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UCLA

Bruins in Blue

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By Jack Feuer, Photos by Susan Anderson

Published Jan 1, 2010 8:00 AM


To Serve

For some Bruin LAPD officers, the choice to serve was even more personal. Being in Los Angeles was the clincher for Justin Wade '03, an officer in the Training Division (whose twin brother, Joshua Wade '03, is in the Narcotics Division). "I'm a family guy and my family's here," he notes.

"UCLA is a very magical place," adds Officer Ryan Lee '01, who played on the Bruins' 1997 NCAA championship men's soccer team and professionally with the Colorado Rapids, and now trains LAPD recruits and service personnel in physical fitness and self-defense. "The years I spent there just gave me such a great impression of the city. That has shaped my desire to stay within L.A. and be a community servant."

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Officer Sharon Kim chose public service over a career as a physician.

Officer Sharon Kim '05 has a degree in classical civilizations and a minor in political science and wanted to be a doctor. She was, in fact, a certified Emergency Medical Technician in high school. But last April she graduated from the Police Academy with top marks because she realized that it wasn't medicine she was interested in, it was "making a difference, helping people and serving the public."

Kim first heard her call to service at the age of 12, when she witnessed the aftermath of a hit-and-run accident. "A girl had gotten hit by a car while crossing the street and the scene was horrific," she remembers. "There was blood everywhere and the only sound I could hear was the girl screaming in pain. Firefighters, EMTs and police officers responded to the scene and soon everything became a flurry of lights, medical bags, IVs and crime scene tape. I could only remember feeling helpless, wanting to help but not knowing what to do. And I vowed to myself that I would do everything in my power to never feel that feeling again."

Sometimes service can seem mundane, but its consequences are profound. That's certainly the case with Captain Wakefield, who comes from a family filled with both Bruins and police officers, and left UCLA to join the LAPD in 1983 — "I grew up listening to a scanner and I needed a paying job" — and then returned nine years later to earn her degree.

Wakefield's job is to provide independent, objective assurance regarding the department's risk management and internal controls, including gang enforcement, field operations and investigative processes. It was born out of the Consent Decree, the agreement between the LAPD and the U.S. Justice Department in the wake of the Rampart police scandal in 2001, in which anti-gang officers committed crimes. The courts ruled last summer that the department had complied with the agreement and released the LAPD from the decree.

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Captain Jodi Wakefield says her UCLA psychology degree helped prepare her for police work.

The agreement paved the way for the arrival of former Chief William Bratton, widely credited with making the LAPD the model law enforcement operation it is today. Helping Bratton in that effort was lawyer Gerald Chaleff '63, commanding officer of the Consent Decree Bureau.

"There's no question that we are now the leading department in the country on what we call police performance audits," Chaleff contends. "Best risk management. Best training. Best programs on how to deal with the mentally ill. Best investigations on use of force. Best complaint investigations. We can't go a day without a visitor from another city or country coming here for help."

To Excel

And that's the big takeaway when talking to Bruin cops. These are smart people doing an incredibly difficult job with responsibility and compassion. "I sometimes jokingly call them social workers with guns," laughs Wagener.

Bruin cops themselves are impressed by their fellow officers. Lee, for example, is a little discouraged that the public really doesn't realize that the department has "people with law degrees, grad degrees. I'm finishing up my business degree from Pepperdine. We're just as competitive as any other business."

"When I came into the police department, I was very concerned about what I would find once I got behind that blue curtain," seconds Roberts. "Is it like the movie Training Day [where Denzel Washington played the most crooked cop in a crooked police department]? It isn't. [The LAPD is] what you'd want a police department to be."

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