AKA: City of Los Angeles, Police Department (LAPD), Parker Center, Los Angeles, CA; Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), Police Facilities Center, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - public buildings - correctional institutions

Designers: Becket, Welton D., and Associates, Architects (firm); Stanton, J.E., Architect (firm); Welton David Becket Sr. (architect); Jesse Earl Stanton (architect)

Dates: constructed 1952-1955

8 stories, total floor area: 407,826 sq. ft.

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150 North Los Angeles Street
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90012-3302

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The Parker Center occupied the southeast corner of Temple Street and Los Angeles Street.

Overview

Los Angeles has constructed impressive and capacious public facilities since the 1880s, when it began growing at a fantastic rate. The Parker Center was no exception to this trend. The complex consisted of an 8-story office tower and an adjacent, two-floor jail facility. The building also contained various other specialized facilities not found in typical police stations of the day. According to the LA Conservancy: "...Parker Center was considered a state-of-the-art crime-fighting facility and one of the first centralized police buildings in the nation. Some special features included a criminology lab, a lineup auditorium with specialized lighting, a traffic map room, and a communications center." (See LA Conservancy.org, "Parker Center/Police Facilities Building," accessed 06/27/2018.) Other features included a cold vault for the storage for perishable evidence, a sound-proof room for the use of lie-detector equipment, and a statistical unit equipped with the latest IBM computers. The building was entirely air-conditioned and all doors were opened by push buttons.

Building History

Construction began on what was called the Los Angeles, CA, "Police Administration Building (PAB)" on 12/30/1952; plans had been completed by architect Welton Becket in 1951. LAPD's headquarters gained wide publicity at its opening in 1955, with 8,000 visitors touring the facility between 09/1955-12/1955; Bernard J. Rosenthal executed the sculpture, "American Family," that was commissioned for the building; Joseph Young designed the mosaic mural; the building featured tiled spandrels. The Parker Center was named in honor of Police Chief William H. Parker (1905-1966), who died of a heart attack after nearly 16 years in office. He served for 39 years in various positions for LAPD and had a mixed record, gaining support for his efforts to fight graft and professionalize the force while at the same time tolerating and institutionalizing racism by police officers.

An article in Popular Mechanics magazine focused on the building's technological advancement: ""Ultramodern in all respects, the new eight-floor Los Angeles Police Building makes available to the city's police department the most scientific building ever used by a law-enforcement group. Termed the best law-enforcement facility in the world by experts, the building is attracting attention from police officials in all parts of the United States and Canada. Built of reinforced concrete, with many pre-cast concrete partitions being used in many cases, the building's eight floors plus basement contain 407,826 feet of floor space. There are 25,000 square feet of glass windows, all fixed in rigid frames and the building is completely air conditioned, with 300,000 cubic feet of air moving through the structure each minute. The exposed ceilings are false baffles, with almost four feet of space to the bottom of the floor above. All wiring, heat and air-conditioning ducts, and water pipes are contained in this easily accessible space." (See Jack B. Kemmerer, Popular Mechanics, "Jail that Modern Science Built," vol. 106, no. 1, 07/1956, pp. 79-80.)

The Popular Mechanics coverage took readers through each floor of the building. The first floor contained an 453-seat auditorium that could be used for criminal line-ups as well as showing motion pictures. The two-floor jail was built behind the auditorium, so that ramps could lead prisoners to it directly for the identification line-ups. Jail cells were lined in tempered glass, not bars, to provide better visibility of prisoners, and cell floors were sheathed in neoprene to reduce self-injury by inmates. In the auditorium, police technicians operated control panels that could create varied lighting conditions on the line-up suspects to recreate those found at the crime scene. The Communications Division also had its technically-sophisticated command center on the first floor. It had an advanced electronic switchboard that automatically routed calls to free personnel and had a call bank that maintained caller order for the next available operator. The second floor contained the huge storage facilities of the Records and Identification Division.

The building's state-of-the-art crime lab was housed on the fourth floor used by the Scientific Investigation Division. These labs included a spectrograph used to identify inorganic evidence found at crime scenes. The labs also contained specialized ballistics tanks able to isolate bullets fired by guns used by suspects and a breathalizer machine that checked suspected drunk drivers' blood alcohol levels. The seventh floor housed the Planning and Research Division, a group focused on analyzing crime data to provide investigators patterns to criminal behavior and to propose anticipated scenarios that could help police catch felons. The Planning and Research Division had a Statistical Department that utilized IBM main-frame computers to provide analytical assistance.

The basement contained the Property Division that stored both evidence and stolen merchandise. Popular Mechanics writer Jack Kemmerer noted about the Property Division's cold storage vault: "A large walk-in cold vault is provided to safeguard all perishable goods. The department once stored a partially eaten ice-cream bar in dry ice for several months. This bar was vital evidence in a case in which the teeth marks in the bar were used to establish the identity of an individual." (See Jack B. Kemmerer, Popular Mechanics, "Jail that Modern Science Built," vol. 106, no. 1, 07/1956, p. 83.)

Building Notes

The LAPD Headquarters Building cost $6,142,548 to construct, a full $2 million less than was set aside by the City Council. According to the LAPD's own web site on the Parker Center: "The use of removable partitions, the combining of conference rooms and technical equipment will create a highly utilitarian building with extremely low maintenance costs." (See "History of Parker Center,"Accessed 04/01/2011.) A monument to officers killed in the line of duty--Los Angeles Police Memorial--was dedicated by President Richard Nixon's Attorney General John N. Mitchell (1913-1988) on 10/01/1971. Mitchell would later find himself behind bars as a result of the Watergate Scandal.

Alteration

The 1994 Northridge Earthquake caused significant damage to the Parker Center, as noted by an article entitled "Parker Center's Future at Issue," publised on 11/27/2002 in the Los Angeles Times.

Demoltion

In 2011, the fate of the Parker Center was still being debated, with some wanting to demolish the building. This debate about what to do with the complex continued until 2017, when plans were announced to level it and replace it with a 27-story city government tower. The LA Conservancy wrote: "On March 24, 2017 the Los Angeles City Council voted in support of a plan to build a new, 27-story tower for City employees at the current site of Parker Center. This vote paves the way for the destruction of the Modernist former police headquarters built in 1955. The Conservancy is deeply disappointed in this action, as we have worked for more than five years to prevent the needless demolition of Parker Center. We strongly believe reuse and rehabilitation of the building are fully capable of meeting the City’s intended goals, and is the more cost-effective approach that can save millions in taxpayer dollars. On February 7, 2017, the Los Angeles City Council's Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee voted unanimously against recommending the Historic-Cultural Monument designation of Parker Center. Commission President David Ambroz expressed frustration over the City Administrative Officer (CAO) potentially usurping the City Planning Commission's authority over land use planning in the city. Other members expressed concern over the historic preservation community being effectively shut out of the process, explicitly referencing the Conservancy and the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission.The Commission passed a motion requesting that both the Parker Center project and the Civic Center Master Plan come back to the CPC at a future date for review." (See LA Conservancy.org, "Parker Center/Police Facilities Building," accessed 06/27/2018.)

PCAD id: 1121