WILLIAMS, Ariz. - After eight years of research, local historian and former police officer James Bultema has published his first book about the history of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
Bultema, a Parks resident, published "Guardians of Angels: A History of the Los Angeles Police Department" this month.
The book provides a chronological history of the department, starting in 1850 when Los Angeles became a city. Bultema explains how the department evolved from a volunteer organization to a professional organization in about 1871. He also highlights key people like the first African American and women officers in the department and several major investigations the department dealt with, including the assassination of Robert Kennedy, the Rodney King incident and the OJ Simpson case.
"But the philosophy I used is not what happened in 1865, da da da, but we take somebody from that era and let them tell their story," Bultema said.
The idea for the book came while Bultema was serving on the LAPD and doing a history project in 1984. As part of that project he spoke with Arthur Hohmann, who was the LAPD chief from 1939-1941.
"I had an opportunity to spend two days with him interviewing him, and that just really got me excited about the history of the department," Bultema said.
That experience inspired Bultema to write a script and produce a documentary film about the history of the LAPD. After six years of research, the six-hour documentary "Badge of Honor: An Insider's History of the Los Angeles Police Department" came out in 2002.
"About two years ago I was just thinking to myself, maybe I should take that script and write a book because I did all that research," Butlema said.
So he completed two years of additional research, during which he started writing the book. Bultema interviewed more than 50 people as part of his research, including about 10-12 police chiefs and several officers who worked in the department from as far back as the 1920s. The book contains many italicized sections, which are quotes from those interviews.
"I used a lot of first person documentation because they lived it and experienced it so let them tell the story," Bultema said.
The book also contains information from old newspapers and numerous old photos. Bultema considers himself a photographic historian.
"So the whole book, whenever I put a photograph in, it really complements the narrative that's going on at the time," Bultema said.
The most interesting thing Bultema learned while writing his book was how corrupt the LAPD was in its early days.
"I don't duck any of those issues. It's all there," Bultema said. "And it just shows our history and what we built from, from being one of the most corrupt to what I consider to be one of the most professional law enforcement organizations in the U.S."
Bultema's interest in law enforcement was sparked when he was growing up in Michigan, where his uncle was a police officer and sheriff. Bultema said "just hearing (my uncle's) stories and being around him" had a strong influence on him.
During the Vietnam War, Bultema served as a police officer in the Air Force. As soon as he got out of the Air Force, Bultema started the police academy. He worked for the LAPD for 26 years.
Having been an officer himself helped Bultema when writing the book for readers unfamiliar with the police department.
"They've got to understand some of the mentality that goes on that police officers have, how they approach things and what their mental attitude might be," he said.
However, Butlema said being a historian was even more helpful in writing the book.
Bultema has a history degree from California State University at Northridge.
"I really haven't touched on that I was a police officer that wrote (the book) because I don't want people to think it's a complimentary, a puff piece if you will, on the department and that I didn't show any of the black eyes," he said.
Bultema's time serving on the Board of Directors for the LAPD Historical Society and editing the organization's quarterly magazine, The Link, also helped him in writing the book.
Bultema hopes his book will give people an idea of what it's like to be a police officer in a major city. However, he said the book is about more than law enforcement.
"I just think it puts the person in the different eras of the history of Los Angeles and gives them insight into the things that were happening," he said. "Because really, this book is a history of LAPD, but it's also a history of Los Angeles, because you can't have one without the other. They complement each other."
More information about the book is available at www.lapdhistory.com.