By Ron Erickson
This is about a group of Peace Officers, L.A. County Deputy Sheriff’s, who had the distinct honor of working at the late Firestone Station, which has passed into history. Maybe the group I worked with as well as the station outlived our usefulness in today’s antiseptic aura of law enforcement.
Very few of the aforementioned deputies are still on the department, myself included. Ours was camaraderie, the likes of which I have never experienced. Some of us, not I, served in the military in Vietnam prior to coming on the department. For the most part, Firestone Station was their first taste of patrol. It was my third tour at Firestone. The time period that the bulk of us worked was 1969-1974. The climate then was still unsettled. The Watts Riots of 1965 was still fresh in most people’s memories, plus the East L.A. Riots of 1970-71 and the countrywide protest against the war in Vietnam filtered down to all levels. A yearly event, which seemed to bond us, was the Watts Festival. This event was held in Will Rogers Park, 103 street and Central Ave. Between 1969 and 1974 nearly all of us volunteered to work this detail. There were fifty deputies working this detail inside the park, an area less than a mile square. The nightly crowds averaged 10,000. Our back up was the Special Enforcement Bureau who circled the park like Indians around a wagon train. We managed to maintain control while averaging 1500 arrests per night. It was something “we” looked forward to every year.
In “those days” we knew what had to be done to maintain order, handle our calls, and most important look after our fellow deputies. The relationships between line deputies and supervisors were more secure due to the fast that the majority of them faced the same problems we did before making rank. They kept that in mind during their contacts with the troops.
As I said before, this was a good time to be “working the streets,” without having to constantly look over your shoulder while trying to do a job. Our group which I have titled “the Wild Bunch” truly enjoyed our jobs. We worked hard and sometimes “played even harder. This was, in a way, a release mechanism, which many of us found necessary to maintain our sanity. All the times weren’t good. Firestone Station lost three deputies in less than two years.
Everyone expresses their grief in different ways after the loss of a good friend or fellow cop. For some reasons peace officers seem to dull their grief by talking it out or with the temporary numbing effects of alcohol. One distinct personal memory was what happened after the on duty murder of a close personal friend. I distinctly remember sitting in a bar with two other deputies before the funeral. We played one song on the jukebox continuously for two hours before the funeral. Strangely enough, none of us consumed more than two drinks before for leaving.
It was after the murder of another deputy less than six months later that we were hit even harder. This blow was pompous directive from the office of the Sheriff. It seemed that too many “citizens” complained about the number of radio cars in the funeral procession in the previous funeral. Several of us exploded and did the only thing open to us outside of downright rebellion. We composed a letter of protest and left is open for anyone who chose to sign it before the letter went to the Sheriff. Almost every deputy and numerous detectives and even supervisors signed it, along with the members of the Special Enforcement Bureau was patrolled the station area during the funeral. This amounted to over two hundred signatures. A copy of the letter was late returned to us without comment. Needless to say nothing was said about the number of radio cars in the procession.
In closing, I can only hope that those of our group who have gone their own ways, felt the same as I did about our time together, the camaraderie we shared, and hope the survivors have found closure. It will never be the same, but unfortunately time goes on. I was never prouder to be a Peace Officer.