training required to become a police officer; to participate in departmental training activities; and to do related work as required.
During the existence of the Compton Police Department, three officers have died while on duty.